February 2014 Features

Mike Niccolls ’39: A Tribute

Mike Niccolls '39, 1917-2013

Mike Niccolls ’39, 1917-2013

The Bulletin’s class editors play a crucial role in the magazine’s efforts to capture the vibrancy of the Bryn Mawr community. I was saddened to hear that we recently lost a beloved member of this committed group of volunteers. From 2002 until her death last November, Myrtle “Mike” Niccolls ’39 faithfully told the stories of the class of 1939 with graceful prose and narrative prowess.

“Mike’s dedication to the written word, to her classmates, and to the College brightened my work life, and deepened my understanding of just what a Bryn Mawr education means,” says Associate Director of Publications Robin Parks, who worked with Mike for several years as the Bulletin’s associate editor.

For her final column, published in the November 2013 issue, Mike asked her classmates to reminisce about how their lives were affected by the advent of World War II, just a few months after they graduated. If you haven’t had the chance, I encourage you to read the remarkable accounts she shared.

Apparent in the column is that Mike had every intention of producing another one, despite her fragile physical state. “There are a few ’39ers,” she wrote, “who for one reason or another haven’t yet replied (you know who you are), but we are hoping to hear from you soon.” This admonishment is characteristic of what Susan Messina ’86, M.S.S. ’90, M.L.S.P. ’91, calls Mike’s “incredibly high bar for herself, the work that she did, and for those who worked with her.”

Exacting standards are one of the qualities that inspire many of those who knew Mike to call her the “quintessential Mawrter.” Another was her devotion to the College. Among her other volunteer roles were class president, Bryn Mawr Fund class chair, Career Network representative, and president of the Bryn Mawr Club of D.C. In 2009, the College established a fund in Mike’s name to support summer internships.

“Mike lived, ate, slept, and dreamed Bryn Mawr College,” says Sally Harrison ’71, senior philanthropic advisor for the College. “She was forever connecting us with people who would make good donors and—even until the week before she died—was intent on making sure that her own class gave as consistently and as generously as possible.”

Mike also served as a touchstone for alumnae in the D.C. area, where she resided since the 1940s and pursued a career that included managing the campaign of former Virginia state senator Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax) and serving as top aide to Patricia D. Hughes, the wife of former Maryland governor Harry R. Hughes (D).

A central figure in the Bryn Mawr Club of D.C., “she came to every board meeting and had a finger in every pie,” says former D.C.-Club president Cathya Wing Stephenson ’59.

Mike’s pet project was spearheading and maintaining a career network that connected D.C.-area alumnae with each other and with students looking for jobs or internships in the region. She began this project long before the Internet era, relying instead on personal outreach. Michelle Sara King ’98 recalls that a staple activity at the Boiled Owl Dinner, the D.C. Club’s most popular annual event, was “checking in with Mike.”

“She not only provided career guidance to alumnae, but she also helped recent graduates with the big picture of life in a new city,” King adds. “She took the time substantively to know you, and she had the unique ability to figure out how best to connect you to other people and ideas.”

The Bulletin sends condolences to Mike’s family and friends.

 –Priya Ratneshwar


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