Members of the Weber State University geosciences department often called secretary Suzanne Nicholson “Mother Hen,” a nickname that originated when she threw a party for a few secretaries and because she often gave students advice.
Nicholson, 60, was killed in a car accident June 2 in New York City while on vacation with her grandson, Gabriel Larsen, 11. Nicholson had planned to meet her best friend and the friend’s grandson on vacation, with plans including tours of the city and New York Yankees games for Gabriel’s recent birthday, said her husband, Dewane Nicholson.
The taxi they were in slid into another car, causing the taxi to flip and land in the right lane, where a garbage truck hit them. The driver of the taxi , Mohamed Hussain, 46, of Queens was killed, and Gabriel was critically injured. Both the driver of the car and the garbage-truck driver were fine.
Nicholson protected her grandson’s life during the accident by covering his body with her own.
“She was always giving and was a quick thinker,” said Adolph Yonkee, professor and geosciences chair.
Nicholson came to WSU almost four years ago, working as a secretary in the geosciences department. She also helped start a scholarship based on community service and outreach.
“Suzi took this job in large part because she wanted to be with students, she wanted to have that kind of interaction,” said Professor James Wilson. “She’s been really helpful to all our students, helped them with registration, gave them advice about courses, helped them plan schedules. She did almost as much advising as we did.”
Associate professor Michael Hernandez said New York was Nicholson’s favorite city. She’d been planning the trip she took to New York for months. She was planning on taking her grandson to New York along with her best friend and her grandson.
“I kind of consider her the motherly figure of the department,” Hernandez said. “She took care of all of us. She kept the faculty straight, pointing us in the right direction, make sure we got all of our administration stuff done. She was a blessing to have.”
Yonkee said he would often hear Nicholson say she loved her job because she could make a difference in the lives of the students.
“She loved her family,” Hernandez said. “She’s always talking about her family, her kids and her grandkids. She loved doting on her grandkids.”
In her office, Nicholson had pictures of students at events and her family scattered all around.
“She helped with everything you needed help with, but it was personal too,” said geosciences major Michelle Sanders. “She knew everybody, she knew your family, she wanted to know. She went to all the outings with us, she was always there.”
Nicholson was not only a secretary; she was also often a student at WSU. She took geology courses during the year. She would take the tests just to see how she would do and would often do better on the tests than students did.
“She’s not just a secretary,” Sanders said. “She never was.”
Jennifer Peltz of the Associated Press contributed to this story.