June 05, 2020

In Remembrance: G. Douglas Nicoll, Professor Emeritus of History

Professor Emeritus of History G. Douglas Nicoll died Dec. 11, 2019, in McMinnville, Ore., at age 89. After a nearly 40-year career on Beloit’s faculty, serving from 1958-1995, he retired as the George Russell Corlis Professor of History. His fields of study were Russian and Soviet history and the philosophy of history.

Doug Nicoll, Professor Emeritus of History. Credit: Photo by Dennis Moore.Nicoll was known for his high standards in the classroom and his thoughtful, collegial approach to problem-solving. He was a natural at student advising and helped conceive of and shape the college’s First-Year Initiatives program. He was also a regular at athletic events and suited up to serve on the sidelines during home football games with colleagues on the chain crew, commonly known as a “chain gang.”

Tom Warren, professor emeritus of education, remembers that Nicoll “kept a very neat office, walked ram-rod straight, and was a stickler for details.” The two crossed paths often, and nowhere off-campus as much as the golf course, where they shared an affection for the sport.

“Golf gave me an up-close view of the moving sculpture called G. Douglas Nicoll: his temperament (stable), his pace (measured), and his reaction to a great shot (understated joy),” Warren writes. “In the summer months we would head out for the course at 5 a.m. to start the day just right. ‘Oh what a beautiful morning,’ he would exclaim or hum.”

Nicoll earned a B.A. from Willamette University and graduated from Boston University School of Theology. In 1961, he received his Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet History, also at Boston University. He was a major contributor of articles on Russian history to the Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, as well as the author of published articles on higher education, Oregon state history, and Scottish history.

In 1995, when Nicoll retired, the Beloit College Alumni Association named him an honorary alumnus. After retirement, he and his wife, Janet, returned to his home state of Oregon. Janet died in 2019.

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