Ruth Youngdahl Nelson ’24 Inducted 1982

Basketball, Softball, Swimming & Diving, and Volleyball

Ruth Youngdahl Nelson

Ruth Youngdahl Nelson '24 was the first woman inducted into the Gustavus Athletics Hall of Fame. Prior to 1920 men and women teams were composed of both college and academy students competing interscholastically. However, women's competition folded with the organization of the MIAC. This, coupled with a national anti-women's competition movement (a movement that sought to curb the involvement of women in competitive athletics), prompted Ruth to become a leader in the organizing of a local chapter of the National Women's Athletic Assn., and she serve as its first president. The organization, which featured a point system for winning awards, was predominant in women's athletics at G.A. until the revolution in the '60s & '70s. She was among the first to accumulate the necessary points for a "G" in athletics representing seasonal participation in basketball (she was a "jumping" center for 4 years), swimming, softball and volleyball. She also played fullback on the coed football team which made national headlines in 1923.
Prior to attending Gustavus she made it to the quarterfinals of the NW Grass Tennis Tourn, in Deephaven, Minn. She coached girls' basketball in Miller, So. Dak., when she taught English in its high school, and was an avid waterskier each summer until she broke her pelvic bone playing volleyball with her family late in her adult life. However, she still continues to swim a great deal - and has memories of meeting her husband when swimming across the three miles of Lake Independence.
Ruth was selected as American "Mother of the Year" in 1973, is an internationally known speaker having made lecture appearances in Europe & Asia as well as throughout the U.S., and is author of several devotional books. She was the first woman elected to the Gustavus board of trustees and served from 1932-44.
Her 4 children are graduates of Gustavus - Jonathon '55, David '56, Elizabeth '58, and Mary '61. When not on speaking engagements, she lives in her apartment in Edina.