|Ben A. Nicolas|
The man who has most significantly played a vital role in transforming Northwestern to what it is today is the recipient of this highest award given to an alumnus on the occasion of the 75th Diamond Jubilee Celebration. That Ben A. Nicolas was the unanimous choice is a fitting tribute to his leadership and managerial qualities deeply rooted in a lofty vision and amazing faith to make Northwestern an educational jewel of the north.
Ben A. Nicolas was born ahead of his time. His foresight does not cease to amaze his peers and colleagues; his gift of brilliance, qualities of leadership and managerial acumen and his ability to foresee future consequences of events set him apart from others. He is a man of faith and his quality gives him the confidence, strength and determination to take bold risks and dare to venture into the road less traveled. All these qualities combined together were instrumental in transforming educational institution what is today, a leading institution of learning in the North.
Ben A. Nicolas was born in Laoag City to parents whose great passion that drew them together was education. His Father was Nicolas Narciso Nicolas, who co-founded the Northwestern Academy now Northwestern University. His mother was Filomena Aurelio Nicolas.
At an early age, he showed signs of rare intelligence. He was always at the top of his class, excelling in all subjects graduating at the top of his class in high school. The man in uniform lured him to enroll at the Philippine Military Academy where he finished second in his class. For sometime he joined the faculty of instruction where he also served as head of the Engineering Sciences Department. He was a National Science and Development Board (NSDB) scholar, having topped the tough and competitive examinations for both local and foreign scholarships. He was sent to the University of Michigan to further his studies where he obtained a, Master of Science degree in Actuarial Mathematics and a Master of Science degree in Computer Information and Control Engineering. Highlight of his military career upon his return to the Philippines was his appointment as Director of the Information Systems Division of the then National Intelligence Security Authority (NISA). He installed the first Information Systems outfit in Malacañang. For this pioneering and significant accomplishments he earned his first Cavalier Award. He also organized and served as the first commander of the AFP Computer Systems Command and the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
Confluence of events led him to retire early and heeded a call to take the reins from his father who after 50 years of being Chairman of the Board of Directors of Northwestern College became physically incapacitated. Ben was elected Chairman of the Board and President. He instituted sweeping and much needed reforms that would later lead to massive development and gave birth to a new perspective in running an educational institution. His presidency would signal the Renaissance years of Northwestern that would pave its way to its becoming a University. He played a pivotal role in charting its future direction. A major crisis somehow set back to his plan for Northwestern but which led him to become Deputy Commissioner and subsequently, acting Commissioner of the Insurance Commission, Department of Finance. His expertise and proven competence in bailing out financially-distressed companies made his service in demand. He served as the President of Mantrusse Insurance Corporation; Travelers Insurance and Surety Corporation. His rich exposure in the corporate world further sharpened his managerial acumen and leadership qualities. It was during those years that he felt a void in his life despite financial success. He felt the strong and strange urge to go full time in the academe. This calling was made more manifest when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He thirsted for spiritual nourishment to fill the void in his life. With an understanding wife and family who extended unqualified support, he heeded the call to go full-time in the academe and God, in His mysterious ways, created a situation that would open the door for him to go back as President of the University.
Progressive-minded and development oriented, creative and innovative, he was instrumental in effecting dramatic growth and major changes. He opened relevant courses attuned to global needs. The accomplishments and achievements attributed to his development-oriented leadership formed part of the bountiful blessings Northwestern celebrates on the occasion of its 75th Foundation Anniversary.
What makes Ben A. Nicolas as an outstanding educator and leader is his aggressive response to the fast-changing environment. His tenacity, responsiveness and determination in realizing the vision, mission and goals of the University made him accomplish so much in so short a time. Above all, his amazing faith empowered him to overcome enormous odds and turn negative situations to positive opportunities for development. In recognition for his accomplishments, he received an award as outstanding alumnus for the second time from the Philippine Military Academy.
A man who normally shuns honors, accolades and rewards for himself in favor of the institution, he remarkably did his country, Alma Mater and loved ones proud for his unquestionably laudable contribution to progress and development in the field of higher education.