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Upstate's Mary Nelson recognized as 2023 Wisdom Keeper

Upstate Medical University’s Mary Nelson continues to earn recognition for her work with youth in the Syracuse community.

Nelson, who works in Radiology at 550 Harrison, runs the Mary Nelson Youth Center in Syracuse and is well known for her annual backpack giveaway, has been named as a 2023 Wisdom Keeper by FOCUS Greater Syracuse. The award celebrates community members who demonstrate exceptional leadership, continuous care, and a clear vision for the future of Central New York.

Nelson’s in good company when it comes to the Wisdom Keepers honor: Upstate’s Sharon Brangman, chair of the Department of Geriatrics and SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, won the honor in 2016. 

Nelson said she is honored to be recognized and said the honor bring more attention to her work in Syracuse.

“I’m happy, because I love my city,” she said. “I love everything about this city. I love our kids, good bad or indifferent. I believe in them.”

Nelson has worked in Radiology for 25 years doing scheduling and office management and said that though she is eligible for retirement she continues to work 10-hour shifts.

“I love being here,” she said. “I love my Upstate family. I can’t break loose.”

When she isn’t working, she’s at her center, or out collecting donations and helping youth in a variety of ways. She appreciates the support from Upstate, including Team Upstate and her co-workers in the Radiology office.

“Upstate plays into what I do,” she said. “Team Upstate stands behind me and helps me out; they’re out there alongside me. That means a lot to me. My colleagues at 550 Harrison support me 150 percent. They have been with me from day one.”

Another recent honor for Nelson is being named a Global Game Changer by Passion Vista, a global lifestyle and business magazine with more than one million readers.

Nelson was recently featured on the cover of Passion Vista in an article titled “Mary Nelson: A True Humanitarian Driven by the Desire to Aid and Assist the Community.” The article chronicles her community involvement since her nephew was killed by gun violence in 2002.

“The driving passion behind Mary’s life and career has been change and knowing that it is possible to achieve,” the article states.

Nelson's past honors are numerous. They include Post-Standard Achievement Award, The Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Award and the New York state Senate 49th District Women of Distinction Award, among others.

Nelson will receive the Wisdom Keepers award in a ceremony Oct. 24. For more information on the award presentation, go to: http://www.focussyracuse.org/wisdom-keeper/

Caption: Mary Nelson, center, with Upstate employees voluntering for the her Youth Day BBQ and Backpack Giveway, held in August.