By David Sanders
Teacher at the local University, Passaic Lutheran University (PLU), Eric Nelson has a passion for the world of antiquity. Graduate of University of WA, PhD, Nelson has become a foundational instrument in PLU. Chair, Department of Languages and Literatures as well as Associate Professor of Classics, Nelson is a busy man.
Ranging from creating the several classics, such as “The Complete Idiots Guide to the Roman Empire” and “The Complete Idiots Guide to Ancient Greece”, to being on Television staring in the show Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, Nelson has had a large impact on the academic field.
His specialty lies in that of ancient medicine. Particularly, in the social history of how ideas of what healthy and unhealthy is, affect how one acts. He teaches an honors class titled “Illness and Injury Praise and Blame” on this topic.
As stated in the complete idiots guide to the Roman Empire, “Nelson has been enthralled with studying, teaching, speaking, and writing about the ancient world for 25 years.”
His love for the world of antiquity is endless. In the show, Animal Gladiators from Animal Planet, Nelson tells the untold story of the Roman Animal Gladiators.
During his youthful years Nelson spent a year studying at the university in Rome. Nelson stated, while in Europe, Rome was his favorite spot.
This was because, “— an extremely rich and compact urban environment, not just a city but a city on a city on a city— modern apartments on top of ancient roman ruins, it makes you consider the place we have in history, how short it really is.”
Another source, The Discovery Channel, shows Nelson in the show “Machines of Malice”. Nelson talks about the wooden horse of ancient Rome and its use in the Roman political system to make slaves tell the truth of their masters’ crimes.
Teaching for the last 28 years, one might ask how he got where he is? Nelson says that he came to PLU with an entirely different goal. Originally, he planned on becoming an architect and a musician. He was a piano performance major whom was also heavily involved in with the church due to his evangelical upbringing.
At this point he said “I became interested with that study, graduated with classics study and intended to become a pastor and teach in the seminary.”
But this isn’t all there is to Nelson, peoples’ lives are often more complicated then we give them credit for, “Nelson is a prime example” said Katie Scaff, author of a Lute Times story about Nelson on September 27th, 2011.
Nelson’s family is also a bustling bunch. With his dad having 9 brothers and sisters and his grandfather having 17 brothers and sisters, his family has quite a party once a year. His family is Finnish-Mexican, so they put on a big ‘fiesta’.
Nelson said, “we don’t sit around eating herring!”
Being a connoisseur of fine scotch and a gentlemen’s pipe, Nelson when possible enjoys to fish with his brother. Particularly, Nelson likes to salmon fish on his boat, in Point Defiance and the coast of WA.
Nelson says “my boat is too small to go on the ocean but my brother has a boat and I go with him”.
Nelson also likes to fly fish, which requires a lot more time, Nelson says “Fly fishing is an art, it requires you have to have the right stuff, presentation, rituals— instead of just throwing a line in the water and waiting for something to bite you have to be moving all the time and recasting it.”
Nelson says” “I’m better at helping people ask questions, then provide answers”