Kristine Nelson, social work professor emerita, researcher and former dean of the Portland State University School of Social Work, died April 22 after a long illness. She was 68.
Through her 40-year career as a social worker, researcher and educator, Nelson contributed significantly to improving social work education both nationally and in the state of Oregon, and her research led to improvements in child welfare practice. Nelson earned her bachelor’s degree at Stanford University, her master of social work at Sacramento State University and her doctorate in social work at University of California, Berkeley. She began her career as a social worker in Harlem and was director of research for the National Resource Center on Family-Based Services at the University of Iowa before joining the PSU School of Social Work in 1993.
She was an internationally known researcher, scholar and teacher. In 2005, she became the first female dean of the School of Social Work. In this role, she focused on increasing access to social work education in Oregon for communities across the state primarily through expansion of the master of social work distance option and the creation of a bachelor’s program.
Nelson was active as a leader in social work, serving on many state and national committees, advisory groups and task forces focused on child welfare and related issues. Her many accomplishments were honored when she was awarded the Oregon National Association of Social Workers Lifetime Recognition Award, which is awarded to a social worker “who has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to the practice of social work and service to the community.”
Nelson is survived by her partner, Steve Richardson; daughter, Katryn Adams; and sister, Shellie Siegel. A memorial to celebrate her life will be held at PSU’s Lincoln Hall Recital Room at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 20, followed by a reception at the Simon Benson House on the PSU campus. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Kristine Nelson Ph.D. Scholarship for Students Committed to Social Justice, c/o PSU Foundation, PO BOX 243, Portland Oregon, 97207 or call (503) 725-9914 for credit card gifts.