Elizabeth Ness Nelson, a longtime Fresno State sociology department faculty member and emeriti faculty member, passed away on Wednesday, Jan.10 unexpectedly at the age of 79.

Nelson began her 27-year Fresno State teaching career in 1973 and was the first female tenure-track faculty member in the department of sociology at Fresno State. She taught courses ranging from critical thinking, gender, and religion. She served as sociology department chair in the 1990s, retired in 2000 and became emerita faculty.

Nelson worked on getting service learning and internships off the ground at Fresno State. She served on several community councils including the CSU Fresno Elderhostel Advisory Council, Lutheran Campus Council of Fresno and the American Humanics Advisory Council.

Nelson earned a Ph.D. and MA in Sociology from the University of California at Los Angeles and her B.A from Washington State University.

Before she joined the faculty at Fresno State, she was a part time instructor at various institutions from 1967-1973.

“Liz was such an important mentor for me, and I honestly don’t know where I’d be professionally without her guidance and the opportunities she afforded me, starting with the chance to teach as a part time lecturer in Sociology in 1995,” said sociology department chair Dr. Matt Jendian.  “She encouraged me to apply for a service-learning grant to incorporate service-learning into my courses, and then referred me and supported my application for a part-time position as “director” of a new start up program called Humanics. I owe nearly everything I’ve been fortunate to be involved with at Fresno State over the past 23 years to Elizabeth Nelson.”

Nelson was a mentor to many professors and will be dearly missed by her family and friends. She is survived by her husband Dr. Edward Nelson, her children Lisa and David and her five grandchildren.

A celebration of life ceremony will be held on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 3 p.m at Hope Lutheran Church located on 364 E Barstow Ave, Fresno, CA 93710.