Theodore “Ted” W. Nelson ’34

PE Hall of Fame Class of 2022

Theodore “Ted” W. Nelson was a distinguished oil and gas industry leader known for being part of teams that discovered one of the world’s largest gas fields and another that developed the Houdry and TCC catalytic cracking process.

Nelson graduated from Mines in 1934 with a professional degree in petroleum engineering as class valedictorian. Just 19, he was one of two students that year who graduated with an oil industry job in hand.

That job with Mobil Oil led to a 43-year career with the company, briefly interrupted by World War II, when was a U.S. Army captain in the war effort’s petroleum division. At Mobil he managed a production facility, directed research and development and was senior vice president for exploration before being made president of Mobil Chemical Division. During this time, he also earned an advanced management degree from Harvard.

Nelson spent his last decade as executive vice president of worldwide exploration and production. When he retired in 1977, the company honored him by naming the first fully equipped geophysical ship ever built after him.

Nelson was a volunteer leader at Mines, serving on the Mines Research Foundation’s board of trustees and as a member of the Mines Resource Fund International Development Committee. He died in 2011.

Professional Societies

  • Vice President, Association of International Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME)
  • Director, Society of Professional Engineers
  • Member, National Advisory Council on Minorities in Engineering


  • Distinguished Achievement Medal, Colorado School of Mines

Charles F. Rand Memorial Gold Medal, AIME​