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HAMMOND — Purdue University Northwest has announced a namesake for its new 68,000 square-foot biological sciences building set to open next fall on the university's Hammond campus.

The Purdue University Board of Trustees voted Friday to approve the naming of the Nils K. Nelson Bioscience Innovation for a longtime PNW professor of organic chemistry who left the university an $8 million gift in his estate.

Nils K. Nelson, who taught for nearly three decades at PNW, joined university faculty in 1962 and served as an assistant and later associate professor in PNW's undergraduate science programs.

He was awarded a yearlong sabbatical in 1970 to research developments in organic chemistry at Cambridge University, where Nelson was assigned to study under 1957 Nobel Prize recipient Sir Alexander R. Todd.

Prior to joining PNW, the professor taught at the University of Maine and the University of Illinois after leaving an 11-year career as a research chemist for Shell Oil Co. The Missouri-native died in July 2017 at 90 years old.

Now Nelson's legacy will be remembered through the bioscience building, the first new academic building to be constructed on the Hammond campus in nearly 20 years. The building will be outfitted with research and teaching labs, and will house PNW's College of Nursing and Department of Biological Sciences.

"It is fitting because PNW was the place where Uncle Nils found himself," Nelson's second cousin, Mary Keith Agnew, said in a PNW news release.

In addition to partially funding the bioscience building, Nelson's gift also will establish a Dr. Nils K. Nelson Memorial Scholarship for students and named professorships within the university's College of Engineering and Sciences.

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"We are humbled by Dr. Nelson's posthumous generosity," PNW Chancellor Thomas Keon said in the news release. "Dr. Nelson impacted the lives of students who went on to be chemists, biologists and doctors. Today, we celebrate the continuation of his legacy."

Even after his retirement from the university, Agnew said Nelson preferred to remain close to PNW, living just a block from campus and frequenting retired professor luncheons. He was named a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry in 1991.

"He liked living around the campus atmosphere," Agnew said. "His heart was always at PNW."

PNW broke ground on the Nils K. Nelson Bioscience Innovation Building in July 2018. The building is expected to open in fall 2020.

"By his love of Purdue Northwest, Dr. Nelson's commitment to students and his dedication to teaching will live on," Keon said. "The Nils K. Nelson Bioscience Innovation Building will inspire future generations of scientists, researchers and health professionals."

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.