Born: December 20, 1940
Died: February 15, 2013

Don Nichols was born in Madison, Connecticut on a farm, son of Edward Charles Nichols and Ruth Olsen Nichols. He graduated from Daniel Hand High School in Madison where he played the trumpet and was named to the Connecticut All State Band. He also excelled in soccer. Soccer and music were to continue as lifelong interests.

At Yale Don was a resident of Berkeley College where he was in the Berkeley Players, and on its soccer, basketball and squash teams. He was also Berkeley baseball captain. He was a member of St. Elmo and performed at football games with the Yale Precision Marching Band as well as in the more serious Concert Band. Don was on Dean's List and on scholarship. He earned his degree in Economics with Honors.

After graduation Don stayed at Yale to obtain his Masters in 1963 and his Economics Ph.D. in 1968, studying under Yale's Nobel Laureate James Tobin. Don then joined the Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin where he spent his next 40 years. He was department chairman for several terms.

In addition to his teaching in Madison he was a visiting professor at Yale in 1970-1971. In the fall of 1971, he was a visiting academic at the London School of Economics. He even taught for a term at Moscow State University. In 1975-76 he went to Washington as senior economist of the Budget Committee of the United States Senate. In 1977-79 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Labor.

In Wisconsin he was Economic Advisor to Governor Earl from 1983-86. He subsequently served Governors of both parties on commissions and advisory committees. In a tribute to Don published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper his work with governors of both parties was acclaimed as a sign that "the Wisconsin Idea - blending the University of Wisconsin System with state government to generate progressive ideas - was alive and well." "He thought that the state and the university ought to be partners," former Governor Earl said. "That was the Wisconsin Idea. He lived it."

Nichols called himself an "eclectic economist" the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote. "He abhorred labels," said Mark Bugher, who had worked with Don in a variety of state roles. "He was an icon - highly respected, nonpartisan, a true teller of the facts. He told the unvarnished truth without any kind of ideological tinge to it."

While in Washington, he developed the skill of economic forecasting.

Don had begun his career as an economic theorist, but was drawn to practical problems of economic policy. He served as chair of PROFS, representing the faculty to state government. In 2001, he was appointed Director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs, a position he held until his retirement in 2006. He was a fellow in the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. A popular teacher, he earned several teaching awards. He published numerous professional articles and books. He also served as an expert witness on damages in corporate litigation.

He remained active in his profession even after retirement, serving until his death on the Academic Advisory Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and as Chairman of the Board of the Thompson Plumb Funds. He was widely called upon for advice and to speak at public functions. He loved economics as a discipline and economic policy as a practice.

Unfortunately, Don was not a stranger to tragedy. He was married to Linda Powley, his first wife, for 20 years until she died of cancer in 1982. In 1983 he married Barbara Jakubowski. Sadly, she also died of cancer in 2000. His third wife, Jane Bartels, survives him, as do his twin children by Linda: Elizabeth Harrington of St. Paul and his son Charles of Madison, who was injured in an accident at age 4.

In Madison he played competitive soccer until he was forced to retire following a knee injury. He captained several teams. He played in Wisconsin's top amateur soccer league in the late 60s and 70s, a league then dominated by ethnic teams from Milwaukee comprised of first generation immigrants from Europe. Through this he was introduced to the cultures of several nations, often by post-game meals and receptions held at the teams' clubhouses and churches. Their contrasting views of teamwork, fairness and disciple were an education for him. He also played on a Ukrainian team while in graduate school, and with two English teams while in Britain in the fall of 1971. He played on a Chilean team while in Washington in 1975-76, and he played on multi-ethnic teams while in graduate school at Yale.

After retiring from competitive soccer, he turned to the outdoors. He bought a large plot of land, mostly ridges and timber, just west of Madison, Wisconsin where he built a small house. He spent weekends in this semi-isolated retreat. He enjoyed most outdoor activities, especially hunting and hiking. He liked to track animals and took comfort in just sitting in the woods. He developed an interest in forestry, especially in walnut trees. He enjoyed machinery saying it took him back to the farm. He had a tractor he used for mowing trails and for taking care of the long gravel driveway, and a snowplow on an old army truck to keep the cabin available throughout the winter. He took up woodworking, making objects from his own timber, always wishing he had more time to make things and build his skill.

In recent years Don joined the Madison Symphony Chorus.

Don's infectious good humor and cheerfulness was in evidence at our 50th Reunion. He spoke openly of his liver disease and proudly announced that he had proven the doctors wrong and survived beyond their prognoses. It was good fortune that he did so and that we could share his enjoyment in the company of his classmates in June 2012.

He died February 15, 2013, of complications from cirrhosis of the liver caused by hepatitis C. In addition to Jane, Elizabeth and Charles he was survived by his granddaughter Clare, his brothers Kenneth and Paul, both of Middletown, Connecticut and his sister Marcia Stone of Madison, Connecticut. A Memorial Service was held on March 16, 2013, on the University campus.

Don's wide-ranging and entertaining biography in our Class 25th Reunion Book captured his spirit and zest for life as do the closing lines of his published obituary: "He was happiest in nature in all seasons and in contemplating difficult economic policy problems. Most of all he loved to laugh with his wife."