When you meet Burnie G. Nelson, the first thing you notice is her smile. It's warm, genuine and infectious. The second thing you notice is her personality and charisma - both too vibrant to describe with just text. And then finally, when you enter her world, you are absorbed in her aura of positivity, hope and service - all attributes to which she's dedicated her life's work.
The smile and the attributes will be on display at the annual Black History Month Brunch celebration sponsored by the Genesee District Library when Nelson will be recognized with the Award of Excellence.
“Joy joy joy joy joy,” said Nelson, about her reaction to finding out about the award. “I was really happy.”
Last year, Dr. Beverly Jones, business faculty member at Kettering University, received the same recognition for her professional and personal accomplishments. Jones has served as a mentor to Nelson during her career at Kettering.
“Burnie is talented, compassionate, articulate and spiritual in her community and ministry work,” Jones said. “She is always willing to help those in need.”
Nelson, a Flint Northwestern High School graduate, started working in the Corporate Relations department at Kettering on November 13, 1989. She was an intern from Baker College’s business program at the time and was working at Kettering for course credit. After graduating from Baker, she was hired full-time in 1989. In 1994, she transferred to the Mechanical Engineering department before moving to Liberal Studies in 1998 where she serves as administrative specialist to this day.
“I believe that God has given me a humanitarian heart,” Nelson said. “I’ve met so many other humanitarians at Kettering University. I’ve met tremendous humanitarians here who have strengthened what I do and given to the cause.”
Nelson’s award recognizes her professional accomplishments as well as relentless personal pursuit to assist others in need. Nelson takes great pride in serving women at the YWCA Safe House, Carriage Town Ministries, and Phinisee Outreach Shelter for Women.
“I think that’s the basis of what I do. I want people to leave with more hope. My greatest joy is bringing hope to somebody else’s life,” Nelson said. “You can get up. You can change the world. You can do things that are different.”
Nelson has also worked as an English and writing instructor in the Academically Interested Minorities (AIM) summer program at Kettering and the Office of Educational Opportunity Initiatives programs at the University of Michigan-Flint. However, Nelson feels that her calling is to work with disadvantaged women in the Flint area. She’s started a publication business focused on producing inspirational magazines, greeting cards and hosted workshops and conferences focused on empowering women.
“The accomplishments that Burnie has gained from her writings and the people that she has touched and blessed as a result, is a true example of the excellence that is expected of a Kettering employee,” said Venetia Petteway, Program Director for the Cooperative Education department at Kettering. “The contributions she has made to the most needed sectors of our community is a testament of true Bulldog tenacity and pride. She uses her God-given talent to be a blessing to others and that's a cause worth supporting and promoting.”
Nelson has been at Kettering for the past 26 years and feels that being nominated and winning the Award of Excellence is recognition of all her projects and endeavors. Looking beyond her time at Kettering, she hopes to one day open a shelter for runaway teens and continue her ministry by becoming a pastor.
“I don’t need to be motivated, but this award says ‘thank you for making a difference,’” Nelson said. “Now I want to reach out and do even more.”