Marilyn Carlson Nelson is former chairman and chief executive officer of Carlson, a global travel and hospitality company. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., with operations in more than 150 countries and territories, more than 170,000 people work under its brands including Radisson Blu, Radisson®, Park Plaza®, Park Inn by Radisson, Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM , Hotel Missoni, T.G.I. Friday’s and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.
Nelson has appeared on Forbes magazine’s list as one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” She has been named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News and World Report, and in 2007, Ethisphere Magazine called her one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics.” She is the best-selling author of How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership (McGraw-Hill, 2008).
In 2004, Nelson co-chaired the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. She served as chair of the National Women’s Business Council, a bi-partisan advisory council to the President and Congress, and is past chair of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
In 2006, H.E. Jean-David Levitte, French Ambassador to the United States, inducted Nelson in the French Légion d’Honneur, an order created by Napoleon Bonaparte. The order recognizes citizens of France, and a select few others, for their exemplary leadership and service to humanity. She is also a member of the Royal Order of the North Star First Class, presented by the King and Queen of Sweden, the Order of the White Rose, Officer First Class, presented by the President of Finland and Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit presented by the King of Norway.
Under her leadership, Carlson was the first major North American travel company to take a stand against the sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry. On behalf of the company, she signed the travel industry’s international Code of Conduct to end child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. Carlson also joined with the Queen of Sweden to co-found the World Childhood Foundation to protect street children around the world.
Nelson serves on the boards of the United Nations Global Compact, The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Harvard Kennedy School Advisory Board. She is Chairman of the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees and former board member of ExxonMobil.
Nelson is a board member of Greater MSP, the Carlson School of Management, and the University of Minnesota Foundation. She is Life Director of the Minnesota Orchestra.
She is a graduate of Smith College with a degree in international economics and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Economiques et Politiques in Geneva. She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota.