Leadership Spotlight: Beth Wade Nelson, WG’82

By Kelly J. Andrews

Beth Wade Nelson, WG’82 (WEMBA VI), retired three years ago from Neuberger Berman, where she was a partner and managing director. She hasn’t stopped working. The difference is that now she devotes her time to philanthropic causes instead of managing $1.2 billion in assets for individuals.

“It was time for me to retire. I wanted to do other things.I didn’t want to wait and find that I regretted what I didn’t do,” she says. Wharton is Nelson’s most important nonprofit endeavor. She serves as a member of Wharton’s Board of Overseers and the Wharton Women’s Task Force and was Chair of the Wharton Fund in 2005. Under her leadership, the Wharton Fund achieved its best year ever, raising more than $7.1 million in unrestricted funds. Nelson is playing a leadership role in getting Wharton MBA Program for Executives alumni involved in the life of the School, and was the challenge donor for the MBA Exec class gift in 2003 and 2004. Nelson has been a member of the Joseph Wharton Club for more than ten years, and she and her husband Gary A. Glynn, WG’70, named a classroom in Jon M. Huntsman Hall.

“I never forget that the reason that I’m able to give charitable gifts is that I went to Wharton,” she says. Nelson’s level of success shows the tenaciousness that characterized her career from the earliest days. An undergraduate music major, Nelson struggled to work as an oboe player. In order to pay her rent, Nelson entered the finance field as a secretary and worked her way up the finance ladder for 10 years before applying to Wharton. “It took a lot of perseverance, but I did any job—mostly those that no one else would do in order to learn skills that would take me to the next level.”

Nelson had completed the CFA program, but felt an MBA would make her a better investor. Her now-husband, Gary Glynn, had graduated from Wharton, so she knew Wharton was the right place for her. She needed to support herself and found the WEMBA program (now known as the Wharton MBA Program for Executives), so that she could work full time while attending school full time. Two years later, Nelson graduated with the WEMBA VIs, a diverse class of 33 individuals from different fields and companies.

Now, after a long, full career, Nelson is able to show her gratitude through charitable giving. In addition to her work with Wharton, Nelson sits on the boards of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Washington National Opera, and the Gunnery School.

She also tries to help others through support of education at many levels. She and her husband work anonymously with the principal of an elementary school in upper Manhattan.“These are hard-working kids from tough backgrounds, but they don’t need a lot to encourage them — a little attention, some tutoring, and for one student, braces for her teeth—to give them a message that they have a future,” she says. “I know the kids, but they don’t know me. Making a difference in these kids’ lives makes even the worst day in the stock market worth it.”

She also aims to enable another generation of philanthropists at the Wharton School through her donations to Wharton and her tenure as Chair of the Wharton Fund. “When the best-quality students are helped to go to Wharton, there is a double benefit,” Nelson says. “The students then graduate to become effective executives who will grow companies, create jobs, and provide wealth. These graduates, having achieved a high level of success, then make charitable donations. There is a multiplying effect in charitable giving. My early contributions seemed too small to matter. However, now I know that every dollar matters.”

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