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Former Dean Raymond J. Nelson Receives U.Va.'s Highest Honor

Oct. 22, 1999 -- Raymond J. Nelson, professor of English and former dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, received U.Va.'s highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award, at Fall Convocation ceremonies today.

Given annually since 1955, the award honors a member of the University community who exemplifies in character, work and influence the principles and ideals of the University's founder.

"During Ray Nelson's tenure as dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he became one of the most effective deans in our history. He brought integrity and good sense to the job. The departments under his leadership experienced an unprecedented rise in stature," said University President John T. Casteen III.

"His effectiveness came from a combination of factors -- a straightforward and ethical management style, a keen ability to assess strengths and weaknesses, and the enormous respect of his colleagues on the faculty. Ray Nelson has set a high standard."

Nelson served as dean of Arts and Sciences from 1989 to 1997. A popular American literature scholar, he holds the Arts and Sciences Professorship in English.

His leadership during an era of financial austerity is credited with helping keep Virginia among a select few top universities strongly committed to both excellent undergraduate education and world-class research.

Through his period as dean Nelson continued to teach English and American literature, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is author of "Van Wyck Brooks: A Writer's Life" and "Kenneth Patchen and American Mysticism," which won the Poetry Society of America's prestigious Melville Cane Award as the best critical book of 1984 on American poetry. He has written numerous scholarly articles on American writers, including Herman Melville, Chester Himes, Weldon Kees and, most recently, Melvin Tolson.

Nelson joined U.Va.'s faculty in 1969 after receiving his doctorate from Stanford University and served as associate chair of the English department from 1981 to 1984. He began leading Arts and Sciences in 1989 as Dean of the Faculty, a position that was consolidated to include deanships of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1995.

About five years ago, Nelson began making photomicrographs -- photos of magnified images of microscopic objects. A number of his works have appeared in a calendar Nikon publishes of award-winning entries from its annual contest, A Small World.

Contact: Katherine Jackson, (804) 924-3629

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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