Eileen Nelson Obituary - 2024 (2024)

Dr. Eileen Schmitt Nelson passed away February 4th, 2024 at Bridgewater Retirement Community surrounded by her loving family. She was born December 10, 1933 in New Haven, CT and was the daughter of the late Edward John Schmitt, Sr. and Lydia Petocchi Schmitt. Dr. Nelson graduated from Hamden High School in CT and began her working career in the offices of the New Haven Bank and Trust Co. During this time, she also completed a two-year program at the Whitney Secretarial School. After a move to Syracuse, NY she worked as the secretary of the Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering Dept of Syracuse University where she also began her collegiate studies. Her first child, R. Ryan (wife, Joelle Masters) was born while Eileen completed an A.B. degree in Psychology from Syracuse University and her daughter, Pamela Smith (husband Milum Livesay) was born on graduation day. The family then moved to Gainesville, FL where her son, Edward Reed (wife Tracy Smith) was born.

At this critical period of Civil Rights demonstrations Eileen became involved with the League of Women Voters and began her work with this group. For the next several years, Dr. Nelson worked tirelessly registering black citizens to vote by going house to house. In March 1964, while participating in marches and demonstrations she was arrested in Saint Augustine as part of Martin Luther King’s contingent while participating in a lunch counter “sit in.”

Dr. Nelson later moved to Nashville, TN where she attended George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and earned her M.A. degree in Multiple Handicaps with a concentration in Visual Handicaps and served as a teacher of multiple-handicapped children at the Kennedy Center of Peabody College. Eileen then worked as a Family Counselor and Child Development Specialist in the Birth Defects Clinic of Vanderbilt University Hospital where she developed and implemented the first home visitation program for handicapped children from birth to 36 months. She also trained many graduate students who came from locations all over the country to study with her, and created the first toy-lending library in her work with families. In 1980, She received an Ed.D. degree from the University of Virginia with a major in Counseling Psychology, and minors in Special Education and Education Research. Dr. Nelson served as a Licensed Professional Counselor in part-time private practice from 1976 to 2005.

After moving to Harrisonburg, VA in 1972, Dr. Nelson began her cherished teaching career at Madison College (now James Madison University) where she taught many courses in the Psychology Department at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. During her tenure at JMU, Professor Nelson directed over 35 honors theses, over 100 directed research and directed readings projects, and 25 graduate theses. She developed highly successful courses including Psychology of the Young Adult, Counseling Psychology, and Psychology of Women. Dr. Nelson created the Athletic Academic Advising Program for JMU and served as its director for 2 years and served as the sports psychologist for the JMU men’s basketball team from 1978-85. In 1990, Eileen created and supervised the Peer Advising Program for the Department of Psychology until her retirement. As a need demonstrated by reports and data generated by the Peer Advisors, she developed the Department of Psychology Senior Exit Survey. Dr. Nelson published almost 50 articles in refereed professional journals including many with the students she had mentored. Eileen served as adviser to Alpha Sigma Tau sorority for 15 years.

During her years of teaching at JMU, Dr. Nelson received numerous teaching awards. She was the JMU nominee for State Council of Higher Education of Virginia Outstanding Teacher Award 1996. She was the Recipient of the Hall Faculty Award for JMU in 1999. Eileen was the Department of Psychology nominee for JMU Professor of the Year CASE Award, 1983-84, 1986-87, 1988-89, 1991-92, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97. In 1995-96 she was the recipient of the Carl Harter Distinguished Teacher Award, and she was nominated for the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Division Two Robert S. Daniel Teaching Award, American Psychological Association, 1997-98. She also received Department Recognition Awards for Teaching and Advising in 1983, 1993, and 1995.

After retiring from JMU in 2000, Eileen began to research her family history. This endeavor comprised four years of gathering information bit by bit until it grew into a large volume. It took Eileen and Dick to several places in Europe meeting charming family members with whom their children still correspond and visit. During that research and writing, Eileen realized that vast amounts of what she discovered would probably never be known about some of the family members, and so she decided to write the story of her own early life as a gift to her grandchildren. That book then led to a “Family and Friends” cookbook with small stories and pictures about the contributors whose recipes Eileen had kept, including those of her great grandmothers.

