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Cooperative Hall of Fame Inductee Spotlight: William J. Nelson


William J. Nelson
President, CHS Foundation
Vice President, CHS Corporate Citizenship

Growing up on a farm in central Minnesota, William J. Nelson developed a passion for both agriculture and education, which laid the foundation for his career in the cooperative movement. Early in his academic career, Nelson made connections to the cooperative model that would shape his outlook and anchor his work in preparing future generations for leadership.

After earning undergraduate degrees in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Minnesota-Morris and master’s degrees in Studies of the Future from the University of Houston and Community Education from the University of St. Thomas, Nelson took a position at the University of Minnesota-Waseca, teaching a course in cooperative education. During the next 13 years, Nelson focused on education around agriculture, cooperatives, entrepreneurship and rural leadership and worked to connect the university and its students to real-world knowledge and experiences. Nelson also became involved with The Cooperative Foundation and served as its president for many years.

In 1992, Nelson was approached by Cenex, which later merged to become part of today’s CHS Inc., to develop an education grants program. For the next two decades, Nelson guided the CHS Foundation into a leadership role within cooperative education, encouraging collaboration and bringing together universities, businesses and cooperative leaders to educate the next generation. As president of the CHS Foundation and vice president of CHS Corporate Citizenship, Nelson has reached across all sectors to form new partnerships, strengthen ties and spur innovation within the cooperative movement.

The Cooperative Hall of Fame is administered by the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF), the 501(c)(3) non-profit affiliate of NCBA CLUSA. Nominations are received annually from throughout the cooperative community, with the final selection made by the NCBA CLUSA Board of Directors on the recommendation of a selection committee of national cooperative leaders.

The Cooperative Hall of Fame gallery is on display at NCBA CLUSA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and can also be viewed online at For Hall of Fame dinner attendance or sponsorship information, call CDF at (202) 383-5445 or email

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