George “Bud” Nelson has always enjoyed athletics and healthy competition. In high school, Bud was a four-year letterman recipient in football, basketball, and track. He pitched for the University of Wyoming baseball team, contributing to the team’s 1956 Skyline Conference win as well as its participation in the College World Series, an achievement that later earned this team’s placement in the 2006 University of Wyoming Hall of Fame. Bud even played regimental level football, basketball, and baseball during his time in the United States Army, where he was stationed in Germany from 1954-55.
When finding a career path, Bud chose to pursue his lifelong interests in the form of education and coaching. He wanted to work with young people, particularly in the form of helping them strive to be successful in the activities they chose to pursue. With this goal in mind, Bud earned a B.A. in Physical Education from the University of Wyoming in 1957 and a M.A. in 1961. From there, armed with this diploma and a fervent desire to do some good, Bud served as both a teacher and coach in several locations. He began as a student teacher and assistant basketball coach at University Prep High School in Laramie, WY (‘56-’57) before moving the next year to the small town of Cokeville, WY. Here, Bud taught mathematics, general science, and physical education at the junior high school. He also taught physical education at Cokeville High School, where he coached the football, basketball, and track teams as well. In 1963, Bud moved to Rock Springs, WY in order to accept a position with Western Wyoming Community College. For six years, Bud taught physical education, health, and general algebra at the college level. He also served as Director of Athletics, basketball coach, tennis and golf sponsor, and Intramural Director.
In 1970, Bud received a call from Dr. Robert Wallendorff, the principal of Rock Springs High School. Dr. Wallendorff expressed interest in offering Bud a position. Although Bud initially turned down the offer, he soon changed his mind and accepted a position as a physical education teacher. For the next 22 years, Bud would serve in many different capacities at RSHS, including guidance counselor, assistant principal, acting principal, assistant football coach, Intramural Director, and Athletics Director.
It was during his time at RSHS that Bud feels his professional ambitions underwent a shift. Bud had originally set out to work with young people through athletics, building their confidence, abilities, and overall health. But in the early seventies, the School District Trustees began to push for students to have access to activities year-round, including non-school time and vacations. This was due in large part to the fact that while Rock Springs offered many desirous and successful programs, but was unable to satisfy the needs of those programs due to a lack of available facilities. While there were some playgrounds, gymnasiums, and athletic fields available year-round, the district sought to expand the public’s access to multiple facilities in order to enable continued practice and competitions.
SCSD #1 extended much of this responsibility to Bud who, in addition to being the Athletics Director, functioned as the SCSD #1 Facilities Use and Title IX Coordinator. It was Bud’s job to organize, coordinate, and evaluate all athletics programs and other school activities at both the junior and senior levels of competition, making sure that all activities had ample access to sufficient facilities. Over the years, the school district’s activities and athletics programs were extremely successful. Bud was inducted into the Wyoming Coaches Association Hall of Fame (‘84), Athletic Director of the Year (‘81, ‘86, and ‘89), and recognized for Distinguished Service (‘91). Bud also holds prestigious recognition with the National High School Coaches Association as its Region 7 A.D. of the Year (‘89), National A.D. of the Year (‘89), and Hall of Fame member (‘2008). He also received the Wyoming High School Activities Association Meritorious Service Award (‘90).
Throughout his career, Bud has made a significant impact on a multitude of activities, either by acting as a coach, umpire, organizer, fundraising, or helping other coaches to achieve the goals of their programs. Beyond his high school coaching, these programs include: Little League Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, American League Baseball, Pee Wee Wrestling, Church League Basketball, Little League Basketball, Gymnastics, Racquetball, and Young American League Football.
Bud has served in the Wyoming Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (WIAAA), acting as First Vice President (‘78-’79), President (‘79-’80), and Past President (‘1980-’81). Currently a Charter Member for the WIAAA, Bud helped in the development of the organization’s constitution and organized and conducted its first and second state conferences. Bud later became a State Membership Chairman for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), and received the NIAAA Section 7 Distinguished Service Award (‘81). Bud is also a Life Member of the Wyoming High School Coaches Association (WCA), and aided as the secretary of the committee that developed the WCA Hall of Fame. Bud has served as the First Chairman and was instrumental in the formation of the Western “AA” Athletic Conference. He was a member of the Rock Springs Quarterback Club, RS Noon Lion’s Club, organized the RS White Mountain Lion’s Club, and served as the State Deputy District Governor.
Bud has continued his civic contributions, serving as a member of the Wyoming State Legislature (four terms), Western Wyoming Trustee (two terms), Young at Heart Board Member (two terms), Rock Springs City Recreation Board Member (two terms).
According to Bud, the credit for all this success lies elsewhere. “This happened because of talented youngsters and very competent and enthusiastic coaches, sponsors, and parents,” he insists. “This successful venture was made possible not by one person that just happened to be fortunate enough to be recognized as the program director, but by numerous individuals that desired to improve ongoing programs or started new ones.”
Bud spends most of his time now doing the dishes for his sweetheart of 55 years Karen, spending time with his children (Scott, Shawn, Kristy, and Chad) and daughter-in-law Cindy, telling stories to his grandchildren (Anna, Christopher, and Bella) and son-in-law Jonathon, and preparing to teach his great-grandson Ethan how to dribble a basketball