Mercer and SGA select professor of the year


Image: Geovic Jadol

Dr. David Nelson, Mathematics professor, received the 2016 “Professor of the Year” Award at the Student Awards dinner.

Ireal James, Contributing Writer

Mercer University’s Student Government Association and members of the student body selected professor of mathematics David Nelson as the 2016 Professor of the Year.

Nelson, who has been teaching for 25 years, said he was surprised to receive the award.  

“It feels good,” he said.    

Though he hadn’t expected to receive the award, he accepted the students’ appreciation with humility.

“He’s definitely a fun teacher,” said senior Jack Yoon. “He makes the math lecture really interesting so that it’s accessible to non-math majors.” Yoon is the president of the math club at Mercer, where Nelson is the faculty advisor.

Yoon said Nelson has played a huge role in the increase of student involvement and activities for the club with his decision to bring Phi Mu Epsilon, a math honor society, to Mercer.

“I think it’s the best, most prestigious math honors organization in the United States. He put so much effort into getting this math club turned into an officially-recognized honors society,” Yoon said.

He makes the math lecture really interesting so that it’s accessible to non-math majors.””

— Jack Yoon

After accepting an award on behalf of the Mercer Math Club for Most Improved Student Organization, Yoon expressed his gratitude for Nelson.

“Without him we wouldn’t have had this improvement, and without it we wouldn’t have won this award,” Yoon said.

On a short walk down memory lane, Nelson recalled his globetrotting childhood.

Nelson was born in Malaysia to parents who were missionaries and grew up in Singapore as one of seven children.

He carries on this interest of discovery even in his profession.

“I went to India last year with Mercer Service Scholars, been to many places. One of the advantages of teaching is you have the summers off, so I travel,” he said.

Nelson also said he remembers growing up and running cross country in Converse tennis shoes. He still shows support for sports by attending games at Mercer.

“It’s nostalgic. When I went to Kansas, we would stand up at the ball game, and standing with the students here sort of brings back those memories for me. It’s also more healthy to stand up, and the students are having fun, which is why I sit with them,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he enjoys being a mathematics professor.

“It’s beautiful. It’s elegant. When you see something finally, it gives a great pleasure,” he said.

He likes wearing jeans to classes where he teaches — one of the advantages of being a professor, he said.

Nelson likes to push boundaries, and he said that he appreciates the students as much as they look to him for inspiration.

“The best thing about Mercer is the students,” he said. “They’re great people. They’re just good people and fun to be around. Keeps me young.”


An earlier version of this story did not include who wrote this article. Ireal James is the writer.