Fresno State President John D. Welty recognized longtime California legislator and Fresno State alumnus Jim Nielsen with the President’s Medal of Distinction, the university’s highest non-degree award.

 “I’ve always tried to live my life in a manner that would reflect my highest priorities in life – faith, family and leadership,” said Nielsen. “I appreciate that I’ve been able to give something back to the university that has given me so much.”

“The President’s Medal of Distinction is awarded to those who not only give of their time or money, but are worthy of emulation through their leadership,” said Welty. “With this recognition of Assemblyman Nielsen the university celebrates one of its outstanding graduates and community members.”

The medal was presented Nov. 7 at the 31st annual Agribusiness Management Conference in Fresno. It came one day after Nielsen won election to the State Senate from the Fourth District, which encompasses Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba counties in northern California.

Nielsen served three terms in the Senate, beginning in 1978. He became known as a champion for farmers and ranchers and as a leader on public safety and water rights issues. He was the Senate Republican leader from 1983 to ’87, the youngest Republican leader ever selected.

After leaving the Senate in 1990, he served on the Board of Prisons (1991-2000). Nielsen was elected to the Assembly in 2008 representing the Second District, which includes Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama and Yolo counties. He is the vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee and a member of the Appropriations, Veterans Affairs and Rules committees.

He will return to the Senate in December after winning election on Nov. 6.

Raised in the San Joaquin Valley, Nielsen was a farmer and rancher. He graduated from Fresno State with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business in 1967. In 1974-75, he participated in the Agricultural Leadership Fellowship, a two-year leadership training program for 30 agriculturalists from across the state. He was the first fellow elected to the Legislature.

Nielsen lives in Gerber, California with his wife Marilyn. They have two daughters, three sons and three grandchildren.

For more information contact Kathleen Schock at 559.278.2756 or

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