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Howard Nichols

Obituary Condolences

Howard Nichols 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. By the time he and his wife, Diana Nichols, retired in 2005, The Harker School had become the largest K-12 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 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. 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.
Published in San Jose Mercury News on Jan. 10, 2009
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