This website is best viewed in a browser that supports web standards.

Skip to content or, if you would rather, Skip to navigation.

Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

The Nelson family -- Seth, Mary, Michael and Susan -- of Wathena, Kan., was recognized as Northwest Missouri State University's 2011 Family of the Year. The family's ties date back to Seth's and Mary's great-great-grandparents, who provided affordable housing to students.

The Nelson family -- Seth, Mary, Michael and Susan -- of Wathena, Kan., was recognized as Northwest Missouri State University's 2011 Family of the Year. The family's ties date back to Seth's and Mary's great-great-grandparents, who provided affordable housing to students. (Photo by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

Sept. 25, 2011

Nelson family is Northwest’s 2011 Family of the Year

Past Family of the Year honorees 

  • 1996 - Daniel Reynolds Family
    Omaha, Neb.
  • 1997 - Larry Schulenberg Family
    Plattsmouth Neb.
  • 1998 - Tom Quinlin Family
    Ankey, Iowa
  • 1999 - Gregory Smith Family
    Kansas City, Mo.
  • 2000 - Vinne Vaccaro Family
    Kansas City, Mo.
  • 2001 - David & Rhonda McLaughlin Family
    Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
  • 2002 - Mark & Barbara Hamilton
    Winfield, Iowa
  • 2003 - John Stephens Family
    Diagonal, Iowa
  • 2004 - Alvern Tysdahl Family
    Hubbard, Iowa
  • 2005 - Mark Burnsides Family
    Maryville, Mo.
  • 2006 - David Pfeiffer Family
    Winigan, Mo.
  • 2007 - Steve & Pat Thompson Family
    Maryville, Mo.
  • 2008 - Kenny & Rhonda Ackley Family
    Meadville, Mo.
  • 2009 - Tom & Mary Victor Family
    Omaha, Neb.
  • 2010 - Jerry & Robin Wilmes Family
    Maryville, Mo.

The Nelson family, of Wathena, Kan., was recognized as Northwest Missouri State University's Family of the Year Saturday, Sept. 24, during Family Day activities.

Sponsored by Campus Dining, the Family of the Year award is bestowed each fall during the University's Family Weekend festivities. The recognition comes with a $750 scholarship and other prizes.

Mary Nelson, a sophomore early childhood education major, nominated her family for this year's honor.

She is the daughter of Michael and Susan Nelson. Michael, a 1980 alumnus of Northwest, is a registered nurse. In addition to Mary, the Nelsons have two sons, Amos and Seth, who is a Northwest senior majoring in pre-professional studies for pharmacy.  

In her nomination form, Mary described the Nelson family's deep ties to Northwest, beginning with her great-great-grandparents' decision to provide affordable off-campus housing for Northwest students. Their daughter, Harriet Miller Riggle, earned her bachelor's degree in education from Northwest in 1929. Harriet's daughter, Mary Nelson's great aunt, attended Horace Mann High School during the 1960s. 

Mary's grandfather, Maurice Nelson, also was president of the Ag Club at Northwest and earned his bachelor's degree in 1955 after a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps. His siblings Kenneth Nelson and Debra Nelson Martin also attended Northwest. 

Michael Nelson was a member of Northwest's Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia chapter and the Bearcat Marching Band for five years. "In his own words, our father has ‘always been a Bearcat,'" Mary wrote. "He claims some of his earliest memories as playing in the barns at the college farm, which at that time sat on the grounds near Owens Library."

Mary said the encouragement of her parents as well as the support her parents received from their parents has inspired them to excel in their studies.

"Family commitment to Northwest can be described in many ways, but seeking knowledge in an atmosphere that is family-oriented can best be illustrated in the fact that we had family members actively involved as students at Northwest from both our grandmother's and grandfather's side of the family since the 1920s," Mary wrote. "Regardless which generation of the family was attending Northwest, the parent's commitment was evident in the success of their children. The fact that our family has chosen Northwest for a place of higher learning attests to that commitment."

Families are nominated by members of the Bearcat community or self-nominated. Applicants are judged on the family's commitment to Northwest, academic success, service and the family's consistent and sustained involvement over several generations.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468