Robert Nicholls, aka ‘Coach Nick’
Robert Nicholls, former athletic director, physical education instructor, and inspirational coach of multiple sports, died Nov. 26, 2015, in South Beloit, Ill., at age 91.
Known widely as “Coach Nick,” his Beloit tenure spanned from 1952 to 1995. In addition to teaching and advising, he coached football, men’s and women’s swimming, tennis, basketball, and wrestling and served as Beloit’s athletic director from 1965-76. When he was near retirement in the 1990s, the college estimated that Nicholls had coached more than 3,000 student athletes.
Bill Mack’58 played football for Coach Nick and later returned to Beloit to coach alongside him as offensive coordinator.
“He was really a rare person,” recalls Mack. “I’ve never heard anybody say a negative thing about him. And for someone who’s been a teacher and a coach for a half century, that’s unparalleled.”
As an undergraduate, Nicholls was an all-conference quarterback for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he also played basketball. However, he said swimming was his favorite sport to coach because he started with the least amount of experience. “I really had to work at it,” he once said.
But Mack and other alumni athletes who recall Coach Nick fondly, remember how meticulously he prepared them for games, scouting opposing teams and handing out a game report without fail on Monday morning.
“Coach Nick’s record and successes as a coach were no accident. He was very well-prepared for everything he did,” Mack says. “He had so much on the ball that it almost doesn’t seem right to say he had a ‘low-key style,’ but he was one of those people who could direct a situation and be in control of it, yet be fair and honest in a way that got things done. He never raised his voice.”
A Michigan native, Nicholls served in the U.S. Army in the 17th Airborne Division as a paratrooper during World War II. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1973, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America honored him with a Master Coach Award. When he retired, Beloit established an endowed scholarship in Nicholls’ name, and he was inducted into Beloit’s Athletic Hall of Honor in 2001.
When Nicholls marked four decades of coaching at Beloit, he reflected that “Forty years of coaching here has meant 40 years of great associations with students, players, and faculty. I don’t feel I gave them 40 years. I feel they gave me 40.”
Nicholls is survived by two daughters, including Sharon Denu, who works in Beloit’s Accounting Office, five grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren. Memorials may be made to the Bob Nicholls Endowed Scholarship Fund.
Allan Patriquin, professor emeritus of philosophy and religion
Allan Patriquin, a professor of philosophy and religion at Beloit for 33 years and an ordained minister, died on Nov. 20, 2015, in South Hadley, Mass. A native of Mansfield, Mass., Patriquin joined the Beloit College faculty in 1968 and chaired the department from 1982 to 1991. He retired in 2001.
“He single-handedly sustained the study of religion at Beloit College for at least 20 years,” recalled Professor Debra Majeed, one of Patriquin’s colleagues in religious studies. “I am a better teacher and ours is a stronger program because of the standards he set.”
Patriquin’s areas of focus were Islamic religion and culture, ethics in modern society, and interpretations of the Bible. His interests in the Arab world led him to serve as a Malone Faculty Fellow, which took him to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia under the auspices of the National Council on U.S.-Arab relations. He wrote in the 1980s that he was interested in “investigating Islamic resources for peacemaking within the larger context of Islam’s historical development as a religion of social reform.” This research contributed to his teaching of world religions as well as an ethics course he developed around violence and non-violence.
His undergraduate degree was from Harvard. He earned a master’s degree in divinity from Garrett Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.
Patriquin was known as a thoughtful, well-organized contributor to the work and life of the college. He served on numerous college committees and directed the World Outlook Program in Hamburg, Germany. He also preached in local churches and performed the weddings of many former students and colleagues. His involvement in community causes reflected his interests in ethics—in strengthening the Beloit area community and making it more equitable. Among other things, he fought illiteracy among area children by studying literacy programs and working to expand and improve upon them. “I don’t think the problem of illiteracy can be solved 100 percent,” he once wrote. “But great improvements can be made.”
Patriquin is survived by his wife, Charlotte Slocum Patriquin, daughters Lisa Patriquin and Mary Everett-Patriquin, and one grandson.
Les McAllister, professor emeritus of economics and ‘best tennis player in town’
Les McAllister, one of Beloit’s legendary teachers and a valued advisor to scores of Beloit students, died after a brief illness on Oct. 29, 2015, in Michigan. He was 94.
McAllister served on Beloit’s economics faculty from 1953 to 1991 and chaired the department from 1960 to 1974. He was the first to hold the Allen-Bradley Chair in Economics at Beloit. When McAllister received that honor, his faculty colleague Jerry Gustafson remarked that “Les McAllister is possibly the best teacher of undergraduate economics in the country.”
In 1960 and 1977, McAllister was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Beloit. His dedication to the importance of good advising is still evident in one of the faculty reports he filed. “One of the most useful devices I’ve adopted,” he wrote, “has been to set aside one-half hour each week for each advisee as a ‘standing’ appointment.” Whether students kept the appointment or not, McAllister noted that they knew it was their exclusive claim on his time, so they would likely use it. He wrote that it “works beautifully.”
McAllister was a native Chicagoan whose fields of expertise included the economics of national security and arms control and U.S. monetary banking history. He served on the State of Wisconsin Banking Review Board and the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, conducting accreditation visits at colleges from Ohio to New Mexico. In his earlier teaching years, he was a visiting professor at the National War College in Washington, D.C., the country’s top national security college.
McAllister served as a cryptographic security officer in the U.S. Air Force during World War II.
As an undergraduate at Coe College in Iowa, McAllister played tennis all four years and captained the team. When he won the city tennis championship, the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette called him “the best tennis player in town.” Coe College named him to its Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983. He was named an honorary Beloit alumnus in 1986.
McAllister earned his master’s degree from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
An excerpt from McAllister’s emeritus citation, presented when he retired from Beloit, speaks to his legacy:
“You have served Beloit in so many ways: as a fine teacher and attentive advisor, as a supportive and challenging colleague, as an inquiring scholar, and as a person willing to speak his mind and represent the best interests of the faculty.”
He is survived by his wife, Elaine, daughter, Margaret McAllister Jackson, and son-in-law, David Jackson.
Memorial gifts made to Beloit will be directed toward the renewal of Campbell Hall’s façade and entryway, which will be named for Professor McAllister.