FEBRUARY 2009 (VOL. 15, NO. 4) est. 1893 • K-12 college prep
Memorial Celebration Prelude: Upper School String Quartet – Sonya Huang, Brittany Chu, Warren Kwong, Julia Shim; Chris Florio, director Color Guard: Student council members Welcome: Chris Nikoloff, Head of School
Memorial Address and Music: John Near, AP U.S. History teacher “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (L. Henley/J. Silbar) – Maheen Kaleem ’03, Siobhan Stevenson ’07, Laura Lang-Ree; Catherine Snider, piano Video Montage: A few treasured moments Remembrances and Music: Lon Allan, Chair, Harker Board of Trustees; Kelly Espinosa, Director of Summer Programs; Pat Walsh, math teacher “The Rose” (A. McBroom) – Neil Bhalerao ’04 Open Remembrances: Shared memories and thoughts Images of a Life Well Lived: “For Good” (S. Schwartz) – Siobhan Stevenson, Laura Lang-Ree Farewell to Howard: Diana Nichols Closing Remarks: Chris Nikoloff
Community Pays Tribute to Howard Nichols A crowd of approximately 750 gathered Jan. 16 to formally say goodbye to Harker’s longtime leader and visionary, Howard Nichols, who died Dec. 31, 2008. The event was held in Nichols Hall, a building recently completed and dedicated to Howard and his wife, Diana, in August.
During the open remembrances segment of the program, audience members shared stories and heartfelt memories.
Nichols battled esophageal cancer for years, and as 2008 was coming to a close, he and his family made the transition into hospice care at Howard and Diana’s home in Carmel. Howard and Diana discussed the memorial, and chose the music, musicians and speakers together, allowing Diana, his family and the Harker community the unique and special gift of knowing – and carrying out – Howard’s wishes as our final tribute to him. To open the memorial, the Nichols family – Diana, daughters, Stephanie and Elizabeth, Diana’s son, Greg, their spouses and Howard’s grandchildren, and Diana’s sister, Marie, and her family – was escorted into Nichols Hall by US and MS student body officers serving as the color guard. They presented the flags
Harker News — October 08, Capital Campaign Report
of the state of California, the U.S. and Harker in acknowledgment of Nichols’ military past at the Palo Alto Military Academy. For the music, Diana Nichols called on friend and performing arts chair Laura Lang-Ree to gather alumni from the early graduating classes to sing with her. Lang-Ree was joined by Siobhan Stevenson ’07, Maheen Kaleem ’03 and Neil Bhalerao ’04, as well as pianist Catherine Snider, US vocal group Downbeat, and a string ensemble of US students. In his opening remarks, Chris Nikoloff, head of school, reminded us that we were all loved by Nichols as much as we loved him. Sylvia Harp read the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, a favorite of Nichols’. Teacher John Near gave the main address, and made us laugh even as we cried. Lon Allan, Kelly Espinosa and Pat Walsh each told stories of how Nichols had touched their lives in very special ways. During the open remembrances
Through it all, the recurring theme was Nichols’ indefatigable kindness, generosity and faith in people.
“Amazing Grace” (J. Newton, 1779, arr. Moore) – Downbeat, Laura Lang-Ree and Catherine Snider, directors
Reading and Music: Sylvia Harp, retired English teacher
segment of the program, audience members shared stories and heartfelt memories. Through it all, the recurring theme was Nichols’ indefatigable kindness, Continued on pg. 3 Continued on back
Nichols Planned Giving Society What Howard Nichols did for us and for Harker could not have been accomplished by someone who was merely visionary, or merely brave, or merely selfless, or merely skilled. It took Howard, who was all of these, and his limitless determination and heart...
Howard Nichols and the Nichols family always focused on putting The Harker School in the best possible position, both for the present and the future. In 1972, the Nichols family donated all the Saratoga Avenue land – that is now the upper school campus – to the Harker School Foundation. In addition to this visionar y gift, the Nichols family made numerous contributions to a wide variety of causes during Howard’s 35 years of leadership at the school that have helped ensure Harker’s success for many years to come. In recognition of their leadership by example in this area, the administration and board of trustees will honor the Nichols family’s vision by establishing The Nichols Planned Giving Society in Howard’s memor y. It’s fitting that Harker establish such a fund, which is common in other independent schools across the countr y, and timely to do so in memor y of a man who devoted his life to ensuring that Harker would meet the needs of the families of the Silicon Valley well into the next centur y.
ushers The following employees, all of them associated with Harker for more than 25 years, acted as ushers during the Nichols Memorial Celebration. Mike Bassoni, JR DelAlto, Chris Doll, Cindy Ellis, Kristin Giammona, Dottie Hickey, Sarah Leonard, Lisa Machuca, Nan Nielsen, Carol Parris, Laura Rae, Joe Rosenthal, Howard Saltzman, Jenaro Sanchez, Carol Sosnowski, Terry Walsh and John Zetterquist.
To become a member of this special gift club, families can include Harker in their wills, or make other planned gifts to the school, such as a Charitable Lead Trust, or the popular retirement planning technique, The Charitable Remainder Gift Annuity Trust. For more information about The Nichols Planned Giving Society, contact Joe Rosenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Huali Chai Stanek
Harker Journalism Students from Harker’s journalism classes, newspaper and yearbook, joined forces with Harker’s Office of Communications to cover Friday’s event, and helped create this special recap edition of the Howard Nichols Memorial. Their photos are used throughout the edition, and they also captured reminiscences from some of the attendees (see pg. 18). Many thanks to their advisor, Chris Daren, and to the following students for their expert contributions: Stephanie Guo, Deniz Ilgen, Michelle Lo, Angeli Agrawal, Malika Mehrotra, Beckie Yanovsky, Christy Emery and Kaytee Comee.
Howard in Palo Alto Military Academy (PAMA) uniform, 1950-1951.
For additional copies of any of the following, contact email@example.com: n this memorial supplement n Commemorative Tribute Recap of Howard and Diana’s 2005 retirement n memorial ceremony program
Alumni Abbreviations PA: Palo Alto Military Academy (1919-1972) Student journalists interview alumni in attendance at the memorial. From L to R: Becky Yanovsky; Jordan Braun and Jason Panchal, both ’97; Christy Emery and Angeli Agrawal.
HA: Harker Academy (1973-1992)
Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
Howard coaching at Harker Academy, circa 1965.
Tribute, continued from page 1 generosity and faith in people. Employees who needed a little extra help, students who marveled at his approachability, colleagues who played ball with him – all felt themselves an important part of the Harker family Nichols created, and all have better lives today for having been touched by Howard Nichols.
us all say farewell to Howard, beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, leader and mentor. Howard Nichols will forever be remembered, respected and revered for the impact of his life’s work in education, for the generous and humble life he led, and for the example he set for us all.
The service included some video moments: Nichols as he participated in school productions, recited “The Night Before Christmas” to the boarders (an annual holiday tradition), and gave the matriculation address to Harker’s first incoming US class. A slide show captured dozens of moments Nichols shared with his
Howard Nichols will forever be remembered, respected and revered for the impact of his life’s work in education, for the generous and humble life he led, and for the example he set for us all.
immediate and extended Harker family. In the spirit of Harker’s release of doves at each graduation, the program closed with a short film of Diana Nichols releasing a single dove in front of Nichols Hall to help
The following pages contain excerpts from the speeches and readings at the memorial, some of the memories posted on the Web site about Howard Nichols, quotes from interviews conducted by upper school journalism students at the reception, and photos from the printed program and the slide shows shown at the event.
Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
As a teacher in training, I now know how difficult it is to find a truly great educator. They’re rare and to be treasured. They dedicate themselves without reserve... If I could say anything to Mr. Nichols right now, I would thank him for protecting my spirit, and for showing me that real discipline is all a matter of love. – Kacy N. Takamoto
n Memorial Address John Near, US AP U.S. History teacher
– Melody Moyer
Good afternoon. The historian David McCullough once said, “Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.” We are here today to honor and remember a man, in a building that was part of his lifework, who epitomized that sentiment. This is simultaneously going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever been asked to do but also one of my greatest honors. It isn’t difficult, though, for the reason you might think, although I haven’t made it through my remarks yet. Just in case, though, I brought props to help me if things get rugged. First is this little dog. A member of our first graduating class gave it to me last summer. She lost her father her senior year and she
...outside of the possible exception of my own father, there is no one I admired and had greater respect for than Howard Nichols.
During the many picnic preparations Howard would appear, sporting his hat, and carefully supervise and test each game. He never turned the picnic requests down to either don some silly costume or become involved in one of our silly stunts...such a good sport, always!
said someone had given him a dog like this to watch over him when he was in the hospital, and she wanted me to have one as well to watch over me. She also happened to be our first salutatorian and I remember her strength when she spoke about her dad at our first Baccalaureate, and for me that strength is what this little dog will always represent. Secondly, I was inspired by one of my all-time favorite pictures of Howard. He had a way of in sometimes tense times, doing something to lighten the mood. So, if things start to get a little heavy, don’t be surprised if I put these [Groucho Marx glasses] on. No, what makes this difficult is: how do I, in just a few minutes, do justice to the life of a man whom I had so much respect for? But, that is also what makes this such an honor. To one degree or another, we all seek the approval of people we look up to. I have spent almost my entire adult life with this school, and when I was asked to speak today, I was touched in ways I’ve never been before, because outside of the possible exception of my own father, there is no one I admired
I want to focus today on three words that immediately come to mind when I think of Howard: leadership, compassion and family.
Howard playing football at Palo Alto High School, circa 1958.
and had greater respect for than Howard Nichols. What I would like to do is share a few things that I hope will illustrate the essence of Howard. Those who’ve heard me speak before know that I like to make lists to provide some organizational structure. I want to focus today on three words that immediately come to mind when I think of Howard: leadership, compassion and family. Leadership: Last Friday night, several old-timers
gathered at the Walsh household to reminisce with Howard’s daughters, Elizabeth and Stephanie. Mike Bassoni recalled a story of what was for a while an annual staff Thanksgiving football game against the staff from Bellarmine. My recollection of it is slightly different than Mike’s but it illustrates the same point. I remember the first time that Howard played in the game. Now there were a number of us, who were younger, who thought we were pretty hotshot athletes, but Howard walked on to that field like he owned it…oh, that’s right, he did. Well, he entered the huddle and the first thing he did was to clap his hands together and say, “OK, so who are my receivers?” There was just no question who the quarterback was going to be. That was Howard. He assumed leadership positions so naturally and so easily that it was difficult to question. But Howard also led by example. Look at how many people who, including me, have in the last few weeks mentioned Howard picking up trash around school. Now, it might not seem like a very big thing, but the fact that so many people, staff and students alike, have that memory means it had an impact on them. And it should have, because it reflects a quality that is rare, a point that was driven home to me the other day. At the end of our school meeting on Monday, I noticed that a student had spilled a cup of hot chocolate on the gym floor and had just left it there. I then watched staff and students alike walk right past it, either not seeing it at all, or just ignoring it…it wasn’t their mess after all, until one student finally stopped to clean it up. Howard would have been proud of her. People like that student and Howard are the rare ones and we can only hope that they inspire us to live up to their example. Compassion: The Dalai Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” That is Howard in a nutshell. Over the past couple of years I have read many books about cancer, and one in particular was written by comedian Robert Schimmel called “Cancer on $5 a Day (chemo not included).” It is a very funny book (and believe me, I know how important laughter is when you are fighting this disease). One element of it, though, bothered me and it’s not the first time I’ve heard this. He said that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to him because it helped show him what was truly important in life, and he proceeded to outline all that he had “learned.” Well, I’m sorry, but I tend to agree with the immortal words of a former student who said, “Cancer Sucks!” Howard did not need to get cancer to know what is important in life – caring about Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
people, doing what’s right – he lived it every day. We don’t get to choose the manner in which we die, but we absolutely get to choose how we live and how we face life’s challenges. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” And, in that context, Howard also had few peers. Going back to last Friday night and the stories being told. I was amazed, but not surprised, to hear story after story about all the people Howard has helped over the years through the generosity of his spirit. I also realized that those stories were just the tip of the iceberg. And, in the end, why did he do it? It’s really very simple and that brings me to my final word… Family: When the Mercury News reporter who wrote Howard’s editorial obituary contacted me, I mentioned how important family was to Howard and how we always placed great emphasis on Harker being a family. She said, “You know, all schools say that, but what
Time and again, when our students are met away from school, people marvel at how wonderful they are. And that is Howard’s legacy. We not only have brilliant students, we have kind, compassionate students who understand there is more to life than being smart.
exactly does it mean and how do you accomplish it?” I’m not sure I gave her a great answer, but I’ve since thought about it a lot and have come up with a better response. Never in a million years, though, would I think that I would find an appropriate quote from the Comedy Central show “South Park.” But, in an episode titled “Ike’s Wee Wee” (it is South Park after all), one of the characters said, “Family isn’t about whose blood you have. It’s about who you care about.” Over the past week, I’ve been reading the many tributes to Howard that have been posted on the Web site. They say a lot about the man, especially those coming from students. There weren’t any that said, “You know, because of Mr. Nichols, I did really well on my SATs,” or, “Because of Mr. Nichols, I got in to Stanford,” (even though both of those things were probably true). What I did see were multiple references to his caring and kindness…the fact that he knew your name, even when you were in the third grade. That is what creates a family and I think it explains our success. If we were just an aca-
demic school of smart kids, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Time and again, when our students are met away from school, people marvel at how wonderful they are. And that is Howard’s legacy. We not only have brilliant students, we have kind, compassionate students who understand there is more to life than being smart. To close today, I would like to quote from a poem. When I started here in 1978, we had just dropped the cadet program, but there were still vestiges of it and many of the students still referred to Howard as Captain Nichols, so I’ve always had that memory of him. As I was thinking about this memorial, it made me recall the famous Walt Whitman poem, “O Captain, My Captain.” Whitman wrote it as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln after his assassination. And, while I do want to be careful about comparing Howard with Abraham Lincoln (Howard, after all, was much better looking), I was struck by the overall message of the poem – the sadness felt that a great man was lost shortly after steering his ship (in Lincoln’s case our nation, in Howard’s case, this school) to safety. We can be thankful he lived to see it, but mourn the fact he was taken from us so soon. I would just like to read a few lines:
Howard’s famous cookie jar was replicated on the dessert table at the memorial reception.
