$3 million given by local donors
DUDLEY— After more than a year of construction, Nichols College dedicated
its Fels Student Center on Friday, November 16 at 2:30 p.m. The $10
million structure—financed entirely by private contributions—represents
the largest building investment in Nichols’ nearly 200-year history.
The College had previously announced that the building would be named for
longtime local contributors Gerald and Marilyn Fels.
Gerald Fels is the former CEO of Webster-based Commerce Insurance, as well
as the former chair of the Nichols Board of Trustees and the school’s
interim president during the 2010-11 school year.
Nichols President Susan West Engelkemeyer and the College’s Board of
Trustees hosted the dedication ceremony.
The new facility includes 30,000 square feet to house student services,
such as the Center for Student Involvement, Residence Life and Career
Services; meeting space for student government and clubs; an alternative
food service, and the post office, bookstore and Nichols College radio
Worcester County benefactors played a key role in the building of the new
student center at Nichols College, donating almost $3 million to the
“It is wonderful to recognize these community heroes with a building that
will unite the Nichols community in so many ways,” said Nichols President
Susan West Engelkemeyer at the event. “The College is proud to call this
addition to the campus The Fels Student Center.”
“The student center represents the largest fundraising effort in the
College’s history, and we have been so grateful for the response from the
region,” says Bill Pieczynski, Nichols vice president for advancement.
The 11 largest contributors reside in or have strong ties to the towns of
Webster, Southbridge, and Holden, as well as to the city of Worcester.
The list reads like a Who’s Who of Worcester-area business leaders.
Gerald Fels ‘66, the former CEO of Webster-based Commerce Insurance, former
chair of the Nichols Board of Trustees, and interim president of the
College during the 2010-11 school year, contributed $1 million, as did
former Commerce founder Arthur Remillard.
“Nichols has waited a long time to realize this dream of having a building
that sits at the center of academic and student life,” Fels noted.
“Marilyn and I were committed to the center because it differentiates a
Nichols education and will change the face of the College.”
The Worcester-based George I. Alden Trust added $300,000 and the balance of
the contributions came from eight current or emeritus members of the
Nichols Board of Trustees. They include Southbridge business leaders John
Dirlam, president of J.I. Morris Co.; Alan Peppel MBA ’98, chair of the
Affinity Group, and Dick Hardy, chair emeritus of the Affinity Group; the
Hyde/Dexter-Russell Charitable Foundation; and Southbridge native Martin
Power ’78, trading manager at Koch Supply and Trading LP in Houston.
“ Significant donations to the student center also came from Webster
residents Dr. Suryakant (Sam) Patel and Randy and Donna Becker ’83.
Bob Vaudreuil ’77, a former Board of Trustees chair and president and CEO
of the Protector Group in Worcester, and the George F. and Sybil H. Fuller
Foundation—in the name of the late Russell Fuller, a former Nichols
trustee—round out the list of major donors.
“The generous commitment of business leaders, corporations, and charitable
organizations in central Massachusetts has had a tremendous impact on this
project, just as the student center will have a transformative impact on
Nichols,” says Nichols’ Pieczynski.