Albert “Ab” Nicholas ’52, MBA’55

Farewell to a Good Friend

Ab Nicholas

Photo by Paul Newby II

Albert “Ab” Nicholas ’52, MBA’55, a former UW System Board of Regents member and one of the university’s most dedicated supporters, passed away in August, but he left his fingerprints on the University of Wisconsin–Madison in myriad ways. Together with his wife, Nancy Johnson Nicholas ’55, he worked to open the UW’s doors to generations of new students, and they gave one of the largest gifts in the university’s history to support scholarships and fellowships.

A standout guard on the Badger basketball team, Nicholas decided to forgo a career in the NBA and instead served in the army and then launched the Nicholas Company, a high-performing investment fund. He gave large sums to charity, particularly to UW–Madison, supporting the schools and colleges that taught him, Nancy, and many members of their family.

“The University of Wisconsin holds a special place for Nancy and me,” said Ab in 2015. “It’s where we met and where our three children and six of our grandchildren have gone to university. I learned the lessons in the classroom and on the court that have fueled my career. And we made lasting friendships and continue to enjoy an amazing alumni experience.”

That connection helped to inspire a lifetime of giving back to the university. Between 1982 and 2014, the Nicholases donated nearly $50 million to student services, the Department of Athletics, the Wisconsin School of Business, and the School of Human Ecology, establishing Nancy Nicholas Hall as the home of human-ecology studies on campus.

In June 2015, the Nicholases offered a $50 million matching gift to inspire UW alumni and friends to donate in support of undergraduate and athletic scholarships and graduate fellowships at UW–Madison.

Nicholas served as president of the UW’s National W Club, which supports intercollegiate athletics, and he was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009. He was named a Wisconsin Distinguished Business Alumnus in 1985 and earned the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993.

“He was among the most generous and thoughtful people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting,” UW–Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank says. “The Nicholas family has a history that goes back five generations at the UW. Ab’s legacy will be part of this campus for decades to come.”

Published in the Winter 2016 issue


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