Anna Spangler Nelson ’84 will Emphasize the “Student” in Student-Athlete as a Member of the Knight Commission

February 29, 2016
Fencing athletes from Wellesley College

Anna Spangler Nelson '84 was recently appointed to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a watchdog group that ensures intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational missions of their colleges and universities.

"We are proud that a Wellesley alumna and former scholar-athlete is among this select group of commission members," said Bridget Belgiovine, director of athletics and chair of PERA. "This is a positive reflection of the value of sports participation and the College's mission to make a difference in the world."

Nelson, who serves on the board of governors of the University of North Carolina system, was appointed along with Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education, and Paul Tagliabue, former commissioner of the National Football League.

"Arne Duncan, Anna Spangler Nelson, and Paul Tagliabue are national leaders who care passionately about the value of college sports in our universities," said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president and chief executive officer, in a press release. "We look forward to having their guidance and leadership as the Knight Commission expands upon its legacy of protecting the educational missions of our universities and improving the experience of college athletes."

At Wellesley, Nelson, who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics, played tennis for two years and squash for one. "More important by far were my experiences in the classroom and with the broader Wellesley community," she said. "I was inspired by my professors, their high expectations, and the overall strength of the academic experience."

After earning an MBA from Harvard University, Nelson began a successful career in investment management at Wakefield Group, a venture capital firm, and Spangler Companies, Inc.

Along the way, she also joined several influential boards, including that of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Fidelity Charitable, where she serves as chair. In addition, she is co-chair of Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership & Investment for Transformation), a public-private partnership seeking to increase academic achievement in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools.

"I cannot imagine an investment more important than education," Nelson said. "It reveals a world of opportunity and is the key to advancing our lives, and our society."

While sports are still a meaningful part of Nelson's life, whether she's playing tennis or golf, taking long walks with her mother, also a Wellesley alumna, or watching her two daughters play on high-school varsity teams, education is her primary focus.

Nelson will attend her first Knight Commission meeting in May. "I am honored to be a part of this important national conversation," said Nelson, adding, "I am committed to the prioritization of the student in student-athlete."