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Alumni in Focus

Q / A with Nicol Family

Fall/Winter 2017


Abby Barnes ’03 Nicol Ben Nicol ’03
Indianapolis, Indiana

For the Nicol family, Valpo is a family affair. Both 2003 graduates, Abby Barnes Nicol and Ben Nicol met on campus when Ben was a sophomore and Abby a junior (Abby graduated in five years after pursuing a communications/education double major). Fourteen years later, they now live in Indianapolis, fully invested in their careers and raising three children — Graham (3), Ashton (2), and Grier (1). Ben, chief executive officer of the Phi Kappa Psi Foundation, recently received the William D. Jenkins Outstanding Foundation Professional Award, an honor presented annually by the North-American Interfraternity Conference Foundation (NICF) to one outstanding fundraising professional of a fraternity or sorority foundation. Abby, head of sales training at Hibu, leads the organization’s training and onboarding efforts nationwide. She has been with the company 13 years and has served in a variety of leadership roles.

What do you think is the most challenging part about being leaders professionally and being there for your family at the same time?
We chuckle at this question because we think we are still learning to manage the art of balance — between family, work, church, and community involvement. We often talk about how people say it’s a marathon, not a sprint — and we laugh and say we’re participating in a sprint marathon! But that is what makes it all so fun and rewarding. We are doing everything we had hoped to do in life, and we’re having fun along the way, all while raising three thoughtful, outgoing, and great kids. As we reflect on our time at Valpo, between sorority and fraternity life and numerous leadership roles, our experiences taught us how to multi-task gracefully, how to delegate wisely, and how to uncover our team members’ greatest strengths to maximize the resources we are fortunate enough to work with every day.

You are both active in various philanthropic causes and your church community. How did Valpo play a role in instilling that commitment for you?
Giving back became a learned habit and servant leadership became part of who we were during our undergraduate years at Valpo. It wasn’t until we graduated that we really began to realize how special and unique this aspect of our collegiate time was — we are forever grateful for the philanthropic foundation that Valpo instilled in our daily lives.

You are also still active with the University, even 15 years after graduating. Why?
Well, when you meet your spouse at Valpo, every day you are reminded what an important role the University played. But aside from that, Valpo is where we made lifelong friends. Sorority and fraternity life was especially meaningful to both of us, for the friends we made and the opportunities it gave us to develop many of the skills we still use today. What’s more — as two people who were born and raised in Christian homes, Valpo helped us mature in our faith and make it our own. We want to continue to see the University be that place for students for years to come — maybe even our children someday — as a place for personal and vocational exploration! So, whether it’s through volunteering or financial gifts, we believe it’s important to continue to build the Valpo experience that provided us so much.

Topics Alumni Service

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