As her mother’s living legacy, Connia Nelson says she tries to live each day to make her mother proud. Nelson’s decisions are based on the desire to pay it forward, the idea that all things are possible, the belief that it is important to help others achieve their goals and the simple tenets of “The Golden Rule.”
What it all boils down to, Nelson says, is “to treat others as you would like to be treated.”
Nelson and her twin sister, Lindia Williams, grew up in Lawrenceburg with their widowed mother. As a first-generation college student, Nelson recalls her mother placing a heavy emphasis on education.
“My mother knew that having a strong education would be a critical key to open many doors for me,” she said. “That is indeed true.”
The sisters both attended Indiana State University and roomed together all four years. Some of her best college memories, Nelson says, include singing soprano in the Ebony Majestic choir and making friends that are still part of her life today.
“Some of the people I met freshman year in the dorm have bonded into a family relationship. You can’t place a value on friendships like that,” she said.
As graduation grew closer, Nelson worked with the Career Center at Indiana State University. “It was a great resource for me. I actually got my first job with their help.”
Nelson later earned a Master of Arts degree from Dallas Baptist University and is now senior vice president for human resources with Verizon Communications — responsible for the global employee experience for 175,000 Verizon employees. She and her husband, Darrell, live in West Orange, N.J., and have a daughter, Adriel.
Over the years, Nelson has received many awards and honors, including the Eagle Leadership Award, being named one of the “Most Influential African Americans in Business” by Profiles in Diversity Journal, serving on the Board of Trustees for Post University, being recognized as a distinguished Indiana State University alumna, serving on the president’s board of advisors for Indiana State University and being guest speaker at the 2010 Indiana State University commencement.
“Being guest speaker was a tremendous honor and an amazing experience,” she said. “Never when I was a student at ISU did I ever think I would one day be speaking to graduates. I was awed to be asked to do that.”
Nelson also is a founding board member of Seed a Better Life, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve an education and improve their social and economic status.
“Our current project focuses on Rwandan genocide survivors. We have a number of students in college and several have already graduated,” she said.
And that is something Nelson’s mother, who died in 1987, would wholeheartedly support.
“College was a dream of hers,” Nelson said.
“Sometimes I think the dreams of our parents are deferred and transferred into our lives. Parents may just one day realize their dreams through their child.”