Armour H. Nelson Literature Scholarship

Armour H. Nelson Literature Scholarship

Few people love books the way Armour Nelson loved them—on the inside and the outside. For Armour, that love affair was sparked by his elementary teacher in Smolen, Kansas, who challenged his students to see how many books they could read. Armour became an avid reader, a habit that stayed with him throughout his life.

Arrmour was at first glance a quiet, gentle, unassuming man. But that impression would be misleading, since he had a very colorful life. Born the oldest child in a very Swedish family and raised in a very Swedish town, he heard and spoke only Swedish for the first five years of his life. He also learned to speak the Norwegian and Danish languages.

As a young adult, Armour worked as a cowboy, painter, master carpenter, soil conservationist, traveler and—for five years during World War II—a soldier in the European theater. This all occurred before he entered the University of Chicago as an enthusiastic college student. He later became an English professor with a focus on Shakespeare, as well as an author, editor and perpetual scholar.

Armour started his college teaching career at Concordia College in Minnesota, where he became a full professor in five years. In 1964 he joined the faculty of California Lutheran College where he became head of the humanities division and English department chair. Following a heart attack in the late 70s, Armour became CLU’s first archivist in charge of rare book collections—the perfect position for someone who so loved books. He approached that role with a creative spirit, developing a magazine for the liberal arts called Discourse and planting the seeds for Scandinavian Day at CLC. He worked diligently to preserve CLU’s Scandinavian heritage. Meanwhile, his wife Alice, a registered nurse, served in CLU’s health services and nursing department. The two were partners in everything they did.

Upon Armour’s retirement in 1990, CLU library staff initiated a scholarship in his honor. Armour and Alice Nelson helped to determine the criteria to be used in selecting the recipient: an English major with a minimum 3.5 grade point average whose special interest is literature. The award remains a tribute to Armour’s high regard for education and his love of the written word.