Jeff Nelson, president / chief executive officer of Northwestern Health Sciences University since April, died suddenly on Oct. 22 as the result of a gunshot wound. Nelson was discovered in his home that morning and news of his death spread quickly to the NHSU campus, with university leaders releasing the following statement to students and faculty at noon:
"It's with shock and sadness that [we] must announce that Jeff A. Nelson, our president, was found dead on his Stillwater property this morning. The cause of death was evidently a gunshot wound.
This is a tragic occurrence and we're obviously very saddened for Jeff's family and for our campus community. We know nothing more than what we're telling you here, but we'll be as transparent as possible as we learn more.
"The main thing you all need to know is that we will carry on in the face of this tragedy. We've been through tough times before, though none quite like this, and we will persevere. We've been in communication with the Board of Trustees and they will be working with us to plan our next steps to keep moving Northwestern forward.
"Though some of us worked with Jeff only a short time, during his months as our president he re-energized our campus and heightened our aspirations. All of us will be affected by this tragic news, but none so much as Jeff's family. We'll be doing everything we can to support them, and have already dispatched members of our leadership team to Jeff's home in Stillwater."
Though only six months into his tenure as president, Dr. Nelson had indeed re-energized the university and elevated its vision of the future, according to Northwestern officials, including establishing university-wide collaborative teams to define a "Foundation Statement and Audacious Goal: To be the most trusted health sciences university system in the nation by 2025." Recommendations on how to implement that goal are in the process of being formulated, with resource / priority analysis upcoming.
"We will work diligently during this time of transition to maintain our momentum and reach new heights together as a university and health community," said Dr. Kent Erickson, chair of the Board of Trustees and now acting president.
With Nelson's sudden passing, Northwestern Health Sciences University finds itself once again in presidential transition, similar to last year when the university announced, also in abrupt fashion, that Dr. Mark Ziegler was no longer president. As of press time, NHSU has not released details of when it will begin searching for its next president.