Jeffrey B. Nelson - Sioux Falls

March 28, 1940 – June 28, 2017

Jeffrey B. Nelson,  77 of Sioux Falls,  died Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at Dougherty  Hospice. 

Family will greet friends from 5-7 pm Wednesday July 5, at Miller Funeral Home 507 S. Main Ave.  Funeral services begin at 11:00 am Thursday at Westminster Presbyterian Church 3801 E.  26th St. For those attending the funeral service, wearing SDSU colors (blue, yellow, white) or logo wear is encouraged. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in Jeff’s name to the South Dakota State University Foundation or the Center for Active Generations/Adult Day Break Services.    

Jeffrey Benjamin Nelson passed away on June 28, at the Dougherty Hospice House surrounded by his loving family. Jeff sustained an injury as a result of declining health from Alzheimer’s disease. Jeffrey was born in Volga on March 28, 1940, to Alice and Benjamin Nelson.  

Upon graduating from Huron High School, he went on to earn bachelor of science and master’s degrees  in journalism from South Dakota State University. He was united in marriage with Joan W. Hansen on June 7, 1964. 

Upon graduation, he joined the communications department at Montana State University. Returning to journalism, he worked as a photo journalist and editor for newspapers in Sioux City, Iowa and Kearney, Neb. 

Eventually, he and his family relocated to Fredonia, N.Y. and he became the Director of the Office of  College Relations for the State University of New York College. While in Fredonia, Jeff was awarded one of 12 Newsweek awards for news and information writing programs. After moving to Ann Arbor, Mich., Jeff joined the communications department at the University of Michigan and later became  Advertising and Marketing Director at Gelman Sciences. In a desire to get closer to family, and after  vowing to never move anywhere without a football team, Jeff relocated to Brookings, where he  became the Senior Director of Gift Planning for the South Dakota State University Foundation. After a  brief move to head the Sanford Hospital Foundation, he returned to his first love; education fundraising  and communications. Jeff was so passionate about SDSU and its mission that he devoted 30 years to  serving the university.    

According to those who worked closely with Jeff, he was a pioneer in the field of planned giving. In an environment that often insisted on immediate returns, Jeff focused on building relationships and earning trust with alumni and friends. It was common for Jeff to work with donors over a 10- to 20-year period. He was viewed as a friend as much as a representative of the SDSU Foundation, traveling  throughout the country promoting SDSU.  

His work led to transformative gifts that created long-standing programs, buildings and endowments on campus, ranging from the Wintrode Student Success Center to the Harold C. Hohbach Endowed Chair in Engineering to the Nathelle and Lawrence DeHaan Equestrian Center. 

Jeff created The Sylvan Circle, SDSU’s legacy program for individuals that include the university in their estate plans. The legacy society grew to nearly 600 members during his time. He also established the Heritage Farms program which promoted major land gifts to the university. Jeff retired in 2014, following the Foundation’s $255 million comprehensive campaign. The Foundation receives gifts today that are a result of his past work with donors. 

Jeff’s designations included Certified Fund Raising Professional (CFRE) and Certification as an Instructor of the National Institute for Wills and Requests Training.  His expertise in the area of planned giving meant he was a frequent speaker at national, state, and local fundraising conferences. Jeff spent many years as the president of the SD Planned Giving Council where he left his mark on the Leave a Legacy program. He was also active in the National Planned Giving Council and the Sioux Empire Estate Planning Council.    

Grateful for having shared his life is his wife of 53 years, Joan. In addition to his wife, Jeff is survived by daughters; Trudy Billion (Matt) and Nicole Hempel (Tim), grandchildren: Leah, Taylor, Nicholas and Nathan, brother; Barry Nelson (Heather) along with Tim Nelson, Asher Nelson and Jennifer Kotsaras. 

Jeff was a devoted husband, brother, father, grandfather and father-in-law. He loved his family and cherished time spent together. His grandchildren were the light of his life and attending their activities gave him great joy. Jeff loved to read, play golf, and attend musical, theatrical and sporting events. 

A special thank you to the incredibly talented and devoted staff at Adult Day Break Services at the Center for Active Generations and the compassionate health care team at the Dougherty Hospice House.  

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