AUGUSTA – John Mitchell Nickerson, 75, of a professor emeritus of political science and public administration at University of Maine at Augusta, and a former member of the graduate faculty at University of Maine, died May 26, 2013, in Augusta. Born July 1, 1937, in Lewiston, son of Elmer Winfield Nickerson and Marion Gertrude Howard, he lived his early life in Auburn, where he attended and was active in the public schools. He graduated from Edward Little High School in 1955.
After earning his baccalaureate in political science in 1959 at University of Maine, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. While in the infantry and Military Police Corps, he held various command and staff positions, which included assignments as a platoon leader, company commander and provost marshal with service at home and abroad before he resigned in 1967. While in the Army he earned a master’s degree from Washington State University in 1966. From 1967-1968 he became a research associate at what has become since 1989 the Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy at University of Maine, Orono. While at the center he received a U.S. Justice Department grant to study personnel and training practices in Maine’s municipal police agencies. His yearlong report, “A Study of Selected Personnel Practices with Emphasis on Recruit Selection and Training” published in 1969 culminated in legislation the following year, which in part led to the establishment of Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Another work which he initiated at the center, “Municipal Liability for Insufficient Police Training” published in 1968 became useful in the training curricula of police academies and in academic programs in criminal justice. In 1970, he received an appointment as an assistant professor of political science at University of Maine with service on the Augusta campus offering courses and counsel to UMA students and to students in Orono’s Master of Public Administration degree program. The following year he was awarded his doctorate in political science from University of Idaho. After the establishment of UMA in 1971, he held a joint appointment with Orono on its graduate faculty first as an assistant professor, then as an associate professor, and finally as a professor of political science and public administration until he relinquished his position on the graduate faculty at Orono in 1988 to serve full-time as a professor at UMA. In 1973, he launched the first baccalaureate program at UMA in public administration. It was approved by University System Trustees in 1974 and began enrolling students in 1975. In 2000, the program gained membership in National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and in 2001 the national council in Washington, D.C., awarded the UMA program a local chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha – the National Honor Society of Public Affairs and Administration. Among the local membership are officials in local, county, state and federal government including a former Maine governor and a current U.S. senator. In 1979, he was invited to serve as a lecturer in government at Colby College – a position and a place he found rewarding. Dr. Nickerson was the author of books, monographs, reports and professional journal articles, and for many years worked as a consultant in his field reviewing books for use in political science and public administration. Among the organizations for which he was an editor-consultant were MacMillan, McGraw-Hill, Oxford, Prentice-Hall, St. Martin’s Press and Wadsworth Publishing Co. He also served the public as a member of Augusta’s Board of Zoning Appeals, Maine Highway Safety Committee, Maine State Police Planning Advisory Group and Maine State Board of Assessment Review, among others. Dr. Nickerson’s community service included: foundation member, Colonial Williamsburg, since 2008; an incorporator of Kennebec Health System – divisions: Kennebec Valley Medical Center, Kennebec Long Term Care, Yankee Healthcare, Kennebec Health Trust, from 1980-1997; a life member of American Civil Liberties Union since 1980; a life member of Kennebec Historical Society since 1980; a life member of Kennebec Valley Humane Society since 1980; a life member of American Civil Liberties Union of Maine since 1980; a member of the board of directors of Kennebec Historical Society, from 2010-2013; a member of the governing council, Maine chapter, American Society for Public Administration, from 2005-2009; a member of the legislative committee of American Civil Liberties Union of Maine in 1980; a member of the Maine chapter of American Society for Public Administration since 1981; a member of the Rotary Club of Augusta, from 1980-1985; a member of the leadership council of Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Ala., since 2005; a trustee and treasurer of Lithgow Public Library, Augusta, from 1980-1985; and vice-chairman of Salvation Army Advisory Board, Augusta, from 1980-1985. The academic honor societies of which he was a member included Pi Alpha Alpha, National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration and Pi Sigma Alpha, National Honor Society for Political Science. Learned and professional organizations of which he was a member included: life membership in American Academy of Political and Social Science; American Political Science Association since 1976; American Society for Public Administration since 1976; Maine Magistrates Council since 1997; New England Political Science Association since 1976; Northeastern Political Science Association since 1976; and a life member and benefactor of The Academy of Political Science. Among the biographical entries in which Professor Nickerson may be found are: Who’s Who in America since 1984; Who’s Who in American Politics since 2009; and Who’s Who in the World since 1989. Ever the inveterate traveler, Dr. Nickerson spent much of his summertime later in life traveling the globe visiting the inner recesses of the world’s continents with the exception of Antarctica. His sojourns were all related to his acquisition of a greater understanding of other people, places, politics and culture. Itineraries least likely to appear on a tourist company’s brochure were the ones he liked most to explore. He told many people if ever there were a way to eradicate prejudice and jingoism it could and very likely would be through an understanding and empathy for the world’s people. A consummate internationalist, he considered war and arrogant nationalism to be the greatest scourge of human kind. In 2012, at 75, Dr. Nickerson retired and was voted by his peers to become a professor emeritus. The university granted him that rank and for the remainder of his life he worked from his office in furtherance of the interests of students, the university and his academic discipline. Professor Nickerson’s life was devoted to the teaching of his students. Many of those students have assumed a variety of elective and administrative positions at all levels of government in the region and throughout the world. He followed their careers, took great interest in their accomplishments and spoke often about them. He will be sadly missed by his personal assistants, colleagues and friends. His wisdom, sense of humor and generosity will always be remembered.
People are welcome to attend a graveside service 2 p.m. June 12 in the Nickerson family lot at Maple Grove Cemetery, Mechanic Falls. His friends, acquaintances and colleagues are invited to a gathering in his memory 4 p.m. June 12 at Fireplace Lounge in the Richard J. Randall Student Center, at University of Maine at Augusta. Memorial contributions may be made either to John M. Nickerson Scholarship Fund, University of Maine Foundation, Two Alumni Place, Orono, ME 04469-5792; or John M. Nickerson Scholarship Fund, University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive, Augusta, ME 04330-9410. A service of The Fortin Group/Plummer & Merrill Funeral Home, Cremation and Monument Services, 217 Turner St., Auburn. Online obituary and guest book is available at www.thefortingroupauburn.com.