Dr. Diane Nelson is a professor emerita in Biological Sciences at ETSU and a world-renowned marine biologist, and Dr. Jack Nelson is a chemical engineer who has retired after a distinguished career with Eastman Chemical Co. The Nelsons have been long-time supporters of ETSU, with gifts benefiting academic and athletic scholarships, the Carroll Reece Museum, Sherrod Library, Honors College, Johnson City Downtown Clinic, Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, WETS-FM and the ETSU and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum at the Gray Fossil Site.
The Nelsons travel the world and explore the diverse – and often rarely seen – life in the depths of the oceans. They have shared many of their underwater photographs with ETSU for publication in two "Ocean Gems" calendars, which have been used to raise funds for the Honors College and the Natural History Museum. Diane Nelson worked with university personnel to secure in-kind support, so that these calendars were printed with minimal overhead, allowing almost all sales proceeds to go to the designated beneficiaries.
The Nelsons are members of the Distinguished President's Trust Platinum Society for lifetime support of ETSU in excess of $1 million, and of the Legacy Circle for their remembrance of the ETSU Foundation in their estate plans.