“Children need a lot of guidance, and it’s good to have a coach on your side as you’re growing up. He was a coach to me,” Larry Wefring says of Edor Nelson, the legendary Augsburg coach who died in 2014 at age 100. Wefring’s $100,000 estate gift will establish the Edor Nelson Memorial Scholarship, but it should be noted that Wefring neither attended Augsburg nor played football for Nelson. Their relationship went far deeper.
“Sports are a fabulous teacher of life,” Wefring acknowledges. “They teach you that you win some and you lose some, but what’s important is that you work together. To be successful in the business world, you need to be a team player.” While he now understands this concept, traditional sports were not accessible to Wefring while he was growing up across the alley from Edor Nelson’s family in south Minneapolis.
Wefring was diagnosed with epilepsy at age seven. Subject to seizures and heavily medicated, he was often targeted by bullies and decided to drop out of public school in 9th grade. Leaning on the support and encouragement offered by Edor Nelson, he enrolled in Minnehaha Academy instead. Having learned electrical and woodworking skills from his handyman grandfather, Wefring had helped his neighborly coach wire his basement. In return, Nelson offered his young neighbor rides to school. They became friends.
“Larry had his frustrating days, but my dad kept telling him that he could be somebody, that he shouldn’t listen to anyone who said otherwise. My dad was a genuine people person, one of those comforting guys you could sit and talk to. He and my mom were always there for Larry, and Larry realized that. Now he is giving back,” says Bruce Nelson ‘71, Edor’s son and Augsburg’s A-Club Advancement Manager.
Naysayers pronounced Wefring too dumb for college, but Wefring went anyway, earning a psychology degree from Mankato State University. He found yet another mentor in Stanley Hubbard, who hired him at Hubbard Broadcasting, where he worked happily for more than three decades before retiring in 2006 to care for his aging parents. He struggled with his disability for much of that time, adjusting his medications to reduce brain fog and, in 1987, undergoing successful—and life-changing—experimental brain surgery in Canada.
Wefring lauds Hubbard for teaching him servant leadership, for showing him that Protestantism and the work ethic are two sides of the same coin, and for inspiring all to “always do the right thing.” But ultimately, Wefring concludes, it was education that turned his life around.
“I was already at a disadvantage, but education offset that. That’s really, really important to remember.
’As a man thinketh, so he is,’” adds Wefring, whose Lutheran faith and spirituality have always guided him. “Trouble is a blessing. It lets you look for the paradoxical nature of life, and learn to be captain of your own ship. But you have to have a dream.”
The Edor Nelson Memorial Scholarship will target students who have a disability, physical or otherwise, and who also aim high. “I told Edor that I wanted them to have a dream, and he said, ‘I do too,’” Wefring says. “And then I told him that I also wanted them to have an extra burden to bear, something that makes graduation tougher than it is for most people. And he said, ‘I do too.’ We were always on the same wavelength.”
Wefring never considered a scholarship in his own name, much preferring that it honor someone as well-known and revered as his former neighbor. He finds being able to share his legacy with institutions that mirror his faith and world view a blessing, and more than enough reward for a life well-lived.
“I gave it my best shot,” he says. “My dream has come true and then some.”
— Cathy Madison