Gregory Nelson, Jacksonville University alumnus and developer of a medical complex in Arlington, died Feb. 4 at Baptist Hospital after a stroke. He was 71.
A member of JU’s basketball team that fell in the NCAA Tournament championship game in 1970, Nelson graduated in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He was a member of the university’s board of trustees from 2010-16.
In 2014, Nelson was named among the “80 Alumni You Oughta Know,” in honor of the 80th anniversary of JU’s founding.
In 2017, Nelson’s Ohio-based development and health facility management company broke ground on Dolphin Pointe Health Care, a 120-bed skilled nursing center on a 55-acre site between University Boulevard and the St. Johns River north of the JU campus.
In January, the city approved a mobility fee calculation certificate for the second phase of the health complex, Dolphin Reef, a 112-bed assisted living and rehabilitation facility.
The university released a statement:
“Nelson was a faithful friend and staunch supporter of his alma mater. For decades, he partnered with the University in expanding opportunities for students and investing in the revitalization of the Arlington community,” it said.
“Through various funding support and property grants, Mr. Nelson was instrumental in the development of JU’s cutting-edge Occupational Therapy facility, the University’s North Hall, our new Health Sciences Complex and our unique academic partnership at the world-class Dolphin Pointe Health Care skilled nursing facility.”
JU also provided comments from its president, a former teammate and its athletic director.
JU President Tim Cost, a 1981 graduate of the university, said he remembers watching Nelson and Artis Gilmore lead the Dolphins to the final game of the NCAA Tournament.
“When I returned to campus in 2012 to become the President of Jacksonville University, Greg, along with his wonderful wife Denise, and I not only became friends but partners, because we shared a love for this University and a passion to see it reach new heights,” Cost said.
“Greg was a visionary and a collaborator, always bringing people together to accomplish things that seemed impossible to many. His leadership and steadfast support has been transformational for our University and for Arlington, and he will be greatly missed.”
Gilmore said he and Nelson “had a great relationship that started on the court. Everybody on the team worked really hard, but Greg was certainly one of our leaders and a big reason behind our success.
“We used to laugh about a photo that was taken at one of our games that shows me blocking a shot near the top of the backboard. And there’s Greg - Number 55 - walking back from mid-court. And we used to joke all the time that this outstanding photograph would never have taken place if he had taken care of his job playing defense. We teased each other. But we were a family, and our hearts and souls are part of Jacksonville University.”
JU Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert said Nelson and his teammates helped reshape Jacksonville and that after graduation, Nelson worked to reinvigorate the campus community.
“He was an incredible ambassador of not only athletics but of Jacksonville University and his transformational contributions beyond his time as a student-athlete will live on for decades to come,” said Ricker-Gilbert.
Memorial services will be scheduled this spring in Jacksonville and in Dayton, Ohio.