Dr. V. Ronald Nelson, age 91, of Sioux Falls, Professor of Physics and Aeronautics at Augustana College for 50 years, died Sat., April 28, 2012, at his residence.
Vernon Ronald Nelson was born to L. James and Cora (Bakke) Nelson on January 20, 1921, at Webster, SD. He graduated from Waubay High School, attended the University of Iowa, and graduated from Augustana College in 1944. He received his Master and Doctorate degrees from the University of Colorado. He served in the US Navy Air Corps from 1944 to 1946 during World War II. His post-doctoral study was at Michigan College of Engineering, University of Illinois and University of North Carolina.
In 1946, he was appointed instructor in physics and mathematics at Augustana College, Sioux Falls. During a distinguished teaching career he served as chair of the Physics and Math Dept. In the 1960s, directed by Dr. Nelson, Augustana operated the largest aviation ground school in the Upper Midwest and, in 1974, was selected as the test center for all aviation ratings.
Dr. Nelson was the designer and builder of the first heart stimulator (defibrillator) used at McKennan, Sioux Valley, Mitchell and Parkston Hospitals. He was a key figure in the design and installation of the electronic system at Zip Feed Mill, billed as the “world’s most modern feed mill”, in Sioux Falls. He built the first transmitting equipment for Augustana’s radio station, KAUR-FM. He was active as a consultant in accident reconstruction as well as the design and manufacture of gas controls for furnaces and water heaters.
He was a member of First Lutheran Church, Augustana Fellows, Augustana Booster Club, SD Academy of Science, American Institute of Physics, American Assn. of Physics Teachers, National Science Teachers Assn., Sigma Xi National Research Honorary and Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honorary. He served for many years as Federal Aviation Examiner and was a Certified FAA Ground School Instructor of Private, Commercial and Instrument Pilots. He was active in many local community agencies, including Good Samaritan Society and United Day Care.
V.R. was the recipient of several honors and awards which included Augustana Founders Day Award, Alumni Achievement, Friend of Augustana Award, Good Samaritan Society Service Award, FAA “Spirit of Flight” and was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2008.
Survivors include his wife Dr. Joyce Nelson of Sioux Falls; one daughter Cindy (Robert) Ellsworth of Madison; two grandsons, Adam Ellsworth of Sioux Falls and Dr. Andrew (Laura) Ellsworth of Boise, ID; one great-grandson Eli Ronald Ellsworth; one sister, Dr. Elaine McIntosh of Green Bay, WI and several nieces & nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his first wife Margaret (Meester) Nelson.
Services will be 11:00 AM, Wed., May 2, 2012, at First Lutheran Church, 327 S. Dakota Ave., Sioux Falls. Visitation will be one hour preceding the service at the church. Burial with Military Honors will be at Woodlawn Cemetery, Sioux Falls. The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be directed to the Nelson-Ellsworth Scholarship Fund at Augustana College or First Lutheran Church Media Ministry.