Bob Nichols, a longtime executive at the Freese and Nichols consulting firm and a nationally recognized leader in the engineering profession, passed away Friday, May 8, in Arlington. He was 88.
During his 67-year career at Freese and Nichols, Nichols primarily focused on environmental engineering, coordinating numerous large-scale, multi-discipline and multi-consultant projects. These included water and wastewater treatment plants, wastewater collection systems, water distribution systems, and drainage master plans.
Nichols’ engineering achievements extended beyond technical expertise, notably in his leadership of the profession and his commitment to advancing ethics. He served in many leadership roles for the National Society of Professional Engineers: Fort Worth chapter president in 1959, Texas society president in 1965-66, and national president in 1978-79. During his national presidency, he oversaw significant changes to the society’s Code of Ethics; he later served as Chairman of the Society’s Board for Ethical Review and as President of the National Institute for Engineering Ethics. His dedication to professional service was so exemplary that each year Freese and Nichols honors an employee with a service award that bears his name.
“Bob was a tireless advocate for ethics in engineering,” says Bob Pence, Freese and Nichols’ current CEO and president. “Even recently, well past when most men would have retired, he was still traveling all over the state to teach ethics. Thanks to Bob’s work, we can be confident that the engineers who design our pipelines, bridges and airports are being held to the highest standards of integrity. We all owe a debt of gratitude to him – not just engineers, all of us.”
Freese and Nichols flourished under Nichols’ leadership. When the firm incorporated in 1977, he became Vice President, serving in that role for three years and as Executive Vice President for eight more. He was president from 1988 to 1991, and vice chairman from 1991 to 1992. From 1992 through this year, he remained active at the firm as president emeritus, providing valuable quality-assurance insight for projects; supporting high-level client relationships; and teaching professional ethics classes for employees and clients.
Civic duty was also high among Nichols’ priorities. Perhaps closest to his heart were the Boy Scouts; he was an active Scouting volunteer for more than 30 years and served as President of the Longhorn Council in North Texas and the Ozark Trails Council in southwest Missouri. Mr. Nichols also served on the Texas A&M Civil Engineering Advisory Board; the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce in Webb City, Mo.; and numerous other civic and educational organizations.
Nichols was born June 24, 1926, to Marvin and Ethel Nichols. He was an alumnus of Fort Worth’s Paschal High School and Texas A&M University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. Mr. Nichols is survived by Frances, his wife of 67 years; his brother Jim and wife Billie; three children; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
To find details about funeral arrangements, sign a guestbook or read more about Mr. Nichols’ legacy, please visit www.freese.com/bob.