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Former prof creates the Edward A. Nickerson Fund for Student Success
Former professor E.A. Nickerson

​Former professor E.A. "NIck" Nickerson doffs his baseball cap from The Review to UD student journalists.

Talk to just about any former student of Dr. E.A. "Nick" Nickerson, and they will tell you that his classes were key to their success.

Now Nickerson, a founder of UD's Journalism Program, has taken his support for students to another level, making a substantial gift to create the Edward A. Nickerson Fund for Student Success. The Journalism Program will use the gift to strengthen hands-on learning for its minors.

Nickerson, a former reporter and editor for the Associated Press, arrived at UD in 1970 as a lecturer. By the time he retired in 1991, he had become one of the program's most popular professors and a mentor for student journalists at The Review, UD's independent student newspaper. 

Despite his retirement, Nickerson continued his support for students through the E.A. Nickerson Award, which honors a journalism student who demonstrates "the highest standards of the journalism profession."

With his most recent gift, Nickerson will help students gain experience in the professional world of journalism. 

"Nick's continuing support for students who do journalism is a lesson in itself," said Dr. Deborah Gump, director of the Journalism Program. "Experiential learning is at the core of a strong journalism education. His tradition of journalistic excellence continues to set the standard: Get the facts, explain what they mean, use clear language and, as he still says, keep the faith."

When Nickerson retired in 1991, former students wrote tributes to him and his approach to journalism education. CAS '75 Gene Quinn, a former sports editor at The Review who went on to top editing jobs at the Philadelphia Daily News and the Chicago Tribune, thanked Nickerson for his "tough editing and eye-opening view of the world." 

Quinn's respect has not diminished over the years.

"Every writer – reporter or novelist – needs a good editor. Every journalist needs a good mentor. I had a great editor and a great mentor in my teacher, Edward A. Nickerson," Quinn wrote in a recent email. "Nick's advice and admonitions followed me to newspapers and digital media, including my own start-up media company, Even so, I've buried the lead: Thank you, Nick."

Tom Bierbaum's cartoon
E.A. "Nick" Nickerson

​Nick NIckerson taught students the importance of "taking the initiative and figuring out how to get the job done right," said 1978 graduate Tom Bierbaum.

CAS '78 Tom Bierbaum, who launched a career in reporting and comics at The Review, sent a cartoon (above) along with his 1991 letter, showcasing Nickerson's approach to the classroom. Bierbaum's career included reporting for Variety; writing with his wife, Mary, for DC, Image and Marvel Comics, becoming best known for DC's "Legion of Super-Heroes"; and now, working on Nielsen ratings as vice president of ratings and program information for NBC Entertainment Publicity.

"When I first started at Variety in early '81, feeling overwhelmed and certain to be fired at any moment, one of the veteran reporters checked over a story of mine and said, 'Where did you go to journalism school?'" Bierbaum wrote back in 1991. "I said I went to the journalism program at Delaware, and his response was, 'It must be a good one because you're one of the best-trained reporters I've seen.'"

Bierbaum's respect for Nickerson is deep.

"Under Nick," he wrote in a recent email, "we were thoroughly instructed in what journalism is all about and what it requires, while at the same time allowed at The Review to acquire a skill that's so important out in the working world as a reporter – taking the initiative and figuring out how to get the job done right with a minimal amount of supervision and editing required."

One former student who wasn't part of the 1991 celebration is CAS 1993 Eric Ruth, who spent 33 years as a reporter and editor and is now a writer and editor for UD's alumni magazine.

 "To an empty-headed freshman such as myself," Ruth wrote recently, "he was that one professor who simultaneously contradicted and confirmed my perceptions of academia – contradicting my notions of aloof and cold scholars, confirming my hopes that professors truly cared about their students' hopes and dreams. With 30-plus years of journalism behind me, I can confirm now what I suspected then – he was a real newspaperman."

Nickerson also influenced students who never took one of his classes. CAS 1980 Nancy Karibjanian, a founder of Delaware Public Media and now director of the Center for Political Communication, remembered that Nickerson and now-retired professor Dennis Jackson often coordinated their exercises.

"One in-class exercise taught me a valuable and useful lesson – a journalist's role in a news conference," Karibjanian said. "Edward Nickerson staged a press conference with Dennis Jackson on the fictitious case of the Book Bandit.  Modeled after the 1979 'Gentleman Bandit' robbery spree, we were to ask questions, gather information and write the story before the end of class.  I use a similar technique in my class each semester and know my students find it as valuable and useful as I did."

Story published on 7/24/2018 ; last modified on
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A substantial gift from former professor E.A. "Nick" Nickerson will create a fund that helps students get professional experience while learning in the classroom.

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Helping students move from classroom to newsroom
  • The Journalism Program
  • 221 Memorial Hall
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • 302-831-4921