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 here. He served for 33 months in the U.S Army infantry during World War II, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, and earning both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. After returning to civilian life, Mike enrolled at Wagner College, earning a B.S. degree in accounting, magna cum laude, in three years.
During that time he 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, Mike joined the accounting department of Clark Estates Inc., which managed the assets of the family of Singer Sewing Co. co-founder Edward C. Clark. Mike worked for Clark Estates 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.
Mike Nicolais served for many years as a director of two charitable organizations supported by Clarke Estates, the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Fenimore House, a museum dedicated to James Fenimore Cooper, the great American writer. Upon “retiring” from Clark Estates at the age of 65, he immediately launched his second career as a money manager with Phil Carret, one of Wall Street’s legendary investors, and later at Wall Street Access.
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. 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 chairwoman of the Wagner College Board of Trustees.