“O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up – for you the flag is flung – for you the bugle trills; For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths – for you the shores a-crowding; For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning; The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done; From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won….” Howard will always be my captain and even though I have no idea what’s next, I know that somehow Howard’s spirit has entered that next huddle, clapped his hands together, and said, “OK, so who are my receivers?” My heartfelt condolences go out to Howard’s family, which I hope you all realize by now, means all of us who are assembled here today.
Finally Mr. Nichols cracked a huge smile, explained that I was not in trouble but that they wanted me to talk to the current fifth graders about my Tamagawa experience, and finally offered me a cookie. – Siobhan Stevenson
Sweep Honors Nichols’ Habit of Tidying Campus US students paid homage to one of Howard Nichols’ most remarked-upon habits. Key Club members walked the campus Friday morning prior to the memorial, picking up spare books, backpacks, clothing and those bits of paper so many former students remember seeing Mr. Nichols gather when he strode the walkways.
Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
n Remembrance Excerpt On December 31st, Diana called me and told me about Howard. At the end of the very sad conversation she asked me to speak at this service; she said it would be a short speech. “Short,” she said. Howard always reminded me, whenever I spoke, about how much time I had, or didn’t have. He would look at this watch as I stood at the podium and I would just talk faster. So when Diana stressed that today’s speech was to be short, it really felt right, because it meant that somehow on the day that everything changed, I knew that some things never would. I think I’m up here mostly because Howard thought I was funny. It’s pretty easy for me to stand up in front of a crowd and make people laugh…usually. It‘s going to be harder today.
He had an unbelievable ability to know people – really know who they were and what they needed. And he was just as good at dealing with 5-year-olds as he was with corporate CEOs.
So me being funny was a good thing to Howard because he truly wanted people to be happy. He wanted his school to be a place of joy. So in meetings (sometimes important meetings), when the loudmouth blonde in the back would interrupt and make a crude joke, some people would cringe and wonder where I would be working next year, but Howard would always chuckle, shake his head and get back to business. He liked it that I was funny; he wanted even important things to be light, and fun.
On Picnic Friday he’d come to the field in his shorts and straw hat, measuring tape, duct tape all ready to go... He’d throw balls and ring bears for hours and hours, until every single game was perfect.
Howard playing basketball at Palo Alto High School, circa 1958.
He had an unbelievable ability to know people – really know who they were and what they needed. And he was just as good at dealing with 5-year-olds as he was with corporate CEOs. Amazing! I believe because he knew people so well he could bring out the best in just about anyone. And because he could bring out our best, we are the best.
Most of what I learned [from Howard] he taught by example. He didn’t brag, or sit me down to impart great wisdom, he just did. Believe me, we never sat in his office reviewing lessons on how to be a good leader. Today I do so many things that I learned from Howard. We all do. He never asked us to do anything he wouldn’t do, or hadn’t done himself. He moved classroom furniture for example. He stood in the hallway every year when we were getting ready for a big move. He’d have his clipboard and his casual clothes and he’d be right in there with the summer staff, schlepping desks from room to room. Some of them never even knew he was the head of school until after the week was over. On Picnic Friday he’d come to the field in his shorts and straw hat, measuring tape, duct tape all ready to go. I’d have his book ready and all the supplies organized exactly how he liked them. He’d look them over, give me that approving smile and we’d get down to serious carnival business. He’d throw balls and ring bears for hours and hours, until every single game was perfect. I loved those days. I got him all to myself. In
We always say that Harker is a family but it truly was for him, and for me, and for so many others here today.
the early days when I was still very young it was so special to have the big boss talking to me, sharing stories with me…he was a cool guy!
– Patrick F. Bassett
Kelly Espinosa, Director of Summer Programs
As is widely known in independent school circles, Harker is a very healthy and successful program and institution, attributable in large part to Howard’s leadership and vision. It is a rare blessing to lead a single institution so well for so long, since it assures that what one has built will be permanent, and that others may carry forward what one has started.
Those picnic days also taught me that the little things make a big difference, something I think we’ve all learned here at Harker. Excellence is about noticing the small stuff. Howard noticed everything! He noticed paint chipped off things, and brown bushes, and new haircuts and missing garbage cans. Nothing got past Howard. He was such a busy man, but never too busy to notice the little things. Then of course, he did something about them. Well, I think I better stop now, my time must be up. There is so much more I wish I could say, so many great Howard stories to tell. Where’s the guy with the watch in the front row when you need him? So even though everything has changed for so many of us, some things never will. I’m really going to miss him, but I will continue to follow the path he set out for me, and I will continue to work hard every day to make him proud. And he will be in my heart forever. Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
I believe that the way Harker turned out is overwhelmingly determined by the values and dedication of the Nichols family. – Leon Khaimovich
Howard leading a personal development class in 1987. Carrie Varr pictured at right.
n Remembrance Excerpt Pat Walsh, Gr. 5 teacher I came to Harker in 1976 for what I thought was going to be a summer job. Howard Nichols is the reason I am still here today. He was a great boss, mentor and friend. Howard knew how to make his teachers and staff feel valued and appreciated. He worked side by side with us. He celebrated our achievements, he mourned our losses, but most importantly, it didn’t matter if you were a teacher, a staff member, a gardener, a custodian or secretary, his door was always open if you needed him. He was always eager to do what he could to help. To illustrate this, I’d like to share a few stories that have stayed with me over the years.
I came to Harker in 1976 for what I thought was going to be a summer job. Howard Nichols is the reason I am still here today.
In 1976, I was 23 years old and there was a little emergency on campus. Dan Gelineau was trying to pull together a crew to work after hours to get our buses ready for the CHP inspection the next day. The floors of one of the buses needed to be stripped, new flooring had to be layed, and all of the seats reinstalled. We also had to do some interior painting. There was a Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
Howard making his usual rounds at an annual Family and Alumni Picnic in 1983.
crew of about six or seven, including Dan Gelineau, Jeff Haugaard, and yes, the 36-year-old headmaster whom I barely knew at that point. We didn’t finish until well after midnight, and Howard was with us until the end, even springing for a few beers when the task was completed. That summer night made me think, “I could work for this guy for more than just a summer.” It wasn’t long after that when I was in Howard’s office, and he was trying to sell me on teaching full time at Harker. He told me what I needed to hear – that I’d be able to afford to raise a family while working at Harker. On that he has been more than true to his word.
For me, Harker is home not just because I grew up there, but because he made it a place that was difficult to leave behind. – Casey Near
I have many fond memories of Howard. For years, the boarding program was an important piece of the school. Many of the teachers worked part time in the dorms. Even Howard was still working in the dorms when I started at Harker, but he turned his reigns as duty master over to me in February of 1977. Howard continued to have a soft spot in his heart for the boarders. Legend has it that he never missed a
Howard’s favorite dinner was the Christmas dinner because he loved to sing Christmas carols. Once dinner was over, Dan Gelineau would bring out his accordion,
Howard continued to have a soft spot in his heart for the boarders. Legend has it that he never missed a Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, or end-of-year boarding banquet unless he was out of the country.
After I stopped crying, he sat me down, got some ice and handed me an apple. I left the office thinking that going to the principal’s office wasn’t so bad after all. From that day, I have always respected him.
staff members were eager to be be selected to sing while others, like me, sweated in the back, praying not to be called. But each year I’d hear, “Hey, Wally, come on – we need one more king!” Truth be told – I’d have been disappointed if he hadn’t included me.
someone would be at the piano and Howard would lead the singing. I learned my first year at Harker, that Howard had a special tradition for the singing of “We Three Kings.” Each year he called on three staff members to portray a king and sing a solo verse. Now some
I’ve come to realize that as special as he made ME feel, just about everybody I have talked with feels the same way...