Eileen had many hobbies that she enjoyed thoroughly. She collected figurines of cats and bulldogs, as well as numerous Christmas nutcrackers. She learned to knit at 6 years old and produced many socks and sweaters, but her favorites were always the Christmas stockings that she knitted for all the children in the family. She loved reading and travelling and made scrapbooks of most of the places she and Dick visited. Eileen never lived without a pet to care for. They were one of the great joys of her life as were all animals. Finally, she also wrote stories for each of her grandchildren – the heroes of the stories were the children themselves.

On May 8, 1976, Eileen married Dr. William R. “Dick” Nelson who was the love of her life. From then, until his death on June 30, 2008 they travelled the world together, to five continents, managing to visit their favorite city Venice, Italy, 17 times. Eileen and Dick were also part of a selected committee who were charged with creating the James Madison University Faculty Emeriti Group. All the Nelson family members are avid JMU sports fans and they cared for two of the JMU English Bulldog mascots, Duke III and Duke IV. In addition to their children, Eileen and Dick are survived by four grandchildren Jacqueline Nelson (wife, Elspeth Macmillan) of Boston, MA, Edward Nelson of Brooklyn, NY, Allison Robinson (husband, Kevin) of Atlanta, GA, and Reed Farnen of Atlanta, GA.

A celebration of Eileen’s life is set for October 20th, 2024 at 2:00pm at The Hall of Presidents (3rd floor JMU D-Hall). Wear purple. Donations in her honor can be made to Cats Cradle https://form-renderer-app.donorperfect.io/give/cats-cradle/general-giving-form or The Nelson Family Scholarship at JMU http://bit.ly/NelsonFamilyScholarship.

https://www.jmu.edu/professorsyoulove/nelson-qanda.shtml

https://www.jmu.edu/news/professors-you-love/nelson-eileen-by-david-hillgrove.shtml

To share a memory or send a condolence gift, please visit the Official Obituary of Eileen Nelson hosted by Kyger Funeral Homes.

Dr. Eileen Schmitt Nelson passed away February 4th, 2024 at Bridgewater Retirement Community surrounded by her loving family. She was born December 10, 1933 in New Haven, CT and was the daughter of the late Edward John Schmitt, Sr. and Lydia Petocchi Schmitt. Dr. Nelson graduated from Hamden High School in CT and began her working career in the offices of the New Haven Bank and Trust Co. During this time, she also completed a two-year program at the Whitney Secretarial School. After a move to Syracuse, NY she worked as the secretary of the Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering Dept of Syracuse University where she also began her collegiate studies. Her first child, R. Ryan (wife, Joelle Masters) was born while Eileen completed an A.B. degree in Psychology from Syracuse University and her daughter, Pamela Smith (husband Milum Livesay) was born on graduation day. The family then moved to Gainesville, FL where her son, Edward Reed (wife Tracy Smith) was born.

At this critical period of Civil Rights demonstrations Eileen became involved with the League of Women Voters and began her work with this group. For the next several years, Dr. Nelson worked tirelessly registering black citizens to vote by going house to house. In March 1964, while participating in marches and demonstrations she was arrested in Saint Augustine as part of Martin Luther King’s contingent while participating in a lunch counter “sit in.”

Dr. Nelson later moved to Nashville, TN where she attended George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and earned her M.A. degree in Multiple Handicaps with a concentration in Visual Handicaps and served as a teacher of multiple-handicapped children at the Kennedy Center of Peabody College. Eileen then worked as a Family Counselor and Child Development Specialist in the Birth Defects Clinic of Vanderbilt University Hospital where she developed and implemented the first home visitation program for handicapped children from birth to 36 months. She also trained many graduate students who came from locations all over the country to study with her, and created the first toy-lending library in her work with families. In 1980, She received an Ed.D. degree from the University of Virginia with a major in Counseling Psychology, and minors in Special Education and Education Research. Dr. Nelson served as a Licensed Professional Counselor in part-time private practice from 1976 to 2005.

