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Robert's Story

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Robert Arthur (Nick) Nicholson, age 94, of Anderson died peacefully at his home surrounded by family and friends.
Nick was born in Pepin, Wisconsin, on Oct. 13, 1923 to parents Arthur Nicholson and Ethel (Weeden) Nicholson. They settled in St. Paul Minnesota, in 1930, where his father was a telegraph operator for the railroad. He graduated from St. Paul Park High School in June of 1940. Thanks to the positive influence of the St. Paul Park Church of God, he enrolled in Anderson College that fall at the age of 16.
Nick met the love of his life, Dorothy Jane Nelis, while attending Anderson College. He graduated with a bachelor's degree on June 16, 1944, and they were married on June 17, 1944. He liked to say he got his bachelor's degree one day and lost it the next.
He then joined the staff at the Church of God in Hickory, North Carolina. He began his graduate work at New York University in 1945, and they moved to Anderson later that year, where he began teaching music at Anderson College. One of the highlights of his time as a music professor was his founding the Anderson College Choir (now known as the Anderson University Chorale) in 1945.
During the years as a music professor, Nick completed his master of arts degree and his Ph.D. from New York University.
Nick was ordained to the ministry of the Church of God in 1951 and became Dean of Anderson College in 1958, a post that he would hold for more than 25 years. He said many times that the role of dean was his favorite role.
Railroads have contributed much to the shaping of the America landscape, but they almost sidetracked one of the great journeys of our time. Had Nick not been so young when graduating from a Minnesota high school, he probably would have joined his father as a railroad worker. Instead, he was influenced to try the world of Christian higher education. Coming to Anderson College in 1940 opened new doors for him, unlocked divine gifts and provided personal relationships that would shape an amazing future.
Rather than moving freight by rail, Nick pursued a life of educating thousands. Nurtured in the church and by a loving family, he would become much more than he ever could have dreamed.
The student became the professor, dean, vice president and president, an "engineer" in his own right [mdash] a steady hand that over six decades guided faculty, curriculum, programs, building construction, boards of trustees, the church, choirs, new hymnals, students around the world and numerous not-for-profit organizations.
Here is more than railroads shaping a culture. What we have here is a remarkable testimony to how Christian faith and God's grace function in surprising ways to bring about valuable wisdom and enduring good. His is a life journey, humbly told, that sometimes-followed old tracks and sometimes pioneered new. A scholar, musician, world-class administrator and dedicated churchperson. Nick also has been a model husband and loving father and grandfather.
The Tri-S program of Anderson College was established while he was dean of the college. This program has broadened the perspective of thousands of students over the years, and has made the school and the City of Anderson known worldwide.
He worked tirelessly to build a quality faculty and academic programs for Anderson College. His wise selection of faculty members would have a positive impact on thousands of students for years to come.
Nick was elected President of Anderson College in 1983 to become the institution's third president. It was during his first term as president that Anderson College became Anderson University as the university continued to expand its mission.
Robert and Dorothy annually invited local corporate presidents and community leaders to a dinner on Presidents Day with favorite dishes of previous U.S. presidents.
As AU President John Pistole said: "He is credited with expanding AU's influence beyond Anderson and Madison County, engaging business and community leaders in Indianapolis, as well as the Indiana Legislature and Statehouse. He was one of those quiet, behind-the-scenes influencers who was asked to take over a job he did not seek."
Bob continued to build community and state connections. During his presidency, Purdue University was established in Anderson. As president, his emphasis was always on academic and servanthood excellence, and the institution undertook a major expansion of the library which would be renamed The Nicholson Library after his retirement.
Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. said: "He did so much to move Anderson College and later Anderson University forward. He was a great leader and influence in the community."
Bob was always involved in our community taking on leadership roles in helping to establish the Anderson Symphony Orchestra; consulting with many of the local United Way agencies; serving as interim CEO of Community Hospital Anderson; board member and consultant at Warner Pacific College; Indiana Commission of Higher Education; co-founder of Madison County Community Foundation; and serving on the boards of Community Hospital, Anderson, St. Vincent Anderson Hospital, Rotary Club of Anderson; and many others.
He was deeply involved in the community and causes he cared about. Upon retirement he was passionate about assisting not-for-profit organizations.
Travel was very important to Nick. He, his wife Dorothy, and sons traveled widely in the United States.
They led AU Tri-S groups to Japan, England and East Asia. Visited Europe 18 times, Japan five times, Latin America and the Caribbean six times, Africa three times and around the world on one trip. He loved the enrichment that came from international travel. Nick and Dorothy made annual trips to the Shakespeare Festival in Canada.
To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the entire family took a trip by train to Oregon to spend a week on Cannon Beach followed by a week in San Francisco. They loved traveling, especially with family.
Nick was an active member of Park Place Church of God for over 70 years, often serving on boards, as choir director, and also as a Sunday school teacher of college students and adults.
Nick also edited two Church of God hymnals. He was instrumental in the selection of the Casavant Pipe Organ for Park Place Church of God. He was a member of the Tourist Club, Golf Group and Quest Group.
Nick and Dorothy had two children, Paul Maurice Nicholson and Gary Allen Nicholson. Nick and Dorothy were married over 66 years until her death in 2011. After Dorothy died, he married Laura Lee Oldham-Nicholson, and was blessed with three stepdaughters, Paula Oldham-Johnson, Karen Oldham-Offenbacker (Garry "Buz" Offenbacker) and Rebekah Oldham.
Nick was preceded in death by his parents, Arthur and Ethel Nicholson; wife Dorothy Jane Nelis Nicholson; and wife Laura Lee Oldham-Nicholson.
Left to cherish his memory are two sons, Paul (Rita) and Gary (Thonja); six grandchildren, Jennifer (Jordan) Slattery of Fortville, Dr. Christopher Nicholson of Terre Haute, Bethany (Matthew) Holcomb of Anderson, Lisa (Kirk) Bodach of Wakarusa, Amy (Larry) Oliver of Anderson and Joshua Mason of Indianapolis; 14 great-grandchildren, Maren Holcomb, Reid Holcomb, Graham Holcomb, Bentley Slattery, Emerson Slattery, Maxwell Slattery, Samson Slattery, Zachariah Slattery Benjamin Bodach, Luke Bodach, Joshua Bodach, Cannon Oliver, Callie Oliver and Casen Oliver; stepdaughters, Paula Oldham-Johnson, Karen Oldham-Offenbacker (Buz Offenbacker) and Rebekah Oldham-Cox and their extended families; and brother-in-law, George (Joan) of Dayton, Ohio, and his extended family.
Services will be Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at Park Place Church of God with Dr. David Markle and Dr. David Coolidge officiating. Friends may call on Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Rozelle-Johnson Funeral Service and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. until the service at 2:30 p.m. at Park Place Church of God.
Memorial contributions may be given to Park Place Church of God Community Center and Food Pantry or the Nick and Dorothy Nicholson Endowment Fund at Anderson University.
Published on November 25, 2017
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