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Social worker retires from ASU with 39-year legacy

May 01, 2009

Dr. Ann Nichols doesn't sleep.

That's how many people describe the mother of Arizona State University's School of Social Work Tucson component, which Nichols essentially started from the trunk of her car.

Her retirement this summer will give Nichols time to reflect on a 39-year career at ASU, where she has trained more than 1,700 social workers and tirelessly worked to advance social justice and human rights across Arizona.

As the nation faces unprecedented shortages in the human and social service sectors in the coming years, her lifetime of accomplishments is a testament to the widespread impact one social worker can make.

"She has inspired hundreds of students to go out and make a difference in the world," says Dr. Kathy Norgard, an ASU faculty associate who was a student in Nichols' first graduating class.

Prof. Nichols joined ASU in 1970 as an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, then housed on the Tempe campus. When she realized a handful of students drove from Tucson to attend her classes, she began teaching a course in Tucson and "people came out of the woodwork," Nichols says.

Nichols kept a stock of student applications and financial aid forms in her trunk, ferrying the completed materials to Tempe. She helped ASU realize the need to establish a Tucson component to meet the growing demand of students in Southern Arizona.

Since 1978, the faculty, students and graduates of the Tucson component have offered leadership in the health and human services community through clinical practice, community development, agency evaluation, program development, case management, educational supervision, advocacy and grant development.

"The fact that we have had such collaborative relationships in the community and within our faculty, staff and student body has made working here a joy," says Nichols.

Nichols has advocated for issues such as universal health care, death penalty abolition, and prison and immigration reform. As the national director of the Society for Spirituality and Social Work, she brings together human service providers interested in exploring the connection between spirituality and healing.

Her teaching areas have included social services and policy, initiating change in communities and organizations, social work and criminal justice, and strategies against discrimination.

Nichols has received the Jefferson Award for Community Service; Federal Bureau of Prisons Volunteer Service Award; Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers-Arizona Chapter; and the YWCA Woman on the Move Award.

She is the mother of three natural children, five long-term foster children and grandmother of eight.

The Ann Weaver Nichols Scholarship/Fellowship Endowment has been established with the ASU Foundation, using donations from Nichols and other donors. The annual scholarship will provide financial support to Tucson-based students in the Master of Social Work program, especially those who are raising children as single parents or grandparents and who have a commitment to promoting social change to benefit vulnerable populations.

To make a gift to this scholarship endowment, visit or make a check payable to "ASU Foundation" and reference "Ann Nichols Scholarship" (account # 40003040). Please send the check to the College of Public Programs, Attn: Mina Hernandez, Scholarship Administrator, Mail Code 3520, Suite 600, 411. N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004-0685.

The ASU Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that facilitates and manages private gifts to ASU. Contributions to the scholarship endowment may entitle donors to a charitable gift tax deduction under current tax law.

For information about the School of Social Work Tucson component, visit