Honoring a Business Leader Who Saw the Power of Public Health


Atlanta and the world lost a remarkable business leader and philanthropist with the passing of Kent C. “Oz” Nelson last week. While Oz made a big impact in business, he also had an incredible impact in the public health world as well, including serving as chair of the CDC Foundation’s board for a number of years and helping to revitalize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Atlanta campuses.

In the business world, Oz was the former chairman and CEO of United Parcel Service (UPS) from 1990–1996. He began his career at UPS as a part-time package handler while attending Ball State University. He joined UPS full time after graduating and worked his way up through the company until he was appointed CEO. UPS, under Oz’s leadership, experienced tremendous growth and expanded its operations around the world while investing in information technology that provided the company instant global communications regarding shipping activities.

In 1994, UPS moved its headquarters from Greenwich, CT, to Atlanta due to the city’s large airport that was able to handle the extensive travel of UPS executives and offered “a high quality of life and substantially reduced housing costs,” according to Oz, at the time.

Oz’s legacy as a business leader is remarkable, but his legacy as a philanthropist and civic leader is equally impressive. In addition to serving as chair of the CDC Foundation board, he served on the board of directors of the Carter Center and chairman of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the world’s largest foundation dedicated to helping disadvantaged children. He also served as national director of the United Way of America and chaired the CDC Foundation board of directors.

With Oz’s passing, CDC and the CDC Foundation lost a great friend and supporter. The auditorium in CDC’s Tom Harkin Global Communications Center is named for Oz in recognition of his role in building support to modernize CDC’s Atlanta campuses in the 2000s. He founded the Friends of CDC and with Home Depot Co-founder Bernie Marcus and Phil Jacobs of BellSouth built support for the government funding that rebuilt CDC’s Atlanta campuses, which were in dire need of investment.

We stand on the shoulders of great leaders like Oz Nelson as we move to the future and are inspired by his contributions to make the world a better place for all.

Judy Monroe
Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.