Parents Giving to North Park: Investing in the Future

Alumni Rev. Mark and Robin (Nelson) Nilson are proud of North Park. It is a place where they and their extended family have made a significant educational investment. Mark C‘83 S‘90 majored in sociology with a minor in communication arts, then earned a master of divinity degree from the Seminary in 1990. Robin C‘83 earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

The Nilsons’ investment extends even further than most North Park families. Relatives on both sides of their families are graduates of North Park Academy, North Park College, and the Seminary, and have served as deans, faculty, and board of trustees members.

Now a new generation of Nilsons are North Parkers as well. Aaron C’10 earned a degree in Spanish and global studies, and went to Brazil as an English teaching assistant with the U.S. Fulbright Program. Chase Nilson is a second-year student at the University with a double major in art and communication arts, with a focus in media studies.

North Park University and North Park Theological Seminary have special meaning for Robin and Mark, connecting them to the past, present and future. “This was the place that had a great deal to do with forming us as total human beings,” said Mark. “That is huge. It affects our thinking. All of it has shaped what our lives are like.”

After many years away from the Chicago area, the Nilsons returned to the North Park neighborhood in September 2011, when Mark accepted a call to serve as senior pastor of North Park Covenant Church. Previously, he had served as pastor of Evangelical Covenant Church congregations in New Jersey, Illinois, and Washington. They see the University through different eyes today.

“I see North Park in the context of a much bigger world,” said Robin, an interior designer. “More people know about it now. It doesn’t belong to just a small group of people anymore; it belongs to a really wide range of people.” Mark agreed, commenting that “Robin and I are coming back to the neighborhood, and seeing the University and community in a new way.”

Like many alumni and parents of students, the Nilsons are eager for North Park to grow and thrive. That’s why they promote the University, giving their time and resources. They want to contribute to the institution they love in meaningful ways, and are supporters of a new University initiative, “Parent Giving to North Park.” This initiative encourages parents to be involved in supporting the daily needs of their sons and daughters through gifts to the University’s Annual Fund.

As part of this new initiative, parents have the opportunity to support essential programs such as student scholarships, student career development and internships, and student life. Additionally, parent partnership may allow for projects such as improvements to the campus dining room, in an effort to enhance the overall experience for students.

The University awards more than $9 million annually in scholarships and financial aid. The Annual Fund also enriches academic and co-curricular activities and campus spaces, and supports faculty and staff development.

“This project idea is a way of being involved without getting in our students’ way,” Robin said. “We’re in this together with other parents. We can contribute our small amount with other parents to keep things moving for the future. It is another way of connecting with people from very different experiences, too.”

Sometimes it’s a struggle for parents to know how much to get involved with their students’ college educations, the Nilsons said. “We want our kids to be who they started out to be, who they’re meant to be, and be strong people. This is a way of taking part,” she said.

Mark says he feels a linkage with other parents who are experiencing similar situations, as their children become adults. Mark says he thinks about their sons’ career interests, and how to help them get started with their adult lives and become independent. He knows other parents think about the same things. “We are all dealing with the same thing right now. We are together in this,” he said, noting that the Parent Giving effort is a way for parents to stay connected to their sons and daughters. For the Nilsons, Parent Giving is also a way to stay connected with an institution they admire and appreciate.

Next Steps

Read more from the Winter 2013 North Parker.

Rev. Mark and Robin Nilson