2016 Esprit de Corps Award

Congratulations to Don Nickleson our 2016 Esprit de Corps award recipient.

Esprit de Corps means a common spirit of enthusiasm and devotion to a cause among the members of a group. Over the years we have paid tribute to a person, couple, or business that has made extraordinary contributions to Harding Academy. This recipient, by nature, has exhibited a spirit of devotion and cooperation resulting in a positive and lasting impact upon Harding Academy.

This year's award recipient is a perfect example of the kind of faithful, enthusiastic, and generous leader we hope each of our students will become.

He grew up in Indiana where he met the love of his life in junior high. She says he got the girl because he had the coolest car! They married while in college in Jackson, TN, where he worked as a youth minister.

In 1980, he began his business career knocking on doors in downtown Memphis. Dressed in a three-piece-suit, in 100-degree heat, he would march up to the tallest building he could find, punch the elevator button for the highest floor, and announce he was there to apply for a job. This tenacity landed him in the office of W.R. Grace.

He has come a long way professionally from those early days. For the past 13 years, he has served as the CEO and Member of the Board of Comprehensive Pharmacy Services where he helped develop the industry’s first fully integrated and transparent pharmacy services operation for hospitals and health systems.

He is an active member of the Church of Christ at White Station where he has taught classes, hosted small groups, and been involved in missions. After returning from a mission trip to Ghana, he developed a serious illness that put him in the ICU for weeks. When he was discharged he could barely walk across a room. But, typical for him, he saw this as an opportunity, worked hard to recover, and will be running the Boston marathon in 2 weeks.

Not only is he a godly husband, father, and grandfather to his family; he has served that same role for over 10 years to 12 different foster children. He and his wife have seen four children graduate from Harding Academy, and they have two grandchildren currently enrolled at the White Station campus.

His love for Christian education and commitment to Harding Academy is inspiring. He has coached Cub Sports teams, been a faithful and enthusiastic fan of Harding athletes and artists, is on the leaderboard for most Meet the Teacher Nights and Open Houses attended, and recently won his age group in the Happy in Memphis 5K—apparently that is a pre-requisite to winning an award this year.

Though his children have graduated, he has continued to give generously to Harding Academy of his financial resources and his time. He is a long time member of our Board of Trustees and currently serves as the board Chairman.