University Recreation

Celebrating Eric Nickel, NIRSA 2020 Honor Award Recipient

Eric Nickel, Director of University Recreation, recently awarded the 2020 NIRSA Honor Award


The NIRSA (Leaders in Collegiate Recreation) Honor Award is the highest accolade granted by the association for Leaders in Collegiate Recreation.

On February 22, 2021, hundreds of JMU alumni, JMU staff members, NIRSA colleagues across the country, family members and friends gathered for a virtual celebration to celebrate Eric Nickel's significant contributions to NIRSA and to the campus recreation profession. Read NIRSA's award announcement, which highlights Eric's impact on the field of collegiate recreation.

Dr. Julie Wallace Carr, Eric Nickel's JMU colleague of over 25 years, presented the medal during the Honor Award ceremony.

In 1995, Eric Nickel moved his young family to Virginia to become the first Director of what at the time was a still unnamed, new recreation program at James Madison University.

“The first thing that Eric did when he interviewed for the position of Director was to paint a vision of what campus recreation could be at James Madison University. When he arrived on campus, he had our staff add to that vision and created a level of buy-in that I have not seen anywhere else on campus or during my entire 31-year career,” said Dr. Julie Wallace Carr, UREC Senior Associate Director and Professor of Sport and Recreation Management.

Eric has taken his staff of five full-time staff and four graduate assistants overseeing 75 students when he started, to today’s staff of 28 professionals, ten graduate assistants, and over 600 student staff. Throughout this time, Eric forged a leadership style rooted in student learning and development, modeled a commitment to continuous professional growth, encouraged UREC graduates to "spread a little UREC," and helped shaped the landscape of campus recreation across North America. Read more about Eric's career and impact!

And JMU grad Rachael Finley, Director of Campus Recreation at York College of Pennsylvania, adds: “We may never be able to quantify the impact of Eric’s influence on our profession, but anyone who has served with him, been under his leadership, or participated in a JMU program can certainly qualify the scope of his influence.”

Congratulations, Eric!


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Published: Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Last Updated: Monday, June 7, 2021

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