Nicols ends longtime service in financial administration
A three-decade career as a financial administrator for the University of Oregon has been about so much more than bookkeeping, Marianne Nicols said.
She’s helped shape the budgetary and financial policies that guide the College of Arts and Sciences.
Nicols, senior associate dean and chief of operations in the college, will retire from her position May 1 after 30 years with the University of Oregon.
Nicols started as an accountant in the college after her husband, Professor Emeritus John Nicols, took a position with the university as a professor of ancient history.
In the mid-1980s, she was hired as associate dean by Interim President Robert Berdahl, then dean of the college.
Nicols, responsible for financial oversight of the college, began at a time when central administration directly controlled department budgets in the college. But as the details of financial responsibilities shifted from the state to the university, and then from central administration to the colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences adopted a decentralized model, allowing budgeting at the department level.
“Decentralized decision making is so much more interesting,” Nicols said. “You have more control over your destiny. The departments make the decisions how to budget the funding available to them for day to day operations – and on the whole they have shown that they do know best, and predictably have been very judicious with their funds.”
Nicols has overseen operations during a recent period of exceptional growth. Undergraduate student credit hours in the college have jumped 44 percent since 2000-01, to 535,000 this year.
She credits her staff and staff in the departments for rising to handle the operational aspects of growth by embracing the challenges, seeking training opportunities and taking the lead in their areas.
“I’m most proud of having a really good team,” Nicols said. “Having been able to attract and retain them, see them grow and see them making the suggestions of how best to move forward – that’s been incredibly gratifying.”
Nicols also recognized deans of the college for giving her the latitude to succeed in her post.
“They have allowed me to be creative, they listened to what I had to say, they allowed me to exercise authority and gave me the freedom to shape my office,” Nicols said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have those kinds of relationships with the deans I have worked for. It has also helped that I worked in an office with supportive and interesting colleagues and co-workers."
Scott Coltrane, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said, Nicols' contributions over the past three decades have been profound.
"Our financial solvency, organizational health and academic integrity are largely a result of her expert stewardship over the years," Coltrane said. "We will dearly miss her."
Gordon Taylor, previously associate dean and executive officer at Dartmouth College, has accepted the position of associate dean of finance and administration for the college. Taylor, who has an extensive background in investment banking and corporate finance, will begin on a half-time basis July 1 and full-time after September 1st.
Nicols, who finished a Ph.D. in ancient history in the 1990s from University of California-Berkeley, will teach a class on the Roman Republic in fall and a class on the Hellenistic period in winter term. She also plans to travel to Germany to see family, including a son who is expecting a child.
“It will be a nice easing into retirement,” Nicols said.
-- by communications specialist Matt Cooper, UO media relations