Dr. Nichol R. Elman
“We are poor, so go out of this house. Find your own way and don’t come back unless you can bring with you a degree.”
These were words a boy from the town of Siaton heard from his mother when he was still 10 years old. The same words that served as his inspiration to persevere and earn him a total of five degrees from two of the country's prestigious universities today.
That boy is now the Director of Extension of Silliman University, a well-loved mentor to hundreds of students in the Civic Welfare Training Service program, and the concurrent Officer-in-Charge of the Public Assistance and Safety Office.
Dr. Nichol R. Elman is the face of community service of Silliman. He dons many hats, can conveniently jump from his barong and slacks to his khaki shorts, and is popular to students, indigents and politicians alike.
His journey in his pursuit of education was bittersweet. With the words from his mother resonating in his mind, Nichol was convinced that it was only through hard work that he would be able to come home fulfilled and bring yet another reason for his family to be proud of him.
Because his parents couldn't afford to send him to school, Nichol had to live with his relatives. Two distant relatives who were old maids helped him finish elementary school. When he graduated from elementary, his parents decided that he leave for Manila to work along with his siblings. While his siblings worked as waiters in restaurants and house helpers in Manila, Nichol was fixed on taking another path. His passion to continue schooling prevailed. He remembers crying day in and out. Sensing that no amount of convincing would get him to work, he was shipped back home and was made to stay with another relative. He worked at the house of a relative in exchange for the favor of sending him to school.
After completing high school, Nichol applied and was accepted as a scholar in Silliman University. He served as a student assistant to cover the rest of his school fees. He lived with and worked for yet another relative to get free board and lodging. This arrangement was not all too favorable to Nichol. Because his classes started early, and it was awkward for him to eat before the owner of the house woke up, he habitually skipped breakfast. This is the reason why up to the present, he is not used to taking what many consider is the most important meal of the day.
Nichol managed to obtain his degree in Business Administration from Silliman in 1970, with no allowance and barely enough funds left for books. He would hike from home to school and back. And he befriended all his classmates who in turn would lend him their books when it was time for him to prepare for an exam.
Despite the hardship that he experienced, Nichol remained positive about life. He was active in many activities and held key roles in organizations such as the Reserved Officers Training Corps, Alpha Rho Sigma and Men’s Glee Club, which at that time was under the tutelage of the iconic maestro Albert Faurot. Topping his student involvements was his being president of the Student Government before Martial Law was proclaimed.
Quite unsure that he was ready for professional life after obtaining his degree in Business Administration, he studied again in Silliman towards two more bachelor's degrees: Economics in 1972 and Agribusiness in 1974.
On the completion of his third degree, he received a call from Dr. Proceso Udarbe, then Vice President for Academic Affairs. Nichol was asked what degree he would pursue in the next months. Along with the same call was a job offer as an assistant in the Extension Program. He accepted the invitation.
Two years later, an opportunity popped up for him to earn his master's at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños. Nichol was sent on a scholarship administered by the University's Faculty and Staff Development Committee and another one from the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Agriculture. A few years later, from the same university, he would receive his fifth degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Extension Administration.
After earning his master's in Extension Education, he was invited to join Medina College in Ozamiz City as its vice president for academic affairs. He took on the challenge for five years, but eventually came back to Silliman in 1994. It was two years from his return to Silliman that Nichol was promoted to the position of Director of Extension.
With decades of experience in community work, according to Nichol: “Service to the community begins with sincerity. It is only with a pure heart can genuine things come about.”
Himself once a young boy struggling to enter school, Nichol strongly feels for deserving students whose dreams of getting a diploma are hampered by financial difficulty. He would always come to their rescue and explore opportunities for them to study in Silliman through his connections.
The poor young boy from Siaton is now the source of hope of his relatives. Nichol supports the schooling of his relatives who like him before do not have enough to realize their dream of good education. He continues to do this for many years as a commitment to his mother who at her deathbed uttered a wish for him: “Send the children to school.”
With no single regret in life, Nichol pledges to serve other people as long as he can and share whatever he knows. He never forgets to thank God for bestowing upon him the passion of serving others. The willingness to serve other people in all his own ways could have made him decide to be a bachelor up to this time. When asked for the reason why he chose not to build a family of his own, he says: “It is God’s grace so that I could serve others better.”
Let's get to know Nichol more:
Describe yourself in three words.
Strict. Kind. Dedicated.
What is your mantra in life?
“Remain young and useful.”
What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh when I’m excited. I laugh when I’m happy.
What’s your favorite time/day of the week and why?
I love every single second of the day when I meet people and mingle with them.
What do you love doing when not working?
Meet people or new friends.
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
Public Assistance and Safety Office.
What makes you blush?
I don’t easily blush but usually, when I’m excited, I would normally slightly turn red.
If you were an actor, who would you be?
Someone who portrays a role protecting the weak.
Tell us a fact about yourself?
I was an extra in the movie “Kampus” with Vilma Santos as the lead star. My role was a fraternity master initiator, and this happened during my stay at UPLB, which was the movie’s main setting.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Enjoying great conversations with people.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
My humble beginnings and how I reached this point in my life.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
“They Call Me Poor Boy.” This was the song my mother taught me when I was in grade school.
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
Thank God for giving me another day.
What’s your idea of a family?
Family is composed of members who are supportive of each other and who cares and prays for one another.
(NOTE: “Colleague of the Week'” serves as a window into the life of the faculty and staff members of Silliman University. It seeks to showcase colleagues from different departments and units, and present them as “the” faces that form part of the foundation of Silliman. Featured weekly are faculty and staff who have committed themselves to providing members of the Silliman community a campus experience that cultivates competence, character and faith within one and all. We get to know them as people who like any of us also have their fair share of challenges, successes, and an inspiring story to tell. Not all of them may be popular, but not a single one of them lives a life without hope and meaning to share.)