Happy Holidays to All

While the end of the semester is always a stressful time for students, it’s fun to see them also becoming excited and gearing up for the holidays and a return to family and friends. The last week of the semester has been full of rewarding contact with those students, as well as with a recent Nichols grad and even some four-legged members of our community.

Irving Eggleston, who graduated last May, returned to campus to attend a basketball practice and talk with me about his experience this semester playing basketball in the U.K. while working on a master’s degree.

I commissioned senior Cristina Szepanski – a jewelry designer – to make pendants for my daughter and daughter-in-law from stones that I had collected from their favorite beaches. The pieces Christina created are gorgeous!

Last Tuesday afternoon, I stopped to pet some furry friends – dogs of staff members – who were in Fels Center for students, a kind of exam week pet therapy. I fell in love with Coach Gobiel’s French Bulldog. But then I’m partial to bulldogs, since I often babysit my son’s 90-pound English Bulldog.

I’ve been heartened this term to see student initiatives raising funds and donations, ranging from can drives for the Webster/Dudley food bank, to supplies for a local animal shelter, to funds for a memorial for K-9 dogs.

I also discovered that the players on the men’s hockey team have just 10 days off and return to campus on December 26th. Now that’s commitment.

I’m looking forward to spending time with my four grandkids and their parents over the holidays, squeezing in some date time with my husband, and heading to Florida for a few days with my 90-year-old parents.

I wish everyone a happy holiday with family and friends. Travel safe and return in January rested, relaxed, and ready to dive into the spring semester!

Outstanding Women

Recently I spoke at the 2016 Outstanding Women in Business awards presented by the Worcester Business Journal. I attended the ceremony in part because Nichols is one of the sponsors of the event. But a more compelling reason was to celebrate the six winners, all of them leaders in major central Massachusetts companies and non-profit organizations.

I’ve written a number of times in this blog about our College’s Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL). Over the past three years, this amazing program has shown that it means business—literally. As I explained to the audience that evening, the IWL continues to develop innovative programs—negotiation workshops, “Lean In” discussion circles, trips to New York City to meet and network with female executives, and the list goes on—all with the aim of developing outstanding women graduates.

The IWL also plays an important part of our spring conference “Empowering Women in Business,” attended by hundreds of women annually in a setting where—at least for a few hours—men are hard to find.

I told the six winners simply that they were amazing, from making dramatic career changes—and getting the higher education to do so, even in mid-life—to starting and running businesses in male-dominated fields. That strikes a familiar chord at Nichols, where for adult learners, Nichols offers bachelor’s degrees and three graduate degrees: an MBA, a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, and a Master of Science in Accounting, not to mention several certificates.

All of this year’s winners have distinguished themselves in their fields, made a significant contribution to their businesses and organizations, and have proved to be—in a word—outstanding!

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is the nation’s official Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings of family reunions, tables laden with specialties of the day, and many a morning high school football game celebrating decades of rivalry.

I, like the Nichols students, faculty, and staff, look forward to gathering with loved ones and friends, relaxing, and—this time around—avoiding political discussions whenever possible.

At Nichols, our thankfulness at this time of year takes some additional forms.

On the lighter side, we appreciate that the re-construction of Center Road last November has given way to a smooth ride for everyone. It’s also a lot quieter out there! For months, it seemed that Nichols students were all taking an early morning music appreciation course–with the bass-like rumble of bulldozers roaming the half-mile stretch in front of the College; the rhythmic beeping of heavy equipment backing up; and the staccato percussion of creeping cars hitting potholes.

From the institutional standpoint, our ambitious capital drive is nearing its $45 million goal, thanks to large and more modest donations alike. The number of our endowed scholarships has proliferated. And we’re grateful that the new funding will help us become even more of the College we can be.

I’m also thankful for the continued rise I see in student leadership—in classes, on the field, and in the Nichols community and beyond. We’re committed to teaching that skill and encouraging that frame of mind from day one.

Early this month, we sent a thank you card in the form of a detailed brochure to our surrounding communities. The message inside spelled out the ways we’ve been happy to give back to our neighbors—from special scholarships for many commuting students; to the considerable economic impact we make every year; to the role student volunteers play in local organizations.

It’s great to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.

A Happy Homecoming

Homecoming weekend at the beginning of October lived up to its promise as a perennially special occasion at Nichols. From the Alumni and Legacy Dinner to the Golden Bison Reception, Nichols grads made the most of their return to campus and brightened up the rainy and dreary weather outside.

2016 11 9 WhiteThere were plenty of moments that stood out for me, including several remarkable examples of multiple family ties to Nichols. John White ’71 and MBA ’78, who received the Legacy Award on Friday night, has three daughters who all attended Nichols, and who all married Bison! John’s daughter Shannon serves as a member of the Nichols Board of Advisors as does he. Mary Hoey, Parent ’15, ’16, and ’18, received an honorary alumna award.2016 11 9 Hoey

Then it was on to the Bison Den, where alumni—recent and from decades ago—joined current students and staff for a couple hours of music and fun. It was so well attended that we exceeded capacity, so folks could only enter as others exited!

2016 11 9Golden Bison

 

A highlight of homecoming for me is the Golden Bison Reception, where we honor graduates who are celebrating their 50th reunion. While many from the class of ’66 had stayed in touch over the years, several members had not seen classmates or been back to campus in 50 years.

Needless to say, they were amazed at how different the campus is today. Budleigh Hall is the only remaining residence hall from their time at Nichols. But is was clear that the Nichols campus from their days at the College lived on in their memories.

Meeting the Parents and Friends

There are three times when I most often see the parents of Nichols students—on “Move In” day at the beginning of the school year, Friends and Family Day in the fall, and Graduation Day in May. For the first and last of these occasions mom and dad are always occupied—with the sometimes nervous anticipation of another school year and the pride in their children’s college accomplishments respectively.

It’s on Friends and Family Day, which took place this year on the third Saturday in September, where we can sit and talk, and I heard individually what was on the minds of dozens of moms and dads. Most were parents of first-year students, and they wanted to talk about how easy the adjustment had been for their son or daughter and how happy their child was at Nichols.

They praised the beauty of the campus and the caring attitude of faculty and staff. Some asked about what our next major building projects might be, while others wanted to be sure that their son or daughter knew who I was and vice versa.

I remember one parent who brought along a friend’s daughter—a high school junior—because she thought Nichols was a perfect fit. I met others who knew a colleague of mine from years ago, another who said she knew my daughter-in-law… and the list goes on.

One father was there with his senior daughter and they were going hiking that afternoon, and he talked about what a terrific four years his daughter had at Nichols. One student brought his grandmother up to meet me (Grandma was understandably proud).

I enjoyed the chance of getting to know so many parents and friends better.