Part of a Petrolia Legacy



Andrew Haves, Lauren Ferguson, Emily Murray, Courtney Sinclair, Jenna Steadman and Sara Cecile have joined a very elite Petrolia group.

The seniors at LCCVI join 376 other who have the distinction of being called Nicol’s Scholars.

Twenty-seven years ago a former Petrolia resident named Harold Robert Nicol set up a private foundation to give away his life savings after he passed away. Although he lived in Florida, he wanted to help his hometown.

So, the Nicol’s Scholarship began. Students apply for the $10,000 grant and are evaluated by a panel of four, which includes the mayor of Petrolia, the principal of LCCVI, the Catholic priest at St. Philip’s and the canon of Christ Anglican Church in Petrolia. LCCVI Principal Linda Jared says it was an inspiring experience.

“I walked away from that feeling I have seen the future and it’s bright,” she told the students, family and friends gathered for the presentation.  ”We’re looking forward to great things from you.”

Rev. Elise Chambers says after reading all 22 applications she expects that will happen. “You have an amazing school.”

“This is the eighth year I’ve been doing this and it is one of the most difficult jobs that I have. It takes a lot of time and effort…but it is the most rewarding job of the mayor of Petrolia. It’s a great pleasure,” he told the Nicol scholars.

This was the first time a member of the Nicol Foundation was not able to attend the event, says retired teacher Doug Inglis who wrote a book on Harold Robert Nicol. He says over the years, they have presented 376 students with the distinction amounting to $3.76 million in the community. “There are not many towns, if any, that have received that amount of money for so long,” says Inglis. “This Town, this community has gained a lot from this man.

“And you are fortunate and deserve to be proud to be called Nicol Scholars.”

Jared agreed saying years from now, people in Petrolia will see that these students earned the distinction and it will show they are committed to their school and community.

“Being a Nicol Scholar is a wonderful thing. It’s a mark of someone who went above and beyond and someone who cares,” says Jared.

This Year’s Nicol Scholars

Andrew Havas of Alvinston who is an army cadet in Strathroy will attend the Royal Military College in Kingston. He received a full scholarship after being named a Nicol scholar, allowing the Foundation to choose an extra student for the bursary.

Lauren Ferguson of Wyoming will be attending Western University in London for Media Information Technology and Culture. While she’s not sure what she would like to do yet, she knows it will likely be in the non-profit sector helping others.

Emily Murray of Petrolia will attend Brescia College at Western University studying French and Education with the goal of teaching elementary school.

Courtney Sinclar of Oil City will be going to California University of Pennsylvania on a partial softball scholarship. She’ll be studying psychology.

Jenna Steadman of Brigden is going to Wilfred Laurier University to study psychology.

And Sara Cecile of Petrolia will spend four months at the Toronto Academy of Acting taking a film-acting course before heading to Queen’s University in Kingston.


Who was Harold Robert Madden Nicol?

In 1914, Harold Robert Madden Nicol enrolled in Grade 9 in what is now LCCVI. But before the school year was out, Nicol had lied about his age and entered the military to fight in the First World War. He was sent to the front in early 1916 and spent a week fighting one of the deadliest battles of the war, The Battle of the Somme before being injured by shrapnel from shells exploding beside him. When he arrived at the military hospital, officials figured out he was only 17 and sent him home with an honourable discharge.

Back at home, Nicol felt too old to begin his high school career, so he took a year-long business course in Chatham. With the diploma in hand, Nicol’s headed to Chicago with his family in the middle of the roaring 20s famous for the exploits of its gangsters during prohibition years.

He found a job with Western Electric which later became AT&T and worked there 44 years. Without a wife or children, Nicol had amassed a fortune of over $2 million. “That’s when he came up with the idea of a scholarship for the high school he had never attended,” says Doug Inglis, who wrote a book about Nicol.