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Dr. H. Viscount Nelson

July 10, 1939 October 5, 2015
Dr. H. Viscount Nelson
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Obituary for Dr. H. Viscount Nelson

Remembering the
Life & Legacy of


October 17, 2015

Oxford Presbyterian Church
6 Pine Street
Oxford, PA  19363

Closed Casket Service 
10:00 a.m. 

The interment will conclude at 
Rolling Green Memorial Park 
West Chester,  PA 

Life Story

Dr. Horatio Viscount “Berky” Nelson

Loved, admired, respected and celebrated Dr. Horatio Viscount “Berky” Nelson, Jr. was born on July 10, 1939, in Oxford, Pennsylvania, to the late Horatio Viscount Nelson, Sr. and Leanna Nelson Johnson.  He received a call on October 5, 2015, from a wonderful place, for a reunion with family and friends he has not seen in a long time.  His love of music, his beaming smile and laughter, and the love he expressed for so many, will be sorely missed. 
He was a state champion in track during his school days in Oxford.  He matriculated to West Chester University (WSU). While attending, Berky enthusiastically played trumpet, but excelled as a sprinter and hurdler on the track team. He would qualify for the Olympics in the 400 meter hurdles though it was a year too late.
In 1961, Berky graduated with a BS from West Chester University and then obtained an MA and PhD in United States History from the University of Pennsylvania.  After teaching at Oxford and Abington High Schools in Pennsylvania, he taught during the 1960s and 1970s at UCLA and then at Dartmouth College.  He married Joan Kathleen Ricks in 1964.  From this union two sons were born – Christopher V. Nelson in 1969 and Berk W. Nelson in 1976. 
As a prominent alumnus of WSU, Berky maintained close alliance with his alma mater.  He continued to inspire its students as graduates, as a commencement speaker, an inductee as a Distinguished Alumnus, and as a Presidential Award Winner.   In 2013, Berky was named as a member of the MAC 100 teams and to the 1939-1961 Men’s Track and Field team.  He was a dedicated member of the WCU Foundation Board of Trustees - guiding alumni reconnection and support for the University, its students and programs.   Berky was known for his kindness, his scholarship and his dedication to his alma mater.
A retired professor of Afro-American Studies and former director of student activities at the University of California (UCLA), Berky’s contributions to the academic world are countless and immeasurable.  Most notable, is his illustrious career at UCLA.  He became an accomplished scholar, mentor, and role model for multiple generations of students during his 40-plus years on campus. Student involvement and learning beyond the classroom was an education imperative for Berky, and under his leadership, the number of student organizations advised by the Center for Student Programming (CSP - now Student Organizations, Leadership, and Engagement (SOLE) grew to over 1,000.  Similarly, for a long line of staff members in CSP/SOLE he was a leader, a tutor, and a stalwart colleague, and his influence can continue to be seen in the stellar work of the advisors and their groups.  For intercollegiate athletics, he served as an advisor and confidante for many student athletes – helping them with their transition to campus and paving the way for their success, both on the field and in the classroom.
Berky believed in the multicultural image that UCLA was developing in the 1990s. Beyond his administrative work he initiated classes on multicultural issues that succeeded dramatically in bringing together students of diverse ethnic backgrounds.  Many of them continued to visit his office for wise counsel years after their college careers had ended.  His skill in helping diverse people understand one another extended into the Los Angeles community, where for decades he conducted classes for police cadets at the Wiesenthal center and Museum of Tolerance. 
As an accomplished author, Berky’s publications include the Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership: Chronicle of a Twentieth Century Tragedy (2003) Black Leadership’s Response to the Great Depression in Philadelphia (2006) and Sharecropping, Ghetto, Slum:  A History of Impoverished Blacks in Twentieth-Century America (2015).
Berky served as the director of fraternity and sorority relations at UCLA.  He led by example.  As an exemplary member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated; and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (The Boulè), Incorporate – Sire Archon, Pacific Region, Berky modeled the behavior and commitment that others should strive to emulate. 
Preceded in death by his father and devoted wife, Berky leaves to celebrate his life and to cherish his memory:  his two loving sons Christopher (Leeann) and Berk (Aubry); granddaughter, Harper Joan Nelson – the apple of his eye; an energetic mother, Leanna Nelson Johnson, who is currently 103; a dedicated partner, Marcia Mills; brother Robert L. Nelson (Shelly); nieces Shelly Nelson and Norean Johnson; a great niece, Brianna Johnson; nephew, Stephan Johnson; and numerous cousins and friends.  He left detailed instructions for his children, loved ones, friends and colleagues to celebrate his mission here.
Our love transcends through time for a loving unsung hero.  May he rest in peace and continue to watch over us as his spirit lives forever.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, October 17 at 10:00 a.m., at the Oxford Presbyterian Church, 6 Pine Street, Oxford, PA 19363. 
Lovingly submitted,
Christopher and Berk

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