Dr. Laura L. Nelson
1952 - 2020
October 12, 1952
October 12, 2020

Dr. Laura L. Nelson

Laura Lyn Nelson, 68, La Crosse passed away Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at her home. Laura was born in Terre Haute, Ind., Oct. 12, 1952. She graduated from Mattoon High School in 1970, and then earned a BA in rhetoric from the University of Illinois. She continued her education with a master's in English Literature from the University of Southern Illinois-Carbondale, followed by a PhD in rhetorical criticism in 1987, also from SIUC. Her scholarly work included studying discourses around the 1918 Spanish Flu Outbreak, the work of Hugh Blair, and communication pedagogy.

Laura came to La Crosse in 1983, to join the Speech Communication and Theater Arts Department at UW-La Crosse. While at UWL, she taught courses in rhetoric, public speaking, argumentation, and debate. She was an assistant coach for the UWL forensics team until the program ended in 1988. When the Speech Communication and Theater Arts department split in 1996, Laura was instrumental in forming the new Communication Studies department, which included a merger with the Mass Communication department. Her tireless work ensured that the new television and radio studio space in Wing Hall, met the current needs of faculty and students studying broadcast media. Laura served as chair of the Communication Studies department for nine years, during which time the department grew exponentially to become one of the largest majors in the College of Liberal Sciences. Her leadership led to many faculty hires, the development of a research program for undergraduate students, and expansion of course offerings in many areas of study within the discipline. Faculty she hired found her to be a leader and mentor who listened and celebrated the successes of all her co-workers.

During her career, Laura also led on the UWL Faculty Senate, by being one of very few women to hold all four executive positions, including Faculty Senate president. Before beginning her role as chair of the Senate Executive Committee, she took it upon herself to read all past files from the committee so that she would know the history of the committee's work. In 1989, Laura won the Eugene W. Murphy Library Special Recognition Award, for her work with librarians to integrate library resources into classroom assignments. She retired from the university in 2016, after 33 years.

Laura dearly loved her pets, enjoyed reading historical fiction, watching PBS Masterpiece, and appreciating dinners at local fine dining restaurants. In her retirements, she treasured sharing stories about her family and professional history with friends over a nice steak.

Laura is survived by her sister, Susan Nelson (husband, Rick Fiddyment); brother, Chris Nelson (wife, Deborah Lane); nieces, Emily Nelson and Molly Nelson; her aunt, Martha Taylor; cousins, and many friends and colleagues from UWL and La Crosse.

Laura was preceded in death by her parents, Ted Ragle Nelson and Virginia Ruth Combs Nelson.

A private memorial service will be held with her family at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill.

To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published by La Crosse Tribune on Oct. 18, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Funeral services provided by:
Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services - La Crosse
Add a Message
21 Entries
Deb Philo
November 1, 2020
Susan, I am so sorry for this immense loss. The eulogy for your sister Laura provides a beautiful picture of her life and many accomplishments. I hope you find comfort and peace during this time.
Cynthia Bednarchik
October 29, 2020
I was so fortunate to have met Laura at U of I. She was a woman of substance, a creative and engaging force for Life, a wonderful soul. A "talker" - she was a Renaissance woman who could speak on any topic extemporaneously and convincingly. A heart either bold, or fragile, and sometimes both at once. Poetry, a blazingly fast mind, those long long letters on yellow legal paper. What can you say about a woman who loved W.S. Merwin, great music, each and every one of her often eclectic friends, and learning..... she was always learning. I cannot find solace even in our shared sorrow. May her memory continue to live in each of us. Fortunate we were. Fortunate I was.
Keith R Allen
October 29, 2020
So sorry for your loss.
Jo Hubbart
October 25, 2020
I fondly remember Laura from Mattoon High School. (class of 1970). I am sorry to hear of her passing.
Diana Metger Sullivan
October 21, 2020
Laura lived on the west corner of our block on Wabash when we were growing up. I lived on the east corner. I spent many hours in her home. We graduated from MHS together and recently reconnected through FB. I sent her a picture of her old house lately and we had some good times remembering our youth. I always appreciated her honesty and straightforward way with words. I am so sorry she was taken so young in her life. Condolences to your family.
Paula Gordon
October 21, 2020
We are so sorry for your loss. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Jan Heller
October 21, 2020
What an outstanding lady! So sorry for your shock and loss, Susan and Rick.
Sandy Baksys
October 21, 2020
I extend deepest sympathies to the family of Laura Nelson.. she was a friend.. and my classmate at Mattoon High School.. always cheery, with a positive outlook and smart.. i am saddened with her passing.
W. Jeffrey Abell.
Jeff Abell
October 21, 2020
I will miss my dear friend. We spent hours chatting about our life, friends, and family. We loved it when she came to the cabin. We will miss her and Maude.
Tom Hughes
October 19, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers are with Laura's family. Rest in peace Laura.
Jim and Kathy Burcham
October 19, 2020
I was chairman of UW-L´s Speech/Theatre Department in 1983, the year we hired Laura. It was an extremely wise decision made by the department. She was a great asset not only to the department, but also to the entire university as well as to the La Crosse community. She will be missed.
Wayne Krumel
October 19, 2020
Prayers for the family during this most difficult time. Laura was a very accomplished woman.
Donna Homann
October 18, 2020
Brook Croke
October 18, 2020
Ranjiv Mathews
October 18, 2020
Condolences to you all. I was Laura´s college roommate, and she was a hugely important influence in my life during those college years and beyond. We shared tastes in music and literature, competed for various boyfriends, and got into just a moderate amount of trouble together. We stayed friends always, and I treasure all the memories (and all the 10-page, hand-written, legal pad letters she sent). Please know that your sister was cherished by so many people in different phases of her life.
Jane Townsend
October 18, 2020
You are all in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. I have many memories of Laura from high school.
Dixie Alms
October 18, 2020
A respected colleague and kind friend. Thank you, Laura, for hiring me to work at UWL and for the years of friendship since. You influenced many lives and will be remembered fondly.
Doug Swanson
October 18, 2020
I am offering my deepest sympathy to the family members of Laura Nelson. I was the administrative assistant in the Department of Communications (approximately 2005-2009, and I remember Laura very fondly. We had many talks and deep conversations when time allowed. I always admired her deep dedication within the department. Rest In Peace, Laura, and realize you touched many lives!
Joyce Pillsbury
October 18, 2020
I graduated wth her from Mattoon High School and truly admired her dedication to her studies and to her work. She was so kind to everyone and had a great sense of humor. She will be missed by all of us who knew this sweet woman. My sympathies to her family.
Marsha wade
October 18, 2020
.....I so much enjoyed Llyn´s post on Facebook....her eloquent style and broad knowledge on a myriad of subjects kept me entertained daily....it is so sad that she left us so soon...she will be missed....
Steve Henna
October 18, 2020