There have been many stories shared about Howard over the last couple of weeks. It is amazing to me the place he holds in the hearts of the people who worked for him. I’ve come to realize that as special as he made ME feel, just about everybody I have talked with feels the same way, and they have similar stories. The one thing we can’t figure out was: How did a man who was as busy as he was find the time to touch so many people? Howard, you are deeply loved, and will be greatly missed. Because of you, I’ve “stuck around” for those years and am a better man because of it.
How did a man who was as busy as he was find the time to touch so many people?
Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, or end-of-year boarding banquet unless he was out of the country. I remember the speeches he gave at these dinners, which were full of warm sentiments and inspiration. On Thanksgiving, Howard encouraged all of us to think of all that we should be thankful for. Christmas was the time to look back at what we had done and set some new goals for the new year. At the end of year, we were always reminded of how special each one of the boarders was and that the boarding program was the heart of the school.
– Estelle Charlu The following obituary ran in the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, Monterey Herald and Palo Alto Weekly. See pg. 17 for San Jose Mercury News editorial obituary. Howard Nichols – The Harker School October 10, 1940 - December 31, 2008 Howard Nichols, longtime leader and visionary of The Harker School, passed away December 31 of cancer. His vision, and his devotion to excellence and fairness, leaves a lasting legacy upon the institution he loved, and to which he devoted his life. Born in Bremerton, Wash., Mr. Nichols’ career at The Harker School began as a student at the Palo Alto Military Academy in Palo Alto, Calif., where he attended through middle school. After graduating from Palo Alto High School in 1959 he attended Stanford University where he earned a degree in economics in 1963. After serving for two years in the military, he returned to the Academy in 1965 to work for his father, Major Donald Nichols, superintendent and owner of the Palo Alto Military Academy and Harker Day School, and began his 40-year career with the school. In the early years, Howard worked as assistant commandant, P.E. teacher, athletic director and coach. In 1972 he oversaw the merger of the Academy and The Harker Day School, and the school’s relocation to the current site of the upper school on Saratoga Avenue in San Jose, assuming headmaster responsibilities when his father retired in 1973. Over the years, Howard made a series of visionary changes to the school, including dropping the military program in 1979, launching Harker’s college-prep upper school in 1998, and expanding the school onto two additional campuses in San Jose – a lower school campus on Bucknall Road in 1998, and a middle school campus on Blackford Avenue in 2005. Howard and Diana pose in front of a school house display at the 100th anniversary of the Harker Family and Alumni Picnic in 1993.
By the time he and his wife, Diana Nichols, retired in 2005, The Harker School had become the largest K12 independent school in California, and an internationally-recognized, award-winning model for excellence in education. Howard, known for his humility, always said luck played its part, but it was clear that luck alone could not have carried the school through its remarkable journey. Howard had an ability to adjust to changing times while maintaining the school’s commitment to timeless values such as academic rigor, strong character, broad offerings and global citizenship. Howard is survived by his wife, Diana; daughters Elizabeth de Oliveira and Stephanie Norton; stepson, Gregory Appleton; grandchildren, Mark, Paul, Isabel, Ben, Ian and Lucy; sister-in-law, Marie and her husband, Dave; nephews Continued on next page
Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
Obituary, continued from page 8 Graeme and Marshall; brothers Jack and Bob Weathers of Texas. The Harker School and the Nichols family will host a public memorial Fri., Jan. 16 at 4:30 p.m. at the school’s recently dedicated science and technology center, Nichols Hall, on the upper school campus at 500 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, Calif., 95129. Parking and shuttle to the service will be at the school’s middle school campus a few blocks away at 3800 Blackford Avenue. All are welcome, however if those attending could e-mail rsvp@ harker.org with the number in your party it will help for planning. Cards of condolence to the Nichols family can be sent ATTN: Triona Coyne, at 500 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, CA 95129. In lieu of flowers, the school and the Nichols family are requesting donations be made to the Nichols Hall Solar Fund to purchase solar panels for the new science and technology building on the Saratoga campus. This would be in keeping with Mr. Nichols’ wish to place Nichols Hall and The Harker School on an environmentally sustainable footing for the future.
Howard as headmaster, circa 1973. Reprinted from a 1973 Harker publication.
For more information, to donate to the Nichols Solar Fund, and to post a message on the online guest book, visit the Harker Web site at www.harker.org.
• …thence life was born It’s nitrogen from ammonia, carbon from methane, Water from the cloud and salts from the young seas …the cells of life bound themselves into clans, a multitude of cells To make one being – as the molecules before Had made of many once cell. Meanwhile they had invented Chlorophyll and ate sunlight, cradled in peace On the warm waves –from “Untitled”
Kelly Espinosa, director of summer programs, suggested that anyone who had earned a Harker pin – presented to those with five years or more of full-time service to the school – wear their pin each day the week before the memorial, a plan eagerly complied with by proud pin owners. The photo below shows the evolution of the Harker pin and why, depending on hire date, employee pins aren’t all the same: HA for Harker Academy, THS for The Harker School, and the current H logo. A diamond is inserted into each pin every successive five years of employment.
A selection of Howard and Diana’s favorite passages from the poetry of Robinson Jeffers was read at the memorial:
• There is this infinite energy, the power of God Forever working toward what purpose? –from “Untitled” • I have heard the summer dust crying to be born As much as ever flesh cried to be quiet –from “Cawder”
• The beauty of things Is in the beholder’s brain – the human mind’s translation Of their transhuman Intrinsic value –from “The Double Ax” • Is it not by his high superfluousness we know Our God? For to equal a need Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling Rainbows over the rain And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows On the domes of deep sea-shells... Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom Nor the birds without music… –from “The Excesses of God”
Howard presenting a Harker pin to his father, Major Donald Nichols, circa 1982.
