Aven Nelson was one of the original founding faculty members of the University of Wyoming. Nelson came to the university in 1887, the year it was founded. He served UW for 55 years before retiring in 1942. Nelson was the University of Wyoming’s first professor of botany, as well as the university’s 10th President.
In his role as a botanist, Nelson shared his expertise with students and the Wyoming public. As secretary of the State Board of Horticulture, Nelson wrote numerous publications intended for the general population. In 1893, he co-founded the Rocky Mountain Herbarium — today one of the finest in the United States—and the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science. Nelson also served as president of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Phi Kappa Phi and the Botanical Society of America.
Nelson’s achievements were recognized with an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Colorado, as well as an honorary doctor of law degree from Wyoming.
The Aven Nelson Memorial Building is named in his honor.