In November 2016, Wagner College named the Nicolais School of Business to honor two stalwart supporters of business education, the late Michael A. Nicolais ’49 H’14 and his wife, Margaret Christie Nicolais ’49 H’14.
Mike was born on Staten Island on May 30, 1925, and spent his entire youth there. He served for 33 months in the U.S Army infantry during World War II and returned home before he turned 21 years old. He fought on the German front line, including in the Battle of the Bulge, and was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Upon returning from serving his country, he attended Wagner College, earning a B.S. degree in accounting, magna cum laude, in three years.
During that time, he also met Margaret Christie, a fellow business student. They married on June 7, 1953. (Read more about Mike and Margaret’s time at Wagner).
Shortly after graduating, he joined the Clark Estates, a renowned family office, where he worked for the next 42 years, serving for the last 23 years as its president. He was an excellent value investor who also, from time to time, would dip his toe into the world of venture capital. He was well known on Wall Street and served on many public and private company boards of directors.
During this time, and as part of his relationship with the Clark family, he served for many years as a director of the Baseball Hall of Fame and of the Fenimore House, a museum dedicated to James Fenimore Cooper, the great American writer. Upon “retiring” from the Clark Estates at the age of 65, he immediately launched his second career as a money manager, including working with and for Phil Carret, one of Wall Street’s legendary investors, and at Wall Street Access until his death.
One of the great loves of Mike’s life was his alma mater, Wagner College. He served on the Wagner College Board of Trustees and was a major College benefactor along with his wife, Margaret. In recognition of the time and financial resources Mike and Margaret devoted to Wagner, they were each awarded honorary doctorate degrees in 2014. Also, the president’s home at Wagner is named Nicolais House in their honor.
Mike Nicolais died on November 7, 2016. “His life is a testament to the very best of what America represents in its finest moments: high achievement, self-reliance and civic responsibility, all framed around foundational values of honor, duty, and the highest of ethical standards,” said President Richard Guarasci. Mike and Margaret’s daughter, Joan Nicolais, now serves as a Wagner trustee.