Bob Nichols, 1926-2015
Bob Nichols, a longtime executive at Freese and Nichols and a nationally recognized leader in the engineering profession, passed away Friday, May 8, in Arlington, Texas. He was 88.
During his 67-year career at Freese and Nichols, Bob primarily focused on environmental engineering, coordinating numerous large-scale, multi-discipline and multi-consultant projects. These included water and wastewater treatment plants, wastewater collection systems, water distribution systems, and drainage master plans. Cities across Texas benefited from Bob's broad experience in managing civil engineering projects, his deep understanding of municipal utilities, and his strong ties with state and federal regulatory agencies.
Bob's engineering achievements extended beyond technical expertise, notably in his leadership of the profession and his commitment to advancing ethics. He served in many leadership roles for the National Society of Professional Engineers: Fort Worth chapter president in 1959, Texas society president in 1965-66, and national president in 1978-79. During his national presidency, he oversaw significant changes to the society’s Code of Ethics; he later served as Chairman of the Society’s Board for Ethical Review and as President of the National Institute for Engineering Ethics. His dedication to professional service was so exemplary that each year Freese and Nichols honors an employee with a service award that bears his name.
“Bob was a tireless advocate for ethics in engineering,” says Bob Pence, Freese and Nichols’ current CEO and President. “Even recently, well past when most men would have retired, he was still traveling all over the state to teach ethics. Thanks to Bob’s work, we can be confident that the engineers who design our pipelines, bridges and airports are being held to the highest standards of integrity. We all owe a debt of gratitude to him – not just engineers, all of us.”
Freese and Nichols flourished under Bob's leadership. When the firm incorporated in 1977, he became Vice President, serving in that role for three years and as Executive Vice President for eight more. He was President from 1988 to 1991, and Vice Chairman from 1991 to 1992. From 1992 through this year, he remained active at the firm as President Emeritus, providing valuable quality-assurance insight for projects; supporting high-level client relationships; and teaching professional ethics classes for employees and clients.
Civic duty was also high among Bob's priorities. Perhaps closest to his heart were the Boy Scouts; he was an active Scouting volunteer for more than 30 years and served as President of the Longhorn Council in North Texas and the Ozark Trails Council in southwest Missouri. Bob also served on the Texas A&M Civil Engineering Advisory Board; the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce in Webb City, Mo.; and numerous other civic and educational organizations.
Bob was born June 24, 1926, to Marvin and Ethel Nichols. He was an alumnus of Fort Worth’s Paschal High School and Texas A&M University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. Bob is survived by Frances, his wife of 67 years; his brother Jim and wife Billie; three children; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Read more about Bob and his contributions to southwest Missouri in his feature in the Joplin Globe.
Central United Methodist Church
5 S. Pennsylvania St.
Webb City, Missouri
1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16
A reception at the church will follow the service during which time friends and family are invited to videotape memories of Bob for his family, especially for his great-grandchildren. Written memories will also be treasured.
Private Graveside Service
Greenwood Memorial Park
Fort Worth, Texas
2:00 p.m. Thursday, May 21
Celebration of Life
Arborlawn United Methodist Church
5001 Briarhaven Road
Fort Worth, Texas
4:00 - 6:00 p.m. Thursday, May 21
In lieu of flowers, Bob requested that donations be sent to the Bobby Nichols Jr. Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1, Webb City, MO 64870. We encourage you to sign the guestbook by leaving a comment below and to read more about Bob's legacy in his bio.