After moving to Harrisonburg, VA in 1972, Dr. Nelson began her cherished teaching career at Madison College (now James Madison University) where she taught many courses in the Psychology Department at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. During her tenure at JMU, Professor Nelson directed over 35 honors theses, over 100 directed research and directed readings projects, and 25 graduate theses. She developed highly successful courses including Psychology of the Young Adult, Counseling Psychology, and Psychology of Women. Dr. Nelson created the Athletic Academic Advising Program for JMU and served as its director for 2 years and served as the sports psychologist for the JMU men’s basketball team from 1978-85. In 1990, Eileen created and supervised the Peer Advising Program for the Department of Psychology until her retirement. As a need demonstrated by reports and data generated by the Peer Advisors, she developed the Department of Psychology Senior Exit Survey. Dr. Nelson published almost 50 articles in refereed professional journals including many with the students she had mentored. Eileen served as adviser to Alpha Sigma Tau sorority for 15 years.

During her years of teaching at JMU, Dr. Nelson received numerous teaching awards. She was the JMU nominee for State Council of Higher Education of Virginia Outstanding Teacher Award 1996. She was the Recipient of the Hall Faculty Award for JMU in 1999. Eileen was the Department of Psychology nominee for JMU Professor of the Year CASE Award, 1983-84, 1986-87, 1988-89, 1991-92, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97. In 1995-96 she was the recipient of the Carl Harter Distinguished Teacher Award, and she was nominated for the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Division Two Robert S. Daniel Teaching Award, American Psychological Association, 1997-98. She also received Department Recognition Awards for Teaching and Advising in 1983, 1993, and 1995.

After retiring from JMU in 2000, Eileen began to research her family history. This endeavor comprised four years of gathering information bit by bit until it grew into a large volume. It took Eileen and Dick to several places in Europe meeting charming family members with whom their children still correspond and visit. During that research and writing, Eileen realized that vast amounts of what she discovered would probably never be known about some of the family members, and so she decided to write the story of her own early life as a gift to her grandchildren. That book then led to a “Family and Friends” cookbook with small stories and pictures about the contributors whose recipes Eileen had kept, including those of her great grandmothers.

Eileen had many hobbies that she enjoyed thoroughly. She collected figurines of cats and bulldogs, as well as numerous Christmas nutcrackers. She learned to knit at 6 years old and produced many socks and sweaters, but her favorites were always the Christmas stockings that she knitted for all the children in the family. She loved reading and travelling and made scrapbooks of most of the places she and Dick visited. Eileen never lived without a pet to care for. They were one of the great joys of her life as were all animals. Finally, she also wrote stories for each of her grandchildren – the heroes of the stories were the children themselves.

On May 8, 1976, Eileen married Dr. William R. “Dick” Nelson who was the love of her life. From then, until his death on June 30, 2008 they travelled the world together, to five continents, managing to visit their favorite city Venice, Italy, 17 times. Eileen and Dick were also part of a selected committee who were charged with creating the James Madison University Faculty Emeriti Group. All the Nelson family members are avid JMU sports fans and they cared for two of the JMU English Bulldog mascots, Duke III and Duke IV. In addition to their children, Eileen and Dick are survived by four grandchildren Jacqueline Nelson (wife, Elspeth Macmillan) of Boston, MA, Edward Nelson of Brooklyn, NY, Allison Robinson (husband, Kevin) of Atlanta, GA, and Reed Farnen of Atlanta, GA.

A celebration of Eileen’s life is set for October 20th, 2024 at 2:00pm at The Hall of Presidents (3rd floor JMU D-Hall). Wear purple. Donations in her honor can be made to Cats Cradle https://form-renderer-app.donorperfect.io/give/cats-cradle/general-giving-form or The Nelson Family Scholarship at JMU http://bit.ly/NelsonFamilyScholarship.

https://www.jmu.edu/professorsyoulove/nelson-qanda.shtml

https://www.jmu.edu/news/professors-you-love/nelson-eileen-by-david-hillgrove.shtml

To share a memory or send a condolence gift, please visit the Official Obituary of Eileen Nelson hosted by Kyger Funeral Homes.

Eileen Nelson Obituary - 2024 (2024)

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