Stanley Nicholson 1936-2021

Swan Song

MISSOULA - Stan was born in 1936 in Missoula to Ewen and Edna Nicholson. He attended Paxon grade school, Missoula County High School and the University of Montana. Stan met his high school sweetheart, Colleen Higgins, in 1951 when he was a freshman. They were married at St. Anthony's in Missoula in 1960.  

Stan studied economics and philosophy at the University of Montana (1958) and earned a PhD in economics at Duke University (1964). He taught at William and Mary College in Virginia and served in the Army for two years and then worked for ten years abroad in Nigeria for USAID, in Colombia as an advisor to the Colombian government and in Brazil with the Ford Foundation.

During the 1970s, he was the Director of Administration for the Brookings Institution and a Director of the Fulbright Program in Washington D.C. During the 1980s, Stan was Vice President of Colby College in Waterville, Maine and he jokingly called himself the "Dean of Stuff."

In 1990, he returned to Montana. They lived in a log home that he designed and his family built on Double Arrow Ranch in Seeley Lake. While he retired in his 50's he never stopped working and helping others connect and improve Montana and Seeley Lake. Stan created and directed a grant-funded Fiscal Forum program to support discussion of tax policy in 12 Montana communities during the 1990s. The Fiscal Forum project was associated with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana. He was also founding director of the Seeley Lake Community Foundation – and he served on several Boards and enjoyed tutoring fourth graders at Seeley Lake Elementary until moving back to Missoula in 2013.

He is survived by his wife Colleen; four children Bruce, Brian, Sean and Shelly; their spouses; and two brothers Don (Ardice) and Stu (Janie) Nicholson. Stan and Colleen have 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

An avid outdoorsman and environmentalist, Stan enjoyed backpacking in the high Mission Mountains and introducing others to the beauty of Big Sky Country. He was a bird watcher and loved a broad range of music from bluegrass/folk to classical. Stan is remembered as a generous mentor and friend and is sorely missed by all that knew him.

Stan died peacefully on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at St. Patrick's Hospital in Missoula. His family is thankful for all the care and dedication of the hospital and Comfort Care staff. In lieu of flowers, you may consider a contribution in his name to the Seeley Lake Community Foundation or to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

A Memorial Service was held Tuesday, Sept. 21. A recording of the service is available at


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