Award Honorees

Anna Nelson '91
Anna Nelson '91

Within three months of graduation from Minnetonka High School (MHS), Anna was off to France to study at the American University of Paris. Since then, the world has been her home. Working for CBS News Paris and as United Nations correspondent for Swiss Radio International, Anna has covered the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800, the death of Princess Diana, the impact of technology on the lives of impoverished women and children in Mali, the challenges of people facing ongoing violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, the legacy of landmines in Bosnia, the 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, a little-known war in the Southern Philippines and prisoners suffering with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis in Azerbaijan.

If you've ever wondered where working on the Breezes newspaper will take you, Anna is a fine example. The MHS newspaper sparked her interest in journalism, which helped her become the editor of her college newspaper and led to an internship with CBS 60 Minutes in Paris, launching her career in television, radio and online journalism. Her advice to current MHS students is to embrace the unexpected and surrender to wonder.

"Life hasn't always gone as I thought it would but each new experience has enabled me to forge a unique path for myself that, in turn, has allowed me to bear witness to some incredible things in this world – some that would break your heart, and others that would make your heart soar," says Anna. "It hasn't always been easy but boy, has it been worth it. I wouldn't trade my memories and experiences for anything."

In November 2011, Anna organized a TEDx event called TEDxRC2 in Geneva, which has become one of the highlights of her career. The theme Multiplying the Power of Humanity unfolded in a series of talks, including her favorite by Alberto Cairo, a colleague based in Kabul who has helped more than 100,000 landmine and accident victims learn to walk again. His message, says Anna, spotlighted the importance of learning from those the Red Cross strives to help and how enabling a landmine victim to regain their sense of dignity can make them stand taller than any pair of prosthetic legs. "That talk has been watched hundreds of thousands of times online and people tell me it's changed the way they view the disabled and Afghanistan," says Anna." I'm really proud of that." (Search TEDxRC2 Alberto Cairo.)

Anna said to her parents once, "The way I see it, there are no 'good people' or 'bad people,' just people in need."

Growing up Minnesotan and of Scandinavian decent, Anna already had a deep sense of civic duty and responsibility. Through her career she finds inspiration getting out in the field and meeting people. There she discovers graciousness and generosity in the most atrocious conditions, witnesses human endurance and resilience, and learns a lot about compassion and giving back, too. These tempering experiences have made her highly effective in her work.

Home is now Washington, D.C., where Anna works as Head of Communications and Public Affairs in her eighth year with the International Committee of the Red Cross and as a foster mom, which she finds deeply rewarding. Today, a phone might mean another trip overseas or that three-month old twins need her care for a month. If there's one thing Anna has embraced since MHS, it's that life is wonderfully unpredictable.


Minnetonka Alumni Awards: Anna Nelson from Minnetonka Public Schools on Vimeo.

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2017 Alumni Award Honorees
Lori Palmer '65

Received the Distinguished Alumni Award on Sept. 16, 2017.

Marty Benson '63

Inducted (posthumously) into the Skippers Hall of Fame on Sept. 16, 2017.

Howard Young

Inducted into the Faculty Hall of Fame on Sept. 16, 2017.

Walt "Doc" West​

Inducted posthumously into the Faculty Hall of Fame on Sept. 17, 2016.