Donald P. Nielsen is a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute and Chairman of the Institute's American Center for Transforming Education.
From 1992 to 2008, Mr. Nielsen concentrated his activities in the field of public education. He traveled the country for two years studying America's public education system and subsequently was elected to the Seattle Public Schools Board. He served on the board for eight years and was President of the Board from 2000 to 2001. During his tenure, Mr. Nielsen and his colleagues oversaw major reforms to the Seattle Public School System that greatly enhanced the educational experience and heightened achievement for students, administrators, teachers, and parents.
Prior to retiring in 1992, Mr. Nielsen was co-founder, President, and Chairman of Hazleton Corporation, the world's largest contract biological and chemical research, and testing company. Based in Vienna, Virginia, Hazleton Corporation concentrated its activities in the life sciences industry, providing industry and government with contract biological, chemical, and immunobiological research services. The Company's clients were the world's leading pharmaceutical, chemical, agri-chemical, medical device, and food companies.
Hazleton Corporation (originally named Environmental Sciences Corporation) commenced operations in 1969 as a $200,000 start-up. When Mr. Nielsen retired in 1992, Hazleton had grown to $165 million in sales and employed 2,500 people in five countries on three continents. In 1983, Hazleton was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and in 1987, Corning, Inc. purchased the Company. Mr. Nielsen remained CEO of Hazleton for five years after the acquisition by Corning.
In addition to his current role as Chairman of the American Center for Transforming Education, he also serves on the Advisory Board of the University of Washington Foster School of Business and is an emeritus member of the Ambassador Board of the University of Washington School of Education.
During his business career, Mr. Nielsen served on numerous corporate and non-profit boards. Corporate boards included Delta Dental of Washington, TeachFirst, and VWR Scientific. Non-profit boards included Junior Achievement, YMCA, The Alliance for Education, The Seattle Foundation, IslandWood, and the Talaris Institute. He also served nine years as a Trustee of Seattle Pacific University.
Mr. Nielsen graduated from the University of Washington where he received a BA degree in Business in 1960. He was elected student body president his senior year at the University of Washington. In 1963, he received an MBA degree from the Harvard Business School.
He was the recipient of the Harvard Business School's 2004 Alumni Achievement Award. In 2009, he received the Leadership Award from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. That same year, he received the McNaughton Award presented annually to a Seattle Citizen in recognition of civic leadership.
Mr. Nielsen is married to the former Melissa J. Mounger. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren. He and his wife, Melissa, are co-founders of the National Eating Disorders Association.