Mike and Matt Nichols were the first Tidewater Community College graduates in the family. A year later, it was Rachel Nichols’ turn.
On May 16, Bryan Nichols, dad to all three, makes the walk at the Ted Constant Convocation Center for TCC’s commencement. Mike, Matt, Rachel and daughter-in-law Emily, another TCC grad, will be in the audience cheering him on.
“I guess you could say we’re a TCC family,” Bryan Nichols says.
Bryan Nichols finishes with an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Service. Matt and Rachel earned associate degrees in social sciences and Mike in engineering. Both sons are now graduates of Old Dominion University. Emily Nichols earned her associate in business administration.
Growing up in metropolitan Detroit, Bryan Nichols had an interest in funeral services that he never pursued, choosing the military instead. After 20 years as an aviation electronics technician, he went to work as a test engineer for a local company.
“But really I am a people person,” Nichols says. “Even in the Navy, I enjoyed my time as a Navy counselor and worked at ceremonies and re-enlistments.”
A Saturday morning Bible study at Family Choice Funerals & Cremation in Chesapeake reminded him of his fascination with the field as a youth. He mentioned it in passing to Steve Zittle, vice president at Family Choice, who told him about the TCC funeral services program. Zittle introduced Nichols to program head Frank Walton.
“We were approaching summer semester,” Nichols recalls. “I think it was starting on a Monday and this was a Thursday. He asked me if I was ready to go.”
A few days later, Nichols enrolled in his first college class, unsure of how easy it would be to return to school after so many years. He credits Deb Porter and Debra Griffin, two of his early professors, for facilitating the transition.
“It had been 30-plus years since I had been in school, and they were such a help,” he says.
Another boost: Nichols received post-9/11 GI benefits, which covered 80 percent of his costs.
Bryan Nichols in his own words
In addition to his classroom experience, Nichols has completed the required 3,000-hour funeral service internship at Family Choice, where he plans to work full time after passing the licensed funeral service provider and state licensing exams. Nichols embraces all that comes with his new career.
“The first time I was able to go through the experience with a family, I realized how much it meant to them,” he says. “We’re together not because a loved one passed, but because a loved one lived. There’s a story to celebrate, and that’s what I’m here for.”
TCC laid the foundation for his long-awaited career path.
“TCC was a really great experience,” he says. “I’m finally in the right place.”