Donald Nielsen

Donald Nielsen < Back to Voices

Donald P. Nielsen is a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute and chair of the Institute’s program on public education reform. He currently serves as Chairman of Lumenal Lighting, LLC.

From 1992 to 2008, Mr. Nielsen concentrated his activities in the field of public education. He traveled the country for two years studying America’s public education system and subsequently was elected to the Board of the Seattle Public Schools. He served on the board for eight years and was President of the Board in 2000-2001. During his tenure, Mr. Nielsen and his colleagues oversaw major reforms to the Seattle Public School System that greatly enhanced the educational experience — and heightened achievement — for students, administrators, teachers and parents.

Prior to retiring in 1992, Mr. Nielsen was co-founder, President and Chairman of Hazleton Corporation — the world’s largest contract biological and chemical research and testing company. Hazleton Corporation, based in Vienna, Va., concentrated its activities in the life sciences industry — providing industry and government with contract biological, chemical and immunobiological research services. The Company’s clients were the world’s leading pharmaceutical, chemical, agri-chemical, medical device and food companies.

Hazleton Corporation (originally named Environmental Sciences Corporation) commenced operations in 1969 as a $200,000 start-up. When Mr. Nielsen retired in 1992, Hazleton had grown to $165 million in sales and employed 2,500 people in five countries on three continents. In 1983, Hazleton was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and in 1987, Corning, Inc., purchased the Company. Mr. Nielsen remained CEO of Hazleton for five years after the acquisition by Corning.

In addition to his current role as Chairman of Lumenal Lighting LLC., he is a director and co-founder of the National Eating Disorders Association. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the University of Washington Foster School of Business and the Dean’s Advisory Board of the University of Washington School of Education.

During his business career, Mr. Nielsen served on numerous corporate and non-profit boards. Corporate boards included Washington Dental Services, TeachFirst and VWR Scientific. Non-profit boards included Junior Achievement, YMCA, The Alliance for Education, The Seattle Foundation, IslandWood and the Talaris Institute. He also served nine years as a Trustee of Seattle Pacific University.

Mr. Nielsen graduated from the University of Washington where he received a BA degree in Business in 1960. In his senior year at the University of Washington he was elected student body president. In 1963, he received an MBA degree from the Harvard Business School and was the recipient of that school’s 2004 Alumni Achievement Award. In 2009, he received the Leadership Award from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. That same year, he received the McNaughton Award given annually to a Seattle Citizen to recognize their civic leadership.

Mr. Nielsen is married to the former Melissa J. Mounger, and has three grown children and seven grandchildren.

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