Success Story: Keeping learning at the center for 18 years

November 2, 2018

NMC President Tim NelsonNMC President Timothy J. Nelson on Thursday announced his plans to retire December 31, 2019, bringing to a close his tenure as the longest-serving president of the college.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have worked to achieve during my time at this college,” said Nelson, who has led NMC for 18 years. “I have committed myself to our ultimate purpose, which is to provide our learners and communities with the skills, experiences and values that will help them to create social and economic wealth during their lifetimes.”

Nelson first worked at NMC as residence hall supervisor in 1975 and returned to campus as executive director of administration in 2000. He was named president Feb. 26, 2001, and since then has made his motto “keeping learning at the center.”

Elaine Wood was a member of the Board of Trustees that hired Nelson. She said he was the clear choice in a search that yielded candidates from around the country.

“He was the ideal person to take NMC into the 21st century, in very creative, substantial ways,” said Wood, a trustee from 1990-2008. “Tim really stood out as having the kind of vision for NMC that was not only the most creative and the biggest, but also the most consistent with this community, the values of this community and the character of this community.”

From technology to a global economy, Nelson foresaw and prepared the college and community for changes and challenges, Wood said, adding that he brought both financial acumen and a grasp of learning systems.

“That is kind of a rare combination, to get somebody who’s well-rounded in both aspects,” she said.

As a result of Nelson’s leadership at the college, NMC has been recognized as:

  • 2nd in the nation among community colleges in Military Times “Best for Vets” rankings
  • Offering first community college baccalaureate in Michigan
  • 16th for short-term study abroad nationwide
  • 10th out of top 15 Best Drone Training colleges
  • 16th out of 50 “Best Choice Schools for Culinary” nationwide
  • Only ADCI-certified ROV pilot technician training program in the world
  • Top 20 foundation endowment per student

“President Nelson has served this college and this community well during his tenure,” said NMC Board of Trustees Chairman Kennard Weaver. “We are fortunate to have had a leader of this caliber for much longer than the average community college president. The role of the college president is to provide vision, leadership, and focus to the growth of a college. Bringing in a new president means NMC can build upon the successes and stable system built by President Nelson, while also benefiting from new energy and ideas to continue to propel the college forward to the benefit of our students and our community. The Board is committed to a public and transparent process during this transition.”

The Board, with more than 42 years combined experience, has begun thinking about the succession process and how best to seek input from the college’s many stakeholder groups. Nelson looks forward to continuing in his current role and serving actively as an advisor during the transition period with support from the college’s long-serving leadership team. Updates to this public process will be made available at

Nelson, 66, and his family plan to remain in Traverse City after his retirement, where they will continue to support NMC and other initiatives to improve the community.

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