St. Martin's presented the Martin de Tours Award on February 20 in a ceremony on campus in the Dan and Frances White Chapel. The 2017 recipient was Charles W. Nelson '65. The award is given annually to an alum who is an outstanding citizen, consistently serving the community and demonstrating a commitment to the highest standards in his/her chosen field of endeavor. Nelson is St. Martin’s 23rd recipient of the Martin de Tours award.
The ceremony's welcome address was given by Alumni Board President Josh Kaston '00. Nelson was introduced by classmate and former Martin de Tours Award recipient Patty Habeeb Muehlemann '65. During his acceptance address, Nelson noted the importance of faith, scholarship, and service in his life. He stressed to those in attendance that giving a little extra is the key to making a difference.
Following the event, guests were treated to a reception in the Gibbs Family Center for Innovation + Design.
After graduating from St. Martin's, Nelson earned a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. He went on to complete a master’s in Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering at the University of Florida in 1974.
Since 2003, Charles has served as Chairman of the Board of Waldemar S. Nelson & Co., a multi-discipline design and project management consultancy firm based in New Orleans. Charles joined the company in 1978 and served as its President from 1986 to 2012, when his brother assumed that role.
As a professional engineer, he is a member of the Louisiana Engineering Society, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. In his leadership role with Waldemar Nelson, Charles has promoted community involvement. To that end, the Company encourages and supports employees to participate in community activities. Through the years, the Company and its employees have supported many civic groups, such as the United Way, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, GNO, Inc., the World Trade Center, church and school groups and Children’s Hospital. One of the Company’s mainstay projects has been through the Preservation Resource Center’s Rebuilding Together Program.
Nelson has served in numerous leadership roles in the community, including serving on the boards of the Clean Power & Energy Research Consortium, Southeast Louisiana Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Salvation Army, World Trade Center of New Orleans, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana Technology Council, Loyola University International Business Center Advisory Board, UNO Engineering Advisory Board, and the Georgia Tech CEE External Advisory Board. He is also a member of the Rotary Club of New Orleans.
Several organizations have recognized Nelson for his service. In 2013 he was the recipient of the A.B. Paterson Award for an Engineer in Management. He was named 2006 International Business Executive of the Year by Loyola University’s International Business Student Organization and the college’s international business faculty. In 2004 he received the Andrew M. Lockett Award for Civic Activities; this honor is awarded by the Louisiana Engineering Society for distinguished civic service by an engineer, in the interest of the public, without compensation for those services.
Nelson and his wife Dorothy have two sons: Lee, age 33, who is finishing his doctorate in philosophy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Hunter, age 30 (of St. Martin’s Class of 2006), a Clemson University engineering graduate who now works for the M.A. Mortenson Company in Denver. Nelson is one of five siblings who all attended St. Martin’s; his brother and sisters are Mary Sue Nelson Roniger ’60, Martha Nelson Frost ’62, Ginger Nelson Dodge ’68, and Kenneth Nelson ’73.
History of the Award
Named for the patron saint of the school, the Martin de Tours Award is St. Martin's highest alumni honor. Martin de Tours is best known for his ability to find God in the simple joys of life. While serving as an officer in the Roman army, Martin met a shivering beggar at the gates of the city of Amiens in Gaul. Moved with compassion, he divided his cloak into two parts and gave one to the beggar. Martin de Tours exemplified the aspect of service that is valued so highly at St. Martin's Episcopal School.
Past Martin de Tours Award recipients include: Robert L. Livingston, Jr. ’60, Sue Ruppel Laudeman ’55, Hans A.B. Jonassen ’58, Julie Hogue McCollam ’52, Gwynne Bowman ’59, W. Brooks Emory ’60, James O. Gundlach ’64, Robert W. Merrick ’62, S. Ford Rowan, Jr. ’61, Patty Habeeb Muehlemann ’65, Carlos Zervigon ’57, John M. Girault, Sr. ’55, Robert J. “Bobby” Whann III ’57, Antonio Cabrales ’54, John Gage ’59, Peggy Higgins Sewell ’68, Betsy Threefoot Kaston ’72, Walter E. Blessey, Jr. ’62, Donald K. Marshall ’68, Cynthia Phillips Schmidt ’74, William E. Wright Jr. ’67, and John Eastman ’64.