CWU News

Kittitas County to Honor Former CWU President Ivory Nelson

The Kittitas County Commission will honor former Central Washington University President Ivory Nelson, who served in that post from 1992 to 1999, as someone who made a difference in the community.

At its February 19 meeting, the commission will vote on a proclamation naming February as National African-American History Month and recognize Nelson, who was the first African-American president in the university’s history.

“We wanted to recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution to the community,” said Kittitas County Commissioner Laura Osiadacz, who authored the proclamation. “Ivory Nelson is being recognized within the proclamation.”

The proclamation notes the contributions of five African-American pioneers including:

  • • Ivory Nelson, who in 1992 became Central Washington University’s first African American president.
  • • William Craven, who, on June 10, 1975 became Washington State’s first African American mayor.
  • • Tom Craven, a Wildland Firefighter and Squad Boss who lost his life in the Thirtymile Fire in 2001 after 12 years of service in USFS.
  • • Ja'Warren Hooker, who made the 2000 Olympic relay team and is a former University of Washington football player.
  • • Jimmy Claxton, a Roslyn resident, who was the first African American player in organized baseball in the 20th century.

During Nelson’s tenure, CWU increased access to technology with university wide upgrades, distance education, placing a computer on every professor’s desk, computerizing the library’s catalog, and making email the standard mode of communication.

Nelson also worked to address salary inequities for employees, and secured the designation of University Centers as part of the state Master Plan for Higher Education. Additionally, under his leadership the campus enjoyed $160 million in capital improvements including construction of the Science Building.

After retiring in 1999, Nelson served as president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania until 2011 and as interim provost at Jackson State University in 2017.

The Kittitas County Commission meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in the Kittitas County Courthouse, Commissioners’ Auditorium, 205 W. 5th Avenue, Room 109, Ellensburg.

Media contact: Richard Moreno, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-2714,