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Nichols College to Award 480 Degrees at May 6 Commencement

DUDLEY, Mass.—On May 6, 2017, 480 students are expected to graduate from Nichols College with associate, bachelor, and master’s degrees. First, however, these business students will hear inspiring words from a fellow Bison who achieved international success as the leader of a top luxury brand.

Nichols will hold its Commencement ceremony at the DCU Center, at 50 Foster St., Worcester; the event starts at 5 p.m.

For Commencement details, please click here.

Returning to his alma mater, former California Closets Co. President Marty Allen ’75 will deliver the Commencement address and receive an honorary doctorate degree in business administration.

Allen has been a successful leader in business over the course of his career. In 1991, he was hired as president of California Closets Co., a division of Williams-Sonoma. Over the next two years, he rebuilt the company from a $3 million loss, to profitability and record sales. In 1996, he became CEO of Party America, which he led out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a record six months. Party America grew from just over 50 stores to 300 stores nationwide in 18 months—to become the second largest party chain in the country. In 2006, Allen was the first person to be inducted into the Party Retailing Hall of Fame. He was also director of marketing and product development for Jostens, the nation’s largest producer of yearbooks and class rings; and CEO of Scholastic Video.

“The professional skills I gained through my Nichols College experience shaped the first chapter of my business career,” said Allen. “And, now, many chapters later, I proudly return to where I started, to share with this year’s graduates—as they will soon embark on their own professional careers—the importance and value of their Nichols College education in business, entrepreneurship, and leadership.”

Allen graduated in 1975 from Nichols College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, concentrating in management and marketing. At Nichols, he developed his love for business and leadership. He served as senior class president, editor of the yearbook, and president of the Photography Club and the local chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Management; and was on the Who’s Who in Colleges and Universities list. Raised in the Philadelphia area, Allen now lives in Sausalito, Calif.

“Marty epitomizes Nichols College alumni, as someone who found his passion for business and developed his strong leadership skills on ‘The Hill,’” said Nichols College President Susan West Engelkemeyer, Ph.D. “His incredible success in business—from his early career sales records to the turnaround of major companies—is remarkable. I’m certain that members of the Class of 2017 will see glimpses of themselves in Marty.”  

In addition, Shirley A. Becker will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters and will accept an honorary doctorate degree in business administration on behalf of her late husband, Herman F. Becker, who died in 2003 at age 74.

A successful self-made business, civic, and philanthropic leader, Herman Becker exemplified entrepreneurial and humanitarian ideals. His contributions have made a lasting impact in Dudley and Webster.

After high school, as a student at Worcester Trade School, Herman worked as a mechanic and delivery man for Nectar Ice Cream Products, which he bought in 1949 at age 19 and sold to the HP Hood Co. in 1955. He built and ran Nectarland—a full-service restaurant, car hop, and miniature golf course in Webster—for 20 years. In 1962, Herman founded Sterling Realty and served as owner, broker, and developer of Grandview Estates in Dudley and Lakeview Heights in Webster. He was one of the founding directors of The Commerce Insurance Company (now MAPFRE Insurance). During his many years of service to the community, Herman was a longtime secretary of the Webster-Dudley-Oxford Chamber of Commerce, where he tirelessly promoted the growth of business and the wellbeing of the tri-town area. He successfully spearheaded the effort to construct the highway connection (Interstate 395) through Webster and Oxford to the Massachusetts Turnpike in Auburn, and later co-chaired the development of the Webster Industrial Park. He led a series of fundraising initiatives for St. Louis Church and School and founded the St. Louis Endowment Fund, which has raised $5 million in support of Catholic education in Webster.

Shirley Becker has continued her husband’s entrepreneurial and philanthropic leadership in her commitment to the Dudley and Webster-area community and beyond, including supporting disease research and prevention, the arts, and children’s and social services. She has shared her time, talent, and treasure to promote numerous causes, including UMass Medical School and its Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (CANDO) Clinic, Indian River Memorial Hospital, and the Habitat for Humanity of Vero Beach, Fla., where she has lived since 1994. She has served as secretary of the Parents and Friends of St. Louis School, secretary of the Webster/Dudley Visiting Nurses Association, and member of the St. Louis Parish Council.

As matriarch of the Becker family, Shirley has been a generous advocate and supporter of Nichols College. The family boasts eight Nichols degrees: Marc ’81 and his wife, Andrea ’96 MOL ’10, an employee of Nichols; Randy ’83 MBA ’96, a member of the Nichols College Board of Trustees, and his wife, Donna ’83; and grandsons, Kiel ’09, and Andrew ’12. In recognition of their long-term association, service and contributions, Nichols dedicated to the family in 2009 Becker Market, a convenience store in the Copper Beech I Residence Hall.

“We look forward to welcoming Marty Allen and Shirley Becker on May 6 to be a part of our graduates’ important day,” said President Engelkemeyer.


Nichols College is a college of choice for business and leadership education as a result of its distinctive career-focused and leadership-based approaches to learning, both in and out of the classroom. Founded in 1815, Nichols transforms today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders through a dynamic, career-focused business and professional education. Nichols serves students interested primarily in a comprehensive business education that is supported by a strong liberal arts curriculum.


Lorraine U. Martinelle
Director of Public Relations and Social Media
Nichols College
Dudley, Mass.
Twitter: @NicholsNewsroom