Our Giving Story: Ron and Liane Nicol

The Duke education that paved the way.

Ron Nicol M.B.A. ’86 knows the value of a financial helping hand. Having grown up in a family of modest means, he paid for his undergraduate degree at the U.S. Naval Academy with a promise of five years of active duty.  (He actually served seven.) Later, as a young father working in Lynchburg, Virginia, he commuted to Duke every weekend to earn his business degree—paid for by the G.I. Bill with a supplement from his employer.  He credits his Duke education with helping him succeed at the Boston Consulting Group, where he is currently a senior partner and managing director.

Not surprisingly, one of Nicol’s heroes is the founder of Duke’s business school. “There is no more inspiring story than that of J.B. Fuqua,” he says, “a man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps with the generous help of Duke University.”  And, like J.B. Fuqua, Nicol wants to provide financial resources to help young people accomplish their dreams.  He and his wife recently started a charitable lead annuity trust to create the Ronald L. and Liane S. Nicol Scholarship Endowment supporting Fuqua graduate students.

Nicol formed his first impressions of Duke when he was in high school in Frostburg, Maryland, watching Duke basketball games and occasionally meeting talented Duke graduates.  When he decided to pursue an M.B.A., he chose Duke over Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago.  He’s never regretted the decision.

At Fuqua, he found his professors extraordinary and the mixture of theory and case studies most valuable. He also learned a lot from his classmates—one of whom became his connection to the Boston Consulting Group, where he says he has had “a fantastic career.”  What he learned at Duke, he feels, has helped him create value at numerous Fortune 50 companies and enhanced his ability to work with people.

In 2008, Nicol joined the Fuqua Board of Visitors and Campaign Steering Committee, delighted to get involved with the institution that meant so much to him. He believes that education can change the world.  It certainly changed his life.

“Louis Pasteur put it well when he said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.’ Duke helped me prepare my mind, and luck has allowed me to be financially successful. It’s an honor and a privilege to contribute to such a fine university.”

What’s your inspiration?

Our expert team can help you honor the memories, people, and places that matter to you. Smart charitable planning—at any giving level—may enable you to do more than you thought possible while propelling Duke forward. Contact us today to unleash your inner philanthropist.

TAGS: Giving and Impact Stories

About the author

Kristen Smalley


Kristen is an accomplished tax attorney with more than 15 years’ legal and tax experience. At Duke, she is responsible for working with donors who are including philanthropy as a component of their overall financial, retirement, and estate plans, as well as donors who give non-cash gifts to Duke such as stock, real estate, or company interests. When she’s not at work, Kristen pounds the pavement training for races and half marathons.