(The following remembrance was prepared by Ken Rosenthal and by Rich’s daughter Jamie Nicholls Biondi, ’88.)
Rich Nicholls died March 14, 2009 after a courageous ten-year battle with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of cancer.
Rich grew up in Elkhart, Indiana and came to Amherst from The Hill School. He graduated from Stanford Law School and received a master’s degree in tax law from NYU. He was a nationally recognized lawyer in the tax-exempt bond field, head of the tax department at Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon, and later of counsel to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Rich was called “the tax lawyer’s tax lawyer” in The Bond Lawyer and his colleagues described him as insightful and creative, with an encyclopedic memory and an ability to “say more with fewer words than anyone else they knew.” He did extensive pro bono work, and in 2000 was awarded the Bernard P. Friel Award for distinguished service in public finance.
At Amherst, Rich was Co-Captain of the swimming team, an economics major, and a member of Phi Delt. His inquiring mind and discerning eye led him to study architecture at Smith. He loved to drive fast cars on twisting roads, waterskiing and skiing, and sailing in high winds and rough waters. He liked to be challenged and to press others to defend their beliefs. As a long-time member of the Stamford Yacht Club, he raced competitively on his boat, Rhiannon.
Above all, Rich was a man who knew how to enjoy life and cherish his family. After his cancer diagnosis, he became an expert in his illness, talked his way into numerous cancer studies, and was able to survive and thrive almost through will power alone. All of his six grandchildren were born during those last ten years of his life, and he was active in teaching them to ski, swim and sail. He was a truly exceptional and loving father, brother and grandfather, as well as husband to his late wife, Anne. He leaves his daughter Jamie Nicholls Biondi (Amherst ’88), her husband Fran and their children; his son Christopher Nicholls, his wife Yvonne, and their children; and his first wife and mother of his children, Judy Cormier.