Howard Nichols was always creative in his methods and inspirational in his approach to education and the way learning was presented. He was an educator in the truest sense of the word. – Jody Addison Senter
• …Look how beautiful are all the things that He does. His signature Is the beauty of things –from “Untitled” • Love that, not man apart from that. –from “Not Man Apart” Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
Thoughts From the Harker Community I remember his kind and caring manner in which he promoted the sister school ties between The Harker School and Tamagawa Gakuen. The legacy Howard has left at Tamagawa will live on in the continuing strength of the relationship between our schools. – Yoshiaki Obara
What follows is a selection of the online messages posted at press time by parents, students, alumni and community members on the Howard Nichols Memorial Web page: n In sixth grade, about a week after I had returned from the Tamagawa trip, I was sitting in class when I received word that I was to go to Mr. Nichols’ office. Being, by and large, a generally good kid, I was confused. And of course, a little nervous. I wracked my brain to figure out what I’d done wrong the entire walk to the main office. I approached, and Mrs. Nichols beckoned me inside and asked me to have a seat. Then I was officially confused. What so serious offense had I committed that BOTH of the Nicholses needed to speak to me? Finally Mr. Nichols cracked a huge smile, explained that I was not in trouble but that they wanted me to talk to the current fifth graders about my Tamagawa experience, and finally offered me a cookie. I arrived at Harker as an unwilling third grader, uprooted to California wholeheartedly against her will and placed in this new school convinced she’d never feel comfortable there. Ten years later, that unwilling third grader walked at her high school graduation from her second home. I was reminded that day in sixth grade, and again and again through my time at Harker, exactly what a wonderful place it was and how lucky I was to be there – and how lucky I was, and am, to have known someone like Mr. Nichols who made it that way. He was a great man who will be immensely missed. – Siobhan Stevenson ’07 n What Howard Nichols did for us and for Harker could not have been accomplished by someone who was merely visionary, or merely brave, or merely selfless, or merely skilled. It took Howard, who was all of these, and his limitless determination and heart, to develop a little school into the wonderful place Harker is today. Howard was extremely courageous. He understood better than anyone how perilous it would be to pursue his and Diana’s visions for the school, but he shouldered the responsibilities and risks with such unflinching optimism and unstinting dedication that he repeatedly inspired and impelled the whole Harker community. Howard did what no one else could have, and he did it for the best reasons, and so he is still here and he always will be, in every part of Harker. – Huali Chai Stanek, alumni parent
one of our silly stunts...such a good sport, always! Throughout my 15 years at Harker I attended many of the wonderful acting and musical student presentations. Howard would make it a point to pop in at almost all the events. I often wondered when he had time to sleep, as he always seemed to be there. Howard was a good man. He has offered so many children an opportunity for a richer understanding of their world. All the years he gave to the school and the children will certainly make this a better place. He will be sorely missed by everyone who was fortunate enough to have known him. – Melody Moyer, alumni parent n Over the years, when looking back on my time at Harker, I have always remembered Mr. Nichols and his incredible kindness. It’s not often that one can say positive things about one’s principal; but Mr. Nichols was more than that. He was a wonderful and decent human being. During my years as a Harker Eagle, I visited the principal’s office more than once (much to the dismay of my parents and myself). Being sent there was never pleasant; but the experience itself was different than I expected. I particularly remember my first trip there. I can still picture the walk down the hallway, past the bulletin board, the art exhibit, the tardy office and the library. When it was finally my turn to be called inside, Mr. Nichols greeted me with a stern face. Once I had entered the room, he reached inside his desk and pulled out a jar. “Cookie?” he asked. Relief and surprise rushed through me. As I reached for a cookie, he smiled and said, “Alright, get out of here.” Looking back on that moment, I miss him. He always believed that I was a good student, even when others were convinced that this was not so. More than anything, I will miss his contribution to the world of education. As a teacher in training, I now know how difficult it is to find a truly great educator. They’re rare and to be treasured. They dedicate themselves without reserve; committed not only to inspiring their students, but to protecting the delicate spirit of children. If I could say anything to Mr. Nichols right now, I would thank him for protecting my spirit, and for showing me that real discipline is all a matter of love. – Kacy N. Takamoto ’99
Howard in Palo Alto Military Academy (PAMA) uniform, 1950-1951.
n I have two sons who attended The Harker School from K-Gr. 12. My volunteer activities afforded me the opportunity to get to know Howard. I remember, when my boys were at Saratoga, Howard would make it a point to drop in to classes to speak to them about being kind and respectful to one another. It always impressed me that, although he was the head of the school, he would make time to visit with the children and share these simple thoughts with them. During the many picnic preparations Howard would appear, sporting his hat, and carefully supervise and test each game. He never turned the picnic requests down to either don some silly costume or become involved in
n I was deeply saddened to read about Howard Nichols’ passing in the paper last Sunday. Too many times as I drove by Harker I thought about pulling over to visit. And never did. My fondest memories of my education and developmental years are those at Harker...due to Howard and Diana (my favorite teacher in all my life). From a distance I’ve watched the school and program flourish and am so proud that the Nicholses realized their vision for such an impactful academic program. The lesson learned is to not wait to tell those in your life how much they have impacted you, how much they mean to you, and how much you cherish having spent Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
time with them. My deepest sympathy to Howard’s family. Your legacy is one that will live on forever, Mr. Nichols. With gratitude for having known you and for influencing me. – Silvia Malaccorto ’76-’78 (HA) n I was very sorry to hear this news about Howard, but it did give me food for thought on how much Howard accomplished in his lifetime, and how he changed the face of education in Silicon Valley and may have inspired enough young people to support alternative fuels to change the world – wouldn’t he be pleased with that! I shall always be grateful to Howard and Diana for their dedication to Harker. – Chip (aka Albert) Zecher ’78 n I remember what professionals Howard and Diana were as we put the elements of a successful [capital] campaign together. We worked, we laughed, and we got the job done. It was a distinct pleasure to work with them, Joe Rosenthal and Sharon Svensson of Essex & Drake consulting. Howard’s legacy, along with Diana’s commitment, will remain forever in my heart. Thank you. – Bev Lenihan, CFRE n I learned about Mr. Nichols’ illness about a year ago. Since then I was torn by my yearning to help in some way and a concern of imposing myself on the man I deeply respected, greatly admired, but did not know in person. I believe that the way Harker turned out is overwhelmingly determined by the values and dedication of the Nichols family. Using development of intellectual curiosity as a foundation of academic excellence, they pursued it incessantly and with great integrity, making it possible for others to contribute by creating clear expectations and favorable conditions. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to join the powerful current, because being a recent immigrant I did not have much of my friends and family circuit while bringing up my daughter, Irina (Khaimovich ’04). Even though the passing of Mr. Nichols did not come as a surprise, it made me stop and repeat to myself, “When bees are few, reverie will do.”
saddened by the news. Howard was more than just a wonderful person; he was always so kind and considerate to us that we always welcomed seeing him at every opportunity. I remember his kind and caring manner in which he promoted the sister school ties between The Harker School and Tamagawa Gakuen. The legacy Howard has left at Tamagawa will live on in the continuing strength of the relationship between our schools. Howard will always remain in our hearts, and we have included Howard and Diana in our daily prayers. The thoughts and prayers of all of us at Tamagawa who have been touched by Howard are with you. -Yoshiaki Obara, President, Tamagawa Gakuen and University
– Denise Boland, alumni parent n I am sorry for the loss of Howard Nichols. It was nice to go to the Web site and see him as he grew older, from the time I attended in 1973 until more recently. I wish his family the best. – Collier C. Granberry (PA) n I started at Harker when I was in second grade and continued till the end of high school. I remember seeing Mr. Nichols very often in the hallways and the main office, always smiling and cheerful. Every time I saw him, he would make sure to give me a hug and ask me how my classes were going and how my parents were. That’s something that made Harker special for me..... We were all a family, and Mr. Nichols always made it feel that way. My thoughts are with him. – Meghana Dhar ’06 n I remember waiting in the lunch line when it was by the gym, and Mr. Nichols was standing by the door. We were all really young and intimidated by him, wondering what he was doing there. Waiting to call some one into his office? Making sure we all behaved?
– Leon Khaimovich, alumni parent
With much apprehension, my friends and I finally reached the door. When we got there, all we found waiting for us was a smile, and a “How are you doing?” Mr. Nichols said hello to each and every one of us, by name. It was truly an amazing feeling to be recognized by a man of such great stature. He was friendly and kind, and most importantly he knew all our names – that’s a big deal when you’re only in third grade. It was amazing, and that memory has exemplified what Harker truly is for me. When the administration takes the time out to just say hi to the students, and sees them as more than just attendees at a school, you know you’re in a special place.
