Nicholls State University received a generous donation last month that will benefit over a dozen students and faculty pursuing educational enrichment. As announced in August by the Nicholls Foundation in a university press release, an impressive bequest from the estate of James and Mary Alice Van Sickle (BA ‘66) will produce 10 endowed professorships and 10 or more scholarships for undergraduates, graduates, and professors alike at the prestigious university.
The Van Sickle’s generous gifts will go to the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, with the professorships, specifically honoring Mary Alice’s mother, Mabel Bollinger Toups, a lifelong Lockport teacher. The James R. and Mary Alice Van Sickle Endowed Scholarships will range from $2,500 to $5,000 per student.
Mary Alice Van Sickle is a Lockport native who majored in English education while at Nicholls, and the gift offered by the Van Sickles is sure to honor the educational legacy of Mabel Toups. Today, James and Mary Alice live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as she retired in 2014 after a three-decade career in marketing for a landscape architectural firm in Boston.
Mary Alice was quoted as believing “ that there is no better preparation for living a full and rewarding life than through education. I hope these scholarship students will enrich their own lives through learning and will graduate with the tools that will lead to success in their chosen professions. The bequest will also allow teachers to expand their own learning opportunities through research and study, and to continue to inspire the love of learning in students by serving as positive role models.”
While the Van Sickles humbly did not wish to announce the donation amount, their gift is recognized to be the largest legacy agreement within the Nicholls Foundation’s Oaks Society, an organization, which is comprised of alumni, parents, faculty and friends making a planned gift to Nicholls State University or the closely related Nicholls Foundation.
Named after the numerous and ever-present oak trees of the Nicholls campus, membership to the Oaks Society can be granted to any individual donating in an effort to further the mission of Nicholls State University, regardless of amount. Like the nearly 50 oak trees present at the university’s founding, and still providing shade and scenery today, these planned gifts have the potential to have a lasting generational impact.
Mary Alice is extremely fond of her time spent at the university, saying, ““I have always felt that I received an outstanding education at Nicholls, which provided me with the life skills that would equip me to succeed in my chosen career. Nicholls instilled in me a true love for learning, and a curiosity about the world beyond the bayou. The bequest is my way of saying thank you. This beloved institution placed its trust in me so many years ago and provided me with a foundation of knowledge, which has nurtured me throughout my adult life.”
The Nicholls Foundation’s executive director, Jeremy Becker expressed his excitement of the VanSickle’s gift and the “tremendous impact” that it will have for “so many faculty and students at Nicholls.” The Foundation, itself, is an independent university group that supports the mission of Nicholls State University by seeking gifts and grants and managing those funds and other assets to support the school through endowed chairs, professorships, scholarships, and other enhancement offers.
If any reader is interested in learning more about The Nicholls Foundation or making a bequest to become a member of The Oaks Society, it’s suggested that they visit visit www.nichollsfoundation.org or contact Becker at 448-4006.
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