Walter "Duke" Nelson
Walter "Duke" Nelson
Football, Ice Hockey, Baseball, Coach & Administrator
Inducted 2015

Walter “Duke” Nelson, a member of the Class of 1932, had a significant impact at Middlebury as an athlete, coach, and administrator. He played three sports and coached six, and in 1986 the hockey arena was dedicated in his name.

Nelson was a member of the football, hockey, and baseball teams at Middlebury. He played two years of varsity football, missing a third season due to an injury, and was named to the Kaleidoscope’s sesquicentennial All-Time All-Star Team.

Also named to that same team for his hockey prowess, Nelson captained the team his senior season when it won the Vermont State Championship. His teams won four of those titles as he earned All-American honors.

On the diamond he was a four-year standout and had a potential professional career cut short by the aforementioned injury.

He remained at Middlebury after graduation, coaching freshman football, varsity hockey, and baseball. Following two short coaching stints and four years in the Navy, Nelson returned to his alma mater in 1946 and coached a variety of sports for the next 26 seasons. His lengthiest tenures came while coaching football (23 years), hockey (22 years) and golf (26 years).

In his time as the head coach of men’s hockey, Nelson coached nine All-Americans and one Olympian, and he won over 200 games. He served as president of the American Hockey Coaches Association and was the chair of the NCAA Hockey Committee.

He also served as the president of the New England Golf Coaches Association during his time as the golf coach. Nelson as well coached baseball and men’s lacrosse, and he came out of retirement to coach the first women’s hockey teams at Middlebury in 1982 and 1983. All combined, he won over 500 contests as a head coach.

Nelson was the school’s Director of Athletics from 1956-1969, earning the ECAC’s Lynah Award, which is presented for outstanding contributions to intercollegiate athletics.