– Keiichi Watase, Tamagawa Gakuen n On behalf of the entire staff at Tamagawa Gakuen, I would like to express my deepest condolences over the passing of Mr. Howard Nichols. All of those at Tamagawa who have been touched by Howard are truly Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
– Rep. Zoe Lofgren
n My family will always remember Mr. Nichols as a kind and generous soul. He played an important role in many young peoples’ lives in Silicon Valley: the excellence of The Harker School is due to the tremendous efforts of both Howard and Diana. I wish Mrs. Nichols and the family my heartfelt sympathy.
My deepest sympathy to Mr. Nichols’ family and friends.
n It was a great shock to hear that Howard passed away. Please let me extend my deepest sympathy. Howard was always so kind to me. He always kindly called me, “My son, Keiichi.” I love him very much. I enjoyed playing golf with him, watching Stanford basketball games, and making a trip to Nikko with him and Diana. I would like you, Diana, to remember that he will live forever in me.
Howard epitomized the Harker spirit, leading with integrity and a bold vision for the future.
Mr. Nichols embodied Harker, and he will be truly missed by those before, during and after his time.
Howard and Diana in the 1989 dance production “Put on Your Dancing Shoes.”
I cannot think of anyone who has done more for private schools in this county since the days of Major Nichols himself. He will be greatly missed and just as greatly remembered. – Ric Claspill
– ����������������� Amanda Polzin ’06 13
HOWARD NICHOLS We got totally creamed. Mr. Nichols must have sunk something like eight three-pointers... most of them in a row without missing. Yet another reason to respect him. – Jerry Chi
Howard and Diana model at a special parent fashion show in 1998 to preview new varsity apparel for the newly formed upper school.
It is because of Mr. Nichols’ compassion that my daughter achieved her full academic potential. Mr. Nichols will always be in our hearts and memories forever. – Bessie Smith
n I don’t know that I ever had a real conversation with Mr. Nichols, but I have one striking memory of him from when I was in middle school. I was walking down a covered walkway outside, and there was litter on the ground being kicked and swept this way and that in the wake of the loitering middle school students. I had probably just passed by it myself, when suddenly I saw Mr. Nichols, dressed so nicely in his suit, bend down and pick up that piece of trash that we had all been ignoring. Since I never talked to him much outside of that, I thought that I might have attributed too much to that moment, but I always felt afterwards that he must be a humble person. Plus, in all seriousness, whenever I feel like what I am doing is not enough, that it is too small to be worth doing, I tend to remember that moment as evidence that personal responsibility and ownership for one’s world, society, etc., start small and are contagious. It means a lot to be a person who lives out the small stuff. – Alice Chi ’05 n Ten years ago, when I began working for Harker at the Bucknall campus, I had no idea that I was about to become part of a “family.” Although Howard was not present for my demonstration lesson or my interview, somehow he knew who I was and, whenever I saw him, he made a point of calling me by name and taking the time to ask how I and my family were doing. He was truly interested in people and always demonstrated that in his actions. Although he only saw my husband twice a year at the beginning and end of school parties, Howard also knew his name and always had a kind word. Howard somehow managed to seem to know everyone hired by Harker and deeply cared for all of us, no matter how large this school became, and on which campus one worked. He was an amazing man for many reasons, yet his true care and concern for everyone he came in contact with is what impresses me the most. For such a busy, intelligent, hard-working man to have this deep love for all of us amazes me still. I have heard numerous stories from other teachers about moments when Howard took time out to help them with personal issues. Thank you to Howard and Diana for welcoming me into the Harker family, and for having the foresight to start our wonderful upper school. For many of us, Harker really is K-Life, thanks to Howard! – Stephanie Woolsey, Gr. 3 Math Teacher n Mr. Nichols’ passing is truly a sad loss for our community. But what a legacy he has left behind. The school has had an immeasurably positive impact on so many lives. I believe that he will rest very peacefully. – Vijay Lakireddy, Everest Properties
n Howard was a person I remember clearly but never knew personally, only through my time at PAMA. As an upperclassman, he was one whom I looked up to then, an academic scholar and a model and disciplined cadet. I find it ironic that I just recently was in touch with the Harker/PAMA alumni organization to now get this sad news. I am sorry that our paths in later years did not cross. My condolences to those who knew him better and to his family. – John Rodgers ’61 (PA) n I am very saddened to learn of Howard Nichols’ recent passing. I first learned of his ill health at the 2008 alumni reunion and I prayed that he have a full and complete recovery from the illness that he suffered from. I pray that Diana, his wife, is given the strength and courage to go through this unwanted situation. – Robert B. Mack ’69 n In my eight years here at Harker, I always relished his presence on campus. His devotion to Harker made the school the place I loved (and still do love). I hope he knows how much he meant to all of us. He will be greatly missed. – Natasha Sarin ’��� ���� 07 n I knew “Howie” in the middle ’60s at PAMA and the summer camp I attended there for a few summers: great memories of a great person. – Jeff Carnes ’65 (PA), Fire Chief, City of Sun Valley n I am deeply saddened by his loss as I remember him from kindergarten through sixth grade...even when he got married to Mrs. Nichols. He will be greatly missed by the Harker community. – Kimberly Lee ’89 (HA) n I want to send my deepest sympathies for the loss of a fabulous educator in “Howie” Nichols. I came to PAMA from San Francisco in the heart of the Summer of Love, and wearing two hats was hard on me. I never went home on weekends so I perfected my drill down skills in order to become relief orderly. This meant I spent hours with Howard with time to just chat. I won that drill down medal in 1972, a moment I will never forget. As the tallest student for three years, Howard knew I wasn’t crazy about hoops but I played for the school. I was “varsity everything.” He taught me how to pitch a sinking curve ball as he had learned at Stanford. I always tried to please Howard. He was just that kind of guy. Thanks, Captain Nichols, for the rules and goals. – Sr. Master Sergeant Stephen A Worsley ’72 (PA)
n My thoughts and prayers are with Howard’s family. He will be remembered for all of the hearts that he touched while at Harker. He will be missed. – Steve Jorgensen ’81
n What a surprise to hear that Mr. Nichols has passed. As an alumna I have many happy memories of him and his family while I was a part of the Harker family. He will truly be missed and remembered by all.
n I cannot think of anyone who has done more for private schools in this county since the days of Major Nichols himself. He will be greatly missed and just as greatly remembered.
– Darcy Howard ��� ’�� 83 (HA)
– Ric Claspill ’65 (PA)
– Jay Russio ’73 (PA and HA)
n Howard will be greatly missed. He was an inspiration to so many of us.
Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
n Howard Nichols dedicated his life to giving children the opportunity to flourish and excel. Howard epitomized the Harker spirit, leading with integrity and a bold vision for the future. He will be missed, but his legacy and work will live on. – Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), and alumni parent n It seems like only yesterday Mrs. Nichols was singing “Good Morning, Good Morning” and Mr. Nichols was working on the yard, or in his office... 36 years ago. My moral compass was forged by Mr. Nichols when I was in second grade. Ever ything he ever did was with such pride and respect. I remember one day late in the afternoon, he was walking past the flag in the quad and there was a little piece of paper on the ground. He was walking really fast back to his office for a meeting, but he stopped to pick it up. This moment is infinitesimal unless you look at it and realize that he changed the lives of so many children, and gave them a role model to follow with ever ything that he did. I know that Mr. Nichols touched more lives and helped others realize their potential who then went onto change the world. – H.E. Sir Victor J.W. Pekarcik III ’80 (HA), Pekarcik Global Venture n As I am sure is the case with many of my fellow alumni, my memories of the nine years that I spent at Harker are filled with the faces of so many teachers and staff members who made my experience at Harker truly blessed. I owe Mr. Nichols and his school a debt that can never be fully repaid. He will sorely be missed, but his legacy will most certainly live on through the growth and success of his, and my, beloved institution and each generation of Harker student. – Daniel J. Nevis ’92 n When I applied for the job as receptionist for Harker in 1981, I was interviewed by Phyllis Carley, then put in the old conference room to wait to meet Mr. Nichols. Boy was I nervous! We chatted for a few minutes, and he put me completely at ease. I was sent home to wait for what I hoped would be a job offer. I was in the house for about 15 minutes when I got that call. I have worked hand in hand with Howard and Diana, happily dedicated to Harker since then. Howard earned my respect the moment I met him and that respect has grown and grown through the years. He will be missed by us all. – Carol Sosnowski, Harker employee n I remember one time when I was in ninth grade my friend Maya and I didn’t quite understand the closed campus policy yet and went off campus during our free seventh period. We came back to campus with icees and were sitting in the main hall by the old activities wall drinking them and having a good time. Mr. Nichols walked by and started giving us a hard time about it, but was really just kidding. He always had a smile on his face and would say hi when I walked past him from then on. – Kit Schimandle ’07 Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
n I was on the basketball team, and there was a students vs. teachers/staff game. I thought we had a pretty good chance; after all, it was bunch of young guys who practice every day against a bunch of old guys who don’t play much anymore, right? I was totally wrong. We got totally creamed. Mr. Nichols must have sunk something like eight three-pointers... most of them in a row without missing. Yet another reason to respect him. I also want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Nichols for founding the high school that helped me get into Stanford...it has made a huge difference in my life. – Jerry Chi ’02 n During my junior year in high school, I tore the cartilage in my shoulder blade, and for the next few months I had to go around in a sling. I had never had an extended conversation with Mr. Nichols, and assumed he didn’t know who I was. I was mistaken. He approached me to ask about my shoulder, and then proceeded to ask what it meant for my sports career. In just a few words, he showed that he not only cared tremendously about me as a student, but that he had also known who I was for quite some time. The transformation Harker has gone since I arrived in 1998 is nothing short of remarkable. I can’t imagine what kind of person I would be today without the school, and I will never forget Mr. Nichols’ instrumental role in shaping the place that’s proven to be my foundation. – Amit Mukherjee ���� ’��� 06 n It is with regret that I just read of the passing of one of my schoolmates and your beloved mentor Mr. Howard Nichols. I graduated in 1954 from PAMA and carried all that was fondly taught to me about the values of life at PAMA by Howard’s dad, Major Donald Nichols, as a guideline for how I have tried to live my life. I will never forget his slogan at PAMA: “Character Building for Your Son.” I always considered Major Nichols as one of my mentors in life. As a fellow student of Howard’s I saw the same kind of dedication to instilling those values in people that his dad did…. There was a real spark of Major Nichols in him. I remember Howard as always striving to achieve something higher and better. It doesn’t surprise me that his life was such a success. He will be sorely missed by me and most of the people who knew him. – Wade Wallace ’54 (PA) n I was there when many of the photos used in the memorial slideshow were taken. The slideshow showing Howard and his events is an important remembrance of the wonderful man we knew for decades. I write this with tears in my eyes as Howard will be greatly missed. – Rae Williams, alumni parent
Howard and Diana grace the runway at Harker’s inaugural fashion show, “Lights, Camera, Passion!” in 2004.
How proud he must have been in his retirement years to see the fruits of his labors and to recognize how much of an impact his commitment to education and upstanding character development, integrity and ethical values has had on so many young men and women over the years! – Nancy Reiley
n It saddens me deeply to have received this news of Howard’s death. My sympathy goes out to Diana, Howard’s daughters, his precious grandchildren and extended familyand all the colleagues and staff like me in whom, over the years, he had faith and made a part of the institution he built with so much love and dedication. What strikes me so in this moment is that this news 15
That personal enthusiasm made you want to give it YOUR best. Howard was a legend in every sense of the word. He will be missed but never forgotten. – Glen Pritzker
came to me on the opposite coast from California from so many different friends and Harker acquaintances…it makes me recognize that one of Howard’s uncanny strengths is that he “fathered” a FAMILY that was loyal and strong and devoted on so many levels. The family that is Harker will miss this man but will treasure and carry on the mission that was so much a part of his life.
n Certainly for me and probably for most people, Howard Nichols was – and still is – Harker. Like so many others, I was “Harkerized,” and the transformational spirit that operated the changes emanates from him. Howard is gone, but the Nichols spirit will continue to work its magic at Harker. Condolences to Diana and to the entire Harker community.
I consider myself privileged to have been a part of the Harker family for many years, and to have known and respected this man as my “fearless leader” during that duration. In the time since I moved to Florida in 2005, one of my fondest pleasures has been in receiving monthly Harker newsletters and witnessing the amazing successes of the young people who have passed through this school-that-Howard-built. How proud he must have been in his retirement years to see the fruits of his labors and to recognize how much of an impact his commitment to education and upstanding character development, integrity and ethical values has had on so many young men and women over the years!
– Richard Hartzell (former Head of Upper School), Principal of Upper School, Taipei American School
I thank my fellow Harker family members for letting me know of Howard’s passing with so much immediacy. Certainly not the joyous news that we like to hear, especially as we move into a new year…but yet a chance to reflect on periods in our lives when The Harker School was so much a focus for our individual efforts…and how much our encounters with this man inspired us to put forth our best efforts and energies so that the futures of so many children would be bright and challenging and full of promise. My sympathy to those, like me, who mourn his loss! – Nancy Reiley, former assistant to Joe Rosenthal and volunteer coordinator n I am deeply saddened to hear of Mr. Nichols’ passing. He was a generous man with an enormous love for children and education. I will be forever grateful for his generosity and scholarship for Reena Patton ’88. It is because of Mr. Nichols’ compassion that my daughter achieved her full academic potential. Mr. Nichols will always be in our hearts and memories forever. – Bessie Smith, alumni parent n In August 2003, I found myself sitting nervously across from Howard in his office, about to ask him a very big personal favor. To me, he and Diana were practically mythical beings. I felt like Dorothy having an audience with the Great and Powerful Oz. I had just taken in a Dutch exchange student for the year, and had learned that he was heavily into the performing arts. I was there to ask Howard to allow Ivo to attend Harker. Two weeks before the start of the school year and with no way to afford tuition, it was a long shot at best. But Howard saw an exchange student as an opportunity for the school as well as for Ivo. Two weeks later, Ivo was a very happy Harker student on scholarship.
Howard and Diana at the ribbon cutting for Nichols Hall, 2008.
