Ways to Inspire
In 1984, the Nels L. and Mary Ann Solberg Scholarship Endowment was established to provide scholarships for juniors or seniors in the College of Business and Economics who are worthy Idaho residents.

Since 1996, more than $20,000 has been given in scholarship assistance to 27 students.

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University of Idaho Alumni Office - Moscow
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Nels Solberg

Four Generations of Silver and Gold

2013 graduate Nels Solberg hails from long line of business majors

By Alexiss Turner

After nine summers in the field, Nels Solberg can call himself an expert – an expert in hard work.

The 2013 University of Idaho College of Business and Economics graduate said at the age of 16, when he first got the job bagging grain for Columbia Grain, Inc., in Grangeville, Idaho, he had no idea what he wanted in a career. But the hundreds of hours spent lugging the day’s harvest wasn’t about career guidance – at first.

Don Solberg '85 Nels Don Solberg '85
Having a strong work ethic has always been a necessity in the Solberg household, Nels said.

“It wasn’t encouraged,” Nels said. “It was required.”

The labor logged has since become the stepping stone to Nels’ first job out of college with his finance degree. He's working as a grain merchant for the same company's Montana location.

Nels always had a penchant for the business world. He is the most recent graduate in a long line of business-savvy individuals. They all share the same alma mater, and they even share the same name.

Nels’ father, Nels Don Solberg ’85, runs the family real estate business, Solberg Agency, Inc., in Grangeville, Idaho. Don picked up where his father, Nels L. Solberg ’52, left off in 1986.

Nels L. Solberg Nels L. Solberg '52
Nels L. Solberg was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps while attending U-Idaho. Following military service after graduation, he returned to Moscow to work as a banker for First Security Bank. When the bank moved to Grangeville, so did he, before moving into the real estate business in 1960.

Don said his father told him business classes would benefit any career and also help him in his personal life. Having taken over the family business and building his own family of five, Don said he agrees with his father’s advice.

“It’s been a big help in my personal life,” he said. “Understanding business principles - everything from finance to economics - everything carries over.”

This is also what attracted Nels to the area of study.

“It’s the real-world aspect,” he said. “It’s driving the economy.”

For Don and Nels Solberg, college was the logical step in their education, but where to attend was left up to them.

 “It was no pressure,” Don said. “(My father’s) idea was you needed to go to school, wherever you went was up to you. This is what I tried to do with Nels.”

Nels Solberg '14 Nels Solberg '14
Nels does have a younger sister attending Montana State University – but the majority of the family are Vandals. Nels has been attending U-Idaho Homecoming since he was 4 years old. When his younger brother Samuel registered at the College of Business for fall 2013, there were pages of great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings already on record. Nels’ great-grandfather graduated from U-Idaho in 1914.

Watching Nels attend Commencement May 11 will be a moment to remember, Don said.

“There just a little bit of parental pride,” he said. “You like to say you’re not that egotistical, but you really do get that way.”

Don said a lot of changes have been made to the business program to prepare students for the current market. Don said students work a lot more collaboratively than ever before.

“The finance people sit down with accounting people and so on,” he said. “(Nels) has been taught not to just stay in his discipline. You have to talk to all the different parts to see how they interact.”

Don said he attributes Nels’ success in the job market to his work with the Barker Capital Management & Trading Program on campus. Students work with a chief financial officer and portfolio managers to manage $350,000 on the stock market.

Nels said he was intrigued by the collaborative process the program uses to make decisions that affect the world market. He said he gets nervous about the potential stress involved in this career choice, but is confident he has the tools to cope.

His father emphasized the importance of strong character, Nels said, which has helped him stand out in a tough job market while separating himself from the generalization that those in his occupation are often immoral.

Don said watching Nels move on to the next step of his life is both exciting and intimidating.

“After 27 years of doing what I’m doing, I am looking forward where Nels goes with his business degree,” he said. “You know you’ve done everything you can to prepare him. … You kind of go from someone who has been helping push him through that stuff to more of a support person.”

In addition to his help, Don said he’s confident Nels will have the support of the many Vandals the family has befriended along the way.

“You start going that many generations down, and it’s really amazing the people you know,” he said. “The network is unbelievable.”

Whether he is flying out of town on family trip or on a routine lunch meeting, Don said fellow Idaho alumni aren’t hard to find – and, as a new graduate, Nels is just experiencing this connection.

“The roots are really deep around here,” Don said.

In 1984, the Nels L. and Mary Ann Solberg Scholarship Endowment was established to provide scholarships at the University of Idaho for juniors or seniors in the College of Business and Economics who are worthy Idaho residents. Learn more »