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George and CJ Nichols named 2018 Western Kentucky University Philanthropists of the Year

George and CJ Nichols have been named the 2018 Western Kentucky University Philanthropists of the Year.

“We are honored and humbled to be recognized as the Philanthropists of the Year,” said George Nichols. “We know that so many others have done so much more than we have even thought about. For WKU to consider our efforts worthy of such an honor makes us proud. We accept it on behalf of all the people in the WKU family who are giving back.”

George Nichols is currently serving on the WKU Board of Regents. In addition to his role as a regent, he has served on the WKU Board of Advisors from 2010 to 2017, and he was a member of the WKU Foundation Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2011. On Nov. 1, 2018, he began serving as the President and CEO of The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

George and CJ Nichols have been named the 2018 Western Kentucky University Philanthropists of the Year. (Photo from WKU)

“As a regent, I get to see and learn up close and personal the commitment and love that so many have for the University,” said George Nichols. “It makes me work harder to assure that I am bringing my very best to the table to help President Caboni and the other regents in our role as servant leaders to Topper nation.”

“George and CJ Nichols’ philanthropic giving demonstrates their commitment to their alma mater and to helping WKU’s underrepresented population achieve their dreams of a college degree,” said WKU President Timothy C. Caboni. “Through their gifts, they are personally shaping the future of our students, providing opportunities and access they otherwise would not have.”

“CJ and George Nichols are living examples of the word ‘philanthropist’ as they constantly ‘seek to promote the well-being of others through generosity’ toward their alma mater,” said John Paul Blair, Interim Vice President of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement. “Their generous support benefits current students, and they have made provisions in their estate for their philanthropy to support countless generations of future Hilltoppers.”

In 2017, the Nicholses made a gift to support diversity initiatives at WKU, including programming support for the Intercultural Student Engagement Center Academy (ISEC-Academy). In honor of their gift, the Center was named the Cynthia and George Nichols III Intercultural Student Engagement Center.

“Thanks to the support of the Nicholses, ISEC has been able to provide student success services, programs and events for the WKU community, in particular underrepresented minority students who may be first-generation and Pell-eligible,” said Dr. Martha Sales, Executive Director of ISEC. “ISEC-Academy welcomed 68 students in the second cohort, and the first cohort continues to be successful. Many students are serving as leaders in various student organizations, and two actually created a new student organization.”

The Nicholses say their philosophy on giving is due to the wonderful blessings in their lives from family, friends and strangers who are always lifting them up.

“We want to share those blessings by trying to lift up others,” said CJ Nichols. “The only thing we ask is that those we help pass it on and lift up others.”

CJ Nichols says she hopes students learn that their only limits are the ones they put on themselves.

“If you have faith, work hard and do right by other people, God will enlarge your territory,” she said.

A portion of their gift also established the Cynthia and George Nichols III Fund for Diversity Support. Among many areas the Fund supports, it will help provide study abroad scholarship opportunities for underrepresented students. The Nicholses want to inspire underrepresented students to integrate an international, credit-bearing experience into their WKU degree, and the first Nichols Scholar will be selected for a summer 2019 program abroad.

“We are thrilled with the support from George and CJ Nichols to encourage diverse students to gain an international experience,” said Dr. Caryn Lindsay, WKU’s Director of Study Abroad and Global Living. “National studies have demonstrated that students who study abroad are more likely to graduate, but that positive correlation is even greater for diverse students.”

George and CJ Nichols have three children, and they reside near Washington, D.C.

Previous recipients of the WKU Philanthropist of the Year Award are Laura Dugas, C.M. “Bill” Gatton, Linda and John M. Kelly, Houchens Industries Inc., Dale Augenstein, Dorris “D.B.” and Lula Burchett, Dixie and Pete Mahurin, Rick and Ann Guillaume, Donald J. and Jennifer Waddle Greulich, Suzanne Vitale, Jerry E. Baker, Lowell Guthrie, Bud Layne, Don S. Vitale, Leon Page, Gordon Ford, and Raymond B. and Hattie Preston and the Preston Family Foundation.

From Western Kentucky University

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