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Jack Nixon

At age 80, Jack Nixon prefers to live a busy life. After earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri, serving as the gunnery officer on the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Jenkins, and completing an MBA from Harvard Business School, Nixon moved to Marin County in 1963 to open his own insurance business. Through the years, he has remained active in business and the community, serving for four years on the Marin County Planning Commission and eight on the San Rafael City Council.

Fifty years after moving to Marin, Nixon continues to work full-time as an employee benefits broker and as a financial services adviser with San Rafael-based Taddei, Ludwig and Associates (TLA), where he provides investment management, financial planning, corporate retirement plans, and insurance services expertise. 

But, there’s been one thing missing.

“I completed a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, which included a year of law school, and later an MBA from Harvard Business School, but I never really had much room for any liberal arts courses,” he says. “Being involved on Dominican University advisory committees over the years led me to thinking about my own education. I decided it was time to get a real education in the humanities.”

On May 18, Nixon received a Master’s Degree in Humanities from Dominican. In the audience were more than a dozen family members, including a brother who is flew in from Florida to join the celebration.

Nixon didn’t have to look far when selecting a university with a strong Master of Arts in Humanities program. He and his wife, Norma, have lived next door to Dominican for more than 40 years. They were friends with former President Sister Samuel Conlan and over the years have been active on various neighborhood task force groups.

Instead of focusing his energy entirely on his degree, Nixon decided to “take it slow” by studying one course at a time for the past seven years. This enabled him to continue to work full-time, travel, and coach youth soccer for recreation leagues in San Rafael and Petaluma.

The Dominican courses, he says, have exceeded expectations.

“I’ve taken such a broad range of subjects, from philosophy to literature, religion, art history, history, and rare books. It’s all been very, very good.”

Nixon’s coursework included “Political Philosophy and the Isms of Modernity” and “Virtuosity: Cultivating Moral & Political Character,” taught by Christian Dean, professor in the Department of Political Science and International Studies.

“Jack is an exceedingly thoughtful and intelligent student of the Humanities,” Dean says. “He cares deeply about learning, and he truly seems to relish the challenges of philosophical thought.”

Judy Halebsky, assistant professor of English, recalls how each week Nixon would provide updates about his youth soccer team at the beginning of her “British Literature in Context” class.

“This was a light-hearted introduction to our more serious literary concerns,” she recalls. “More than anything, Jack brought an excitement for learning to the classroom and a patient generosity to the ideas of his peers.”

Nixon has no plans to slow down after commencement. He’s got a full portfolio of clients in Marin and a long reading list to tackle. He also helps Norma with her vegetable garden. “I could not have done any of this without her,” Nixon says of his wife of 53 years. “She has provided so much support and encouragement to me over the years. She got a PhT degree from the Business School—that’s ‘Putting Hubby Through.’”

However, when pressed, he admits he is keen to embark on another journey.

“When I told people that I was going back to school, people would ask me why? I would say that I am going to school to learn something,” Nixon says. “Getting a degree was not my objective. It was all about a continuous journey of learning, a journey which has opened up new vistas to explore in the future.”

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