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Donald A. Nichols

Published On: Feb 17 2013 06:41:39 AM CST

Madison-Donald Nichols on February 15, 2013 died of complications from Cirrhosis of the liver, caused by Hepatitis C. He lived an interesting and full life.

Born in Madison, Conn. In 1940, then a small rural town, to Edward C. and Ruth N. Nichols, he grew up on a farm, a past he credited with his moral values and common sense. He attended the local public school where he was a scholar, athlete and musician.

In high school, he played the trumpet and earned the solo trumpet chair in the Connecticut All State Band. He entered Yale at 17 and continued to play the trumpet, becoming the top undergraduate trumpet player in the band. He also sang as a soloist in the high school chorus and recently re-kindled his interest in singing, joining the Madison (WI) Symphony Chorus.

He had an avid, lifelong interest in athletics and team sports. In high school, he earned varsity letters in soccer, basketball and baseball. He captained teams in several sports at many levels throughout his life, finally retiring at age 42 from one of Madison (WI) United's competitive soccer teams.

He played in Wisconsin's top amateur soccer league in the late 60s and 70s, a league then dominated by ethnic teams from Milwaukee comprised of first generation immigrants from Europe. Through this he was introduced to the cultures of several nations, often by post-game meals and receptions held at the teams clubhouses and churches. Their contrasting views of teamwork, fairness and discipline were an education for a man in his 20s. He also played on a Ukrainian team while in graduate school, and with two English teams while in England in the fall of 1971. He played on a Chilean team while in Washington in 1975-76 and he played on multi-ethnic teams both while in graduate school at Yale, and in Wisconsin.

After retiring from competitive soccer, he turned to the outdoors. He bought a large plot of land, mostly ridges and timber, just west of Madison, WI where he built a small house. He spent his weekends in this semi-isolated retreat. He enjoyed most outdoor activities, especially hunting and hiking. He liked to track animals and took comfort in just sitting in the woods. He developed an interest in forestry, especially in walnut trees.

He enjoyed machinery saying it took him back to the farm. He had a tractor he used for mowing trails and for taking care of the long gravel driveway. He had a snowplow on an old army truck to keep the cabin available throughout the winter. He took up woodworking, making things from his own timber, always wishing he had more time to make things and build his skills.

He had a varied and rewarding professional career. He graduated from Yale in 1962 with Honors in Economics. He stayed at Yale for his Ph.D., written under Nobel Laureate James Tobin. In 1966, he joined the nationally ranked Economics Department of the University of Wisconsin. He took several leaves of absence but remained a member of the Department for 40 years.

In 1970-71 he was a visiting professor at Yale. In the fall of 1971, he visited the London School of Economics. In 1975-76 he went to Washington as senior economist of the Budget committee of the United States Senate. In 1977-79 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Labor. Back in Wisconsin he was Economic Advisor to the Governor from 1983-86. He subsequently service Governors of both parties on Commissions and advisor committees.

He remained active in his profession after retirement, serving until his death on the Academic Advisory Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and as Chairman of the Board of the Thompson Plumb Funds. He was widely called upon for advice and to speak at public functions. He loved economics as a discipline and economic policy as a practice. While in Washington, he developed the skill of economic forecasting, something he practiced in many venues. He had begun his career as an economic theorist, but was drawn to practical problems of economic policy.

While at the University, he serviced several terms as Chair of the Economics Department. He was chair of the University committee and chair of PROFS, representing the faculty to state government. In 2001, he was appointed Director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs, a position he held until this retirement in 2006. He was a fellow in the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. He was a popular teacher earning several teaching awards. He published numerous professional articles and books.

He is survived by his wife of 11 years, Jane Bartels; by his son, Charles of Madison, WI; his daughter, Elizabeth of St. Paul; his granddaughter, Clare of St. Paul; his brothers, Kenneth and Paul, both of Middletown, CT; his sister, Marcia Stone, Madison, CT. He was preceded in death by two wives, each dying of cancer. He was married to Linda Powley for 20 years and to Barbara Jakubowski for 17 years.

He was happiest in nature in all seasons, and in contemplating difficult economic policy problems. Most of all, he loved to laugh with his wife.

A memorial service will be held at a later date here in Wisconsin.

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