Fred Nichols retires after many dedicated years at Laurier

Photo by Alex Trkulja
Photo by Alex Trkulja

An era spanning over half a century at Wilfrid Laurier University is coming to an end.

After serving as Laurier’s dean of students for nearly 30 years and having worked in alumni relations and department roles, Fred Nichols will retire at the age of 84.

During his 53-year career at the university, Nichols made his mark at Laurier through his close relationships with faculty, staff and students.

While he is being honoured at this year’s Homecoming weekend, his legacy has been celebrated throughout his many years at the university. In 2012, Nichols was recognized for his 50-year career at the university, also known as his ‘Golden Celebration.’

Before he started as Laurier’s dean of students, Nichols attended graduate school in West Virginia. He was working in social work in Pittsburgh when he found an advertisement for a job at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary in an international magazine.

Since coming to Canada in 1963, Nichols has worked with many Students’ Union presidents and eight university presidents. His wife, Marlene, also worked at the university and their three sons and two grandchildren all attended Laurier for their academic studies.

Nichols’ love for the university is evident in his relationships with anyone who has worked or attended Laurier, a love so strong that himself, Marlene and their three children qualified for their Canadian citizenship on the Waterloo campus in 1E1.

“It’s been a honeymoon ever since. The university has just been our world. We have so many friends, so many alumni, so many people coming back for this weekend to celebrate with us,” he said.

Nichol’s accomplishments during his career includes bringing the Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students (BACCHUS) to Canada and career services at Laurier.

Nichols also served on the Board of Governors and established the Fred Nichols BACCHUS bursary for student leaders.

In 2008, Nichols received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the university and has been inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.

Currently, Nichols still has a relationship with several alumni and their children who attend the university. Nichols said many of them will be attending his retirement ceremony on Saturday evening in the Senate and Board Chamber.

“We have never regretted one day we have spent in Canada,” he said.

Nichols also strived to help all students struggling with any issues they had on the Waterloo campus. He said he always kept his office door open to those who wanted to talk about their issues.

“I became like big brother to them.”

While he may have had many accomplishments throughout his career, Nichols believes his biggest has been the naming of the Fred Nichols Campus Centre, due in part by the university students.

There were two battles for the naming of the building: One in 1987 and another in 1997.

While students fought tirelessly to name the building in honour of Nichols in 1987, even going as far as to bring the issue to court, the university rejected the name. Ten years later during his retirement, the issue was brought back to the university by the Students’ Union president.

After another fight, the university finally accepted the proposal to name the building in honour of Nichols.

While Nichols’ career at the university has been unforgettable, he said the most challenging part was getting accustomed to all the respect from faculty, staff and particularly the students.

“Contrary to a lot of people’s beliefs that university campuses are rough and there is so many illegal things and so much crime going on, that’s just so untrue. [Students] are the nicest people in the world—hell, they’re our future,” he said.

“Be respective and they’ll be respective to you, that’s been my philosophy always with students.”

After he retires, Nichols plans on spending time with his wife, who he credits as his main influence and supporter during his career.

“She has given up everything for me,” said Nichols. “My future is making up for all that she has done for me over the years to make me successful, and believe me she has done so much.”

“I’m glad for him [and] we’re happy. Life’s been good for us since we moved here,” said Marlene.

While his official retirement date is on October 1, Nichols still plans on getting involved in the Laurier community in terms of fundraising.

“I still have commitments from people who want to do things to the university that are personal friends of mine over the years. I will still bring money to the university, but it will be from home,” he said.

“I think I can leave Laurier, but you can’t take Laurier out of me.”

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