Ivo is now finishing up his college degree in the Netherlands, and is planning to become a high school drama teacher. That year not only changed Ivo’s life, but will affect the lives of ever y student he teaches. Thanks to Howard. – Danny Dunn, LS teacher
n I remember when I was in eighth grade, we would have Sex Ed. during science class. Howard made an announcement one afternoon before class: “Attention, Students, please vacate the gym as the eighth grade will be having Sex on the stage.” He left out the ED! Very hilarious; I will never forget Howard. – Celia De Benedetti ’80 (HA) n I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Howard Nichols. The Harker School is losing a dedicated, devoted and innovative man. Education, in general, is losing a strong proponent and a devotee of betterment for children. Howard Nichols was always creative in his methods and inspirational in his approach to education and the way learning was presented. He was an educator in the truest sense of the word. I worked as his assistant for over six years in the 1990s and I admired and respected everything about him as a person, a professional and an educator. Howard was always concerned about his students, their families as well as the faculty and staff of The Harker School. He was kind-hearted and had a generous spirit. I send my deepest condolences to Diana, his children and grandchildren. Howard will be deeply missed by so many of us whose lives he touched. – Jody Addison Senter, Admission Assistant, Graland Country Day School, Denver, Colorado n When I first read the e-mail announcing Howard’s passing, I was saddened. However, after looking at the pictures of Howard on the Web site, I was overcome not by sadness but gratitude. Although I only spent three years working for Howard, my family’s connection extended well beyond that. There are not enough thanks I can express to Howard for always making the Pritzkers feel welcome members of the Harker family. And to Howard that is exactly what Harker was and is…a Family. And nobody was better suited to lead that family than Howard. His love for the “place” was inspiring. That personal enthusiasm made you want to give it YOUR best. Howard was a legend in every sense of the word. He will be missed but never forgotten. – Glen Pritzker, Freshman Class Dean, AP Psychology, Admission, La Jolla Country Day School n The most important memory I have of Mr. Nichols is from my first week as a junior kindergartner. I started crying because an eighth grade boy accidentally hit me in the head with a football. Mr. Nichols saw the entire scene unfold and rushed over and took me into his office so no one could make fun of me. At this point I was so scared because I thought I was being sent Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
Sun., Jan. 11, 2009
Howard and Diana Nichols and family members at the August 2008 dedication of Nichols Hall.
to the principal’s office. After I stopped crying, he sat me down, got some ice and handed me an apple. I left the office thinking that going to the principal’s office wasn’t so bad after all. From that day, I have always respected him. It was the smaller things that he did that made him such a great person and leader. It is what made Harker such a great place. He will be missed! – Estelle Charlu ’05 n The Harker family is what it is today because of the strength of his love and the endlessness of his compassion. For me, Harker is home not just because I grew up there, but because he made it a place that was difficult to leave behind. His vision and his kindness echoed through the walls of Harker. It’s simply hard to imagine a better place to call home (or at the very least, to go to school or work at each day!). So, thank you Mr. Nichols, for all you have given us. – Casey Near ’06 n NAIS sends its condolences to the Harker community for the loss of their beloved leader, Howard Nichols. Although some consider the title of headmaster a bit anachronistic (and it has been replaced in most schools by the current and more gender-neutral head of school), I am old enough myself to have started teaching at a school where teachers were (and still are) called masters and where the headmaster was rightfully seen as leader among teachers. I know that Howard’s role of teacher (of students, faculty, parents, board members, alumni) has made his mark such a significant one, just as much as his role as leader, since in the original incarnation of the concept of independent schools, there was no real distinction between leader and teacher: that is to say, by setting the highest of expectations personally, the head of school modeled exactly what the students and faculty needed to know for themselves. As is widely known in independent school circles, Harker is a very healthy and successful program and institution, attributable in large part to Howard’s leadership and vision. It is a rare blessing to lead a single institution so well for so long, since it assures that what one has built will be permanent, and that others may carry forward what one has started. The community will mourn and regret the loss, but the school will be living testimony to Howard, forever. – Patrick F. Bassett, President, NAIS - National Association of Independent Schools Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
Howard addressing a graduating class, circa 2002.
The Winged Post reporters invited some of the attendees at the memorial to share their thoughts about Howard Nichols. Here are a few of them. He was the headmaster when I was growing up. I wanted to pay my respects. -- Megan Azebu ’08 Through Howard Nichols I got a chance to come to this school. He was a mentor for a lot of people. -- Jordan Braun ’97 I went to school here since I was in fifth grade…I was interested to see the full extent [of his legacy]. -- Courtney Johnson ’04 I knew him. No matter how many people there were in the school he always knew my name. -- Jacinda Mein ’04 I attended Harker from kindergarden through eighth grade… the hard work he started off with paid off. All the hard work he did makes Harker look awesome. I came to pay my respects to Mr. Nichols and see changes to the school. -- Jason Panchal ’97 I met him through the picnic. I came to honor him. He is the heart and soul of what the school means. He left his soul here. -- Kim Pellissier, parent Mr. Nichols hired me in 1999 fresh out of grad school. I fell in love with the school. -- Mari Finn, former Gr. 6 history teacher I love Howard Nichols! When I was in my first year I didn’t have a lab. He created a lab for me to teach. -- Lorna Claerbout, MS science teacher He was the type of person who really creates loyalty. People 18
In Loving Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
want to be here. You want to give 100 percent of yourself. The kids are the nicest kids because of his modeling. -- Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs “He always knew ever yone’s name right from the start.” -- Stephanie Woolsey, Gr. 3 math teacher He was a mentor to not only my father but to me as well. -- Casey Near ’06 He did not have that ‘head of school’ personality. I thought he was one of the volunteers [at the picnic]. -- Carol Underwood, parent He made ever yone feel valued because he did value them. -- Chris Nikoloff, Head of School He gave me the opportunity to work with him. -- David Takamoto, school architect and high school friend of Mr. Nichols When I first came here in fifth grade, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. I initially was interested in computer design and software because of my father, but a play in fourth grade made me think I might be interested in acting. Before the auditions in sixth grade for Harmonics, I ran into Mr. Nichols and discussed my hesitation to audition. I still remember Mr. Nichols’ words to this day. ‘Just give it another shot,’ he said; the words have stuck with me. Mr. Nichols was a man of few words but of many, many things. -- Joe Hospodor, Gr. 12
Memory Harker News — February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial
The ceremony was absolutely exquisite. I loved the person who stood up and said what a good person [Nichols] was to his wife. And when Diana let go of that dove, it just killed me. Howard was a pillar. -- Sherry Ammatuna, parent 19
M essage from theF amily...
The Harker School and the Nichols Family Thank You As we talk of how many lives he touched, it is important to note that he was enriched in return, and that he drew inspiration from each of you. His life and the life of Harker were intertwined for 59 years, and everyone who has walked these halls was a part of him. For that, we thank each of you, and we hope you share our pride in this enduring connection.
The Harker School is a K-12 independent, coed, college-prep school. Grades K-5: 4600 Bucknall Rd., San Jose, CA 95130; Grades 6-8: 3800 Blackford Ave., San Jose, CA 95117; Grades 9-12: 500 Saratoga Ave., San Jose, CA 95129 Harker believes that all persons are entitled to equal employment opportunity and does not discriminate against its employees or applicants because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions), national origin, ancestry, age (overÂ 40), marital status, political affiliations, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, or any other basis protected by state or federal laws, local law or ordinance.Â
The Harker News provides timely information, news and features about the Harker community to current and alumni Harker families. Editor: Pam Dickinson; Asst. Editor: Catherine Snider; Production: Triple J Design; Photos: Mark Tantrum, Harker journalism students (see pg. 2) and Harker archives; Printing: Communicart; Mailing Coordinator: Desiree Mitchell. Harker News â€” February 09, Howard Nichols Memorial