David Nichols ranks as one of the most revered members of Baylor University’s political science department. Dr. Nichols retired in spring of 2021 after more than forty years of teaching at such places as Catholic University, Fordham University, and Baylor University. Former students, friends, and colleagues gathered in historic Old Town Alexandria for a conference that honored an old friend of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI).
The conference centered on themes of David’s scholarship – separation of powers, American constitutionalism, and the presidency. The weekend started with a formal dinner, hosted at a historic inn near George Washington’s Mount Vernon. After good food and drink, Adam Carrington (Hillsdale College) delivered a welcoming toast and was followed by tributes to David from former students and friends. Tom Pope (Lee University) and Joe Wysocki (Belmont Abbey College) spoke of David’s role as a teacher and mentor; Brad Wilson (Princeton University) spoke of their early friendship as roommates and graduate students together, and Mary Nichols delivered a moving speech on the careers, life, and friendships forged in the years of marriage with David.
The next day, breakfast was offered at historic Gadsby’s Tavern, the site of Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural celebration. After breakfast, Kevin Burns (Christendom College) offered opening remarks on the themes of the conference. Nine former students of David (many of whom are former participants in AHI conferences as well) presented papers on topics related to David Nichols’ scholarship and teaching – Ben Slomski (Ashland University) discussed the constitutional role and history of the judicial branch; Jacob Boros (Arizona State University) spoke of the role of the American flag in civic life, and its relationship to the constitution; Jerome Foss (St. Vincent College) argued that Shakespeare’s Macbeth teaches a new way of looking at executive authority.
The conference closed with a final tribute to David Nichols from conference organizer Chris Bissex, speaking of the many ways that David impacted the life of his students through his wisdom, willingness to go outside the established path, and his deep love and friendship. Chris presented David with a US flag, flown over the US Capitol earlier that week; a signed book from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; and a framed group photo of the conference attendees, signed by all present. Upon closing, the group retired to a local beerhall for a relaxing evening of conversation and merriment.
The conference was a fitting tribute to David Nichols role as a teacher, a scholar, and a friend. It was made possible by generous donations from the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, Baylor University, St. Vincent College, and Lee University.