Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
Swedish roots run deep in his family, but Eric Nelson has dedicated his professional efforts to supporting Scandinavian heritage well beyond Sweden. Nelson has overseen development of the new National Nordic Museum on Seattle’s waterfront, bringing his talent for museum management developed over the early years of his career to the expansion of the museum devoted to honoring people of Nordic descent.
Nelson was named Swedish American of the Year for 2019 by the Vasa Order of America. In 2021, he was awarded the Knight First Class of the Royal Order of the Polar Star by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, for his leadership in making the National Nordic Museum a reality. Nelson received another knighthood, the Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, from Finnish president Sauli Niinistö in 2018. In 2020, Nelson became only the 19th person in 125 years to receive the Hazelius Medal in Gold, a distinction awarded by the Nordiska Museet Foundation in Stockholm to individuals who have made significant contributions to Swedish cultural heritage.
Nelson is active in the promotion of Scandinavian heritage, serving on the boards of the Swedish Council of America, the Icelandic American Chamber of Commerce, and the Seattle Reykjavik Sister City Association. Nelson also is a member of the Sons of Norway, Northwest Danish Association, Icelandic Club of Greater Seattle, and other similar groups. In 2021, he served as the honorary Grand Marshal for the 17th of May Parade in Seattle, the largest Syttende Mai parade outside of Oslo, Norway.
Nelson’s father’s family emigrated from Sweden near the end of the 19th century when his great grandparents moved to Kansas and Colorado. Nelson is a California native who graduated from the Getty Museum Leadership Institute and holds a Master of Art degree in History and a B.A. in History from California State University, Sacramento and San Francisco State University.