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Dennis William Nickels



Memorial Contributions

Edward W. and Barbara J.

Nickels Memorial Scholarship

The Ferris Foundation

 420 Oak Street, Prakken 101

Big Rapids MI 49307

or online


Dennis William Nickels of Spring Lake, MI and Ft. Myers, FL passed away at the age of 75 on Saturday, November 14, 2020.  He was born on September 15, 1945, the eldest child of the late Edward and Barbara (Lynch) Nickels of Wayland, MI.   

Dennis graduated from Ferris State University’s College of Pharmacy in 1969 and worked for his father’s Wayland‐based business, Nickels Pharmacy.  He later established and ran his own Nickels Pharmacy in Plainwell.  While attending Ferris, Dennis met Randi (Randolph) Nickels, the love of his life. The couple wed on June 20, 1970 and celebrated 50 years of marriage earlier this year.    

Dennis completed his MBA from the University of Notre Dame in 1988 and subsequently began a productive and rewarding career as a consultant and principal with Deloitte Consulting.  Among his many accomplishments, Dennis’ leadership laid the groundwork for the expansion of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids.   

Following his “retirement” from Deloitte in 2008, Dennis remained active on the Alumni Boards of Directors for Ferris State University’s School of Pharmacy and the O’Hara Society for the University of Notre Dame.   He was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to the Michigan State Waterways Commission in 2012, on which he proudly served as Chairman.   

Dennis was a transformational alumnus of Ferris State University. As a member of The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors, Dennis was thoughtful, strategic, and passionate. Additionally, Dennis served Ferris as a member of the Now & Always Campaign Cabinet, the Pharmacy Strategic Planning Task Force, the Pharmacy Forward Steering Committee, and the MBA Advisory Board. He gave his time, energy, and financial resources to support students, faculty & staff for generations to come. 

Dennis and Randi were avid boaters for more than 25 years, voyaging on many maritime adventures on the Great Lakes and beyond.  Dennis held a U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License and a U.S. Merchant Marine 100‐ton Ship’s Master License.  The couple shared countless boating trips with their dear friends, David and Linda, whose companionship and humor made the miles memorable. As his cruising log recounts, Dennis felt pride and joy when his granddaughters, “first mate” Emma and “swabby” Julia, joined them on cruising trips to Drummond and Mackinac Islands.   

In addition to boating, Dennis was an outdoor sportsman who enjoyed hunting, fly fishing in the streams of Michigan and Colorado, and marlin fishing expeditions in Baja. After all his travels, Leland, MI remained his favorite spot, and he and his family shared many happy memories together in “Fishtown”.   

Intensely proud of his Irish heritage, Dennis lived for football Saturdays when he would blast the Notre Dame fight song at top volume and cheer on the Fighting Irish.  He traveled to countless home games in South Bend, tailgating with Randi and friends and touring the campus with his daughter Katie, and son‐in‐law Andrew, fellow ND alums.  Dennis’ friends and family will always remember his Irish eyes smiling as he started the morning with a song or told a (tall) Irish tale.   

Dennis will live on through his daughters Katie and Sarah. A true family man, Dennis was fiercely proud of his daughters.  His girls were the lights of his life.  He and Katie shared a love of medical science and he and Sarah shared a love of the great outdoors.  There was not a day where he would not boast about their accomplishments to any passer‐by.   

Dennis will be lovingly remembered by his beloved wife Randi (Carol) Nickels; daughters Katie Howard and Sarah Nickels; son‐in‐law Andrew Howard; daughter‐in‐law Jamie Sheren; granddaughters Emma Howard and Julia Howard; siblings Edward (Jane) Nickels, Patricia (Richard) Nickels, Kathleen (Alexander) VanderWeert, and Phillip (Rose) Nickels; in‐laws Lew and Diane Banwart and Linda Randolph; nieces/nephews: Jenny (Josh) Frick, Phillip Nickels, Jr., Keith (Corey) Nickels, Kimberly Lewis, Aaron (Karyn) Nickels, Kim VanderWeert, Steven Wagstaff, and Ann Yenquis, among many other cherished family members. 

A Memorial Service will take place on Thursday, September 15, 2022, from 5-8 PM at O’Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Chapel, 3980 Cascade Rd SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. A time of sharing will take place 6 PM. The family ask that those in attendance bring a memento that reminds you of Dennis to share.

Dennis and the Nickels family have a long and rich history with Ferris State University. His father, Edward W. Nickels graduated from the College of Pharmacy and Randi is also a graduate of Ferris. To honor the Nickels family, Dennis and Randi established the Edward W. and Barbara J. Nickels Memorial Scholarship to support Pharmacy students at Ferris state University. The endowed scholarship is awarded to students who have the highest financial need in the Pharmacy program. 

The family is asking in lieu of flowers that memorial gifts be made to The Ferris Foundation at 420 Oak Street, Prakken 101, Big Rapids MI 49307 or online at: 


The Irish Blessing 

May the road rise up to meet you. 

May the wind be always at your back. 

May the sun shine warm upon your face; 

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, 

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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5 Responses

  1. So sorry to hear that Dennis has passed. While I moved to Texas from Michigan over 20 years ago, I have many warm memories of Dennis. He was instrumental in opening the partnership door for me at Deloitte so many years ago, as we worked the State of Michigan together. He was driven, optimistic and caring, and I am thankful to have known him. He was a great storyteller and a true friend. Love to Randi and the girls in this difficult time.

  2. You have my deepest condolences. I know you were all very close as a family, and while this will make your loss especially painful, I hope you your memories will bring you comfort in the days and months ahead.

    As was Dennis’s wish, I have sent a contribution to the Edward W. and Barbara J. Nickels Memorial Scholarship.

    Thinking of you,


  3. Dearest Randi and family.
    Woody and I were crushed when you called today. Our memories of our times at Notre Dame and tailgating and especially the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the trip to the Keys are some of our favorite memories! We loved the phone calls to wish Mississippi State good luck during games! I know you aren’t on Facebook much but I posted a fun pic of you and me and will repost it to your page when you feel like looking. Please call us at 615-483-9762 or email me at when you are settled so we can stay in touch! You and the girls are in our prayers. Know you are loved and will develop the strength you need.
    Love, Woody and Pat Edens

  4. Dear Sarah and the rest of the Nickels Family,
    We are so sorry to hear about you Dad. He was such an amazing person from the stories above, and he certainly gave us a great gift in giving us you as part of our team. We hope you find some time for peace, reflection, and connection as a family right now. Please know we are all thinking of you. We made a donation in your Dad’s honor to the Edward W. and Barbara J. Nickels Memorial Scholarship.
    Love, The Clinical Effectiveness Team

  5. Randi
    You have our condolences at the loss of Dennis, especially during the holidays and covid. We send you our love and prayers. Joan and Gary Melvin

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