October 10, 1940 – December 31, 2008
Leader and visionary of The Harker School, Howard Nichols, passed away Dec. 31, 2008.
A crowd of approximately 750 gathered Jan. 16, 2009 to formally say goodbye to Harker’s longtime leader and 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.
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 upper and middle school student body officers serving as the color guard. They presented the flags 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, upper school vocal group Downbeat, and a string ensemble of upper school 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 segment of the program, audience members shared stories and heartfelt memories. Through it all, the recurring theme was Nichols’ indefatigable kindness, 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.
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 upper school class. A slide show captured dozens of moments Nichols shared with his 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 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.
Please visit our Giving page to make a donation in honor of Howard.
Palo Alto Weekly (pdf)
San Jose Mercury News Editorial Obituary PDF version