Hodges University, a private, not-for-profit four-year institution of higher learning offering 23 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs of study, today announced that it has selected Naples philanthropists Jerry and Arlene Nichols as its 2008 Humanitarians of the Year. The award will be presented at a luncheon sponsored by Baird on April 23, 2008 at 11am at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

The Humanitarian of the Year Award recognizes human beings who are making a beneficial difference in the lives of other human beings.  “This is the 12th year in which Hodges University has bestowed the award upon a local individual or individuals,” said Dr. Louis J. Traina, Vice President of University Advancement for Hodges University.

Originally from Ohio, the Nichols have been residents of Southwest Florida for more than 30 years. Jerry Nichols serves as Senior Vice President for Brown & Brown Benefits and is a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, where he has been recognized for his community service four times. Arlene Nichols, formerly president of her own retail management company, is actively involved in charity work.

The Nichols have generously given financial contributions and volunteer time to their church as well as a countless number of causes focused primarily on local children and education. These not-for-profit organizations include the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, Junior Achievement, Community Foundation of Collier County, Quest for Kids, American Red Cross, and the Ronald McDonald House and Care Mobile.

Jerry Nichols has been actively involved with Hodges University for years. He currently serves as Chairman of the Hodges University Foundation Board and is a supporter of the American Military Veterans Education Fund, which provides scholarship assistance to returning veterans seeking higher education at Hodges University. He also is involved in establishing an endowment fund at Hodges University to ensure the institution’s future.

“Jerry and Arlene Nichols have been instrumental in the growth and development of our institution and the community as a whole,” said Terry McMahan, President of Hodges University. “They are the perfect honorees for our Humanitarian of the Year Award.”

For their support of the community, for fostering hope in those afflicted by despair, for proving that the promise of tomorrow’s future never means forsaking the past, and for demonstrating the degree to which one man and one woman can make a positive difference when times most demand it, Hodges University is pleased to honor Jerry and Arlene Nichols as its 2008 Humanitarians of the Year.

Jerry and Arlene Nichols are only the second local couple to receive the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Previous award recipients include Truly Nolen, Michael Watkins and Ellin Goetz, Clyde Butcher, Peter Thomas, William Schoen, Frances Pew Hayes, Earl Hodges, Corbin Wyant, Jack Humphrey, Myra Janco Daniels, and Lavern Norris Gaynor.

The Nichols will be formally recognized at a luncheon on Wednesday, April 23, 2008. The event is being generously underwritten by Baird, an employee-owned wealth management, capital markets and private equity firm with offices and operating affiliates in the United States, Europe and Asia. The sponsorship agreement between Hodges University and Baird is part of a five-year partnership that matches two organizations with similar reputations and operational philosophies. Under the agreement, Baird, which has four offices in Florida including a branch in Naples, is the first-ever corporate partner to serve as the official named sponsor of the annual Hodges University Humanitarian of the Year ceremony.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Individual tickets cost $125 per person. For information or reservations, call 239-598-6159 or visit

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