Donald P. Nielsen, Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute & Chair of the Institute’s American Center for Transforming Education, “Transforming Public Education”
Donald P. Nielsen chairs the Discovery Institute’s American Center for Transforming Education. He also serves as Chairman of Lumenal Lighting, LLC, a business he purchased in 2004. Lumenal Lighting is in the commercial lighting business and serves companies, schools, government facilities, and non-profit organizations in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.
Since 1992, Mr. Nielsen has concentrated his activities in the field of public education. He traveled the country for two years studying America’s public education system and subsequently was elected to the Board of the Seattle Public Schools. He served on the board for eight years and was President of the Board in 2000‑01. During his tenure, Mr. Nielsen and his colleagues oversaw major reforms to the Seattle Public School System that greatly enhanced the educational experience — and heightened achievement — for students, administrators, teachers, and parents. Mr. Nielsen has continued his involvement in education, working with both local, state, and university educational organizations. In 2014, he published a book on education entitled: “Every School: One Citizen’s Guide To Transforming Education.”
Prior to 1992, Mr. Nielsen was co-founder, President, and Chairman of Hazleton Corporation, the world’s largest contract biological and chemical research and testing company. Hazleton Corporation, based in Vienna, Virginia, concentrated its activities in the life sciences industry, providing industry and government with contract biological, chemical, and immunobiological research services. The Company’s clients were the world’s leading pharmaceutical, chemical, agri‑chemical, medical device, and food companies.
In addition to his current role as Chairman of Lumenal Lighting, LLC, Mr. Nielsen is a director and co-founder of the National Eating Disorders Association. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the University of Washington Foster School of Business and the Dean’s Advisory Board of the University of Washington School of Education.
During his business career, Mr. Nielsen served on numerous corporate and non-profit boards. Corporate boards included Palmer National Bank, Washington Dental Services, TeachFirst, and VWR Scientific. Non-profit boards included Junior Achievement, YMCA, The Alliance for Education, The Seattle Foundation, IslandWood, and the Talaris Institute. He also served eight years as a Trustee of Seattle Pacific University.
Mr. Nielsen graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Business. He then received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and was the recipient of that school’s 2004 Alumni Achievement Award. In 2009, he received the Leadership Award from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. That same year, he received the McNaughton Award, given annually to a Seattle Citizen to recognize his/her civic leadership.
Mr. Nielsen is married to the former Melissa J. Mounger and has three grown children and seven grandchildren.