Fred Nelson

BA '87
President, People's Choice Awards

Not in Kansas Anymore

The "aha moment" for Fred Nelson '87 came in 1999 – the year he attended the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys and the Tonys.  It was only then that the American Studies major realized that he actually was a somebody in the media and entertainment world.

Nelson currently serves as President of the People’s Choice Awards, a position he’s held since 2007.  The year he attended the “Grand Slam” of show business, he was vice president of marketing and promotion at Entertainment Weekly, the magazine bible of pop culture news and reviews.

"Although I had some amazing jobs prior to my nine year stint at Entertainment Weekly, that's where I finally merged my marketing and sales experience with my personal passion for movies, music, TV and books."

Nelson’s professional experience has included positions at Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, Esquire Magazine, Time Warner and Time Magazine –  providing him with experience in media, ad sales, integrated marketing, publishing, editorial development and digital media.

"I might not have been aware of it at the time, but all of my professional experiences seemed ultimately to be leading me to run an awards show. The People's Choice Awards – where the fans choose their favorites in movies, TV and music – is the perfect job for a former American Studies major who loves all forms of pop culture."

Part of Nelson’s American Studies curriculum at Notre Dame included courses in American pop culture—an area of study befitting someone who, some 20 years later, was asked to serve in the Brain Trust Lifeline on the “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” gameshow, hosted by fellow Domer, Regis Philbin.

"I've always been a big fan of game shows. In fact, I represented Notre Dame on Wheel of Fortune's 'college week' when I was a freshman. To be part of the 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' brain trust lifeline—along with a NASA astronaut and a former Millionaire winner—was a dream come true!"

Nelson moved from Chicago to the Big Apple in 1994, when he worked for Time Magazine. Since that time he has embraced life in New York, where he serves on the Board of Directors of Naked Angels, a non-profit New York theater whose company members include Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rob Morrow and Marisa Tomei; and on the Board of Our Time, a non-profit organization that uses the arts to improve the confidence and communication skills of children who stutter.

A native of Overland Park, Kansas, Nelson credits Notre Dame with  "establishing an environment for its students that says ‘You can do anything you want to do.’  Notre Dame instills possibility, promise and confidence without arrogance."

As he enters his fifth year as President of the People’s Choice Awards, Nelson reflects on words spoken by a legendary actor that have become something of a formula for his success.

"Anthony Hopkins spoke to my British Theater class when I was in Notre Dame's London program in 1985. During his talk he said, ‘Enthusiasm is the core of existence.’ I've never forgotten that."

It shows.