by Geoff Larcom, Published June 18, 2014
YPSILANTI – During Timothy Nickels’ senior year in high school, tragedy befell the Lake Fenton school community, as two former students died of a heroin overdose.
Nickels and some of his friends responded to the small Flint area community’s need for perspective and comfort by working with area police, parents and legislators to create a presentation, entitled “Chasing The Dragon,” that showed the effects and dangers of drugs, and, equally important, how to ask for help.
The presentation has been shown around the state, to thousands of students, teachers, administrators and parents, and is credited with helping change the drug prevention culture in public schools and surrounding communities.
Such eagerness to help others, along with his academic success, are among the reasons Nickels, a senior criminology/criminal justice major at Eastern Michigan University, has been chosen as the second recipient of the Greg O'Dell Criminal Justice Scholarship.
The scholarship fund was started two years ago as the key element of the Greg O'Dell Golf Outing, held at Eagle Crest Golf Club in Ypsilanti, MI. The first two outings proved an overwhelming success and have sent organizers well on their way to achieving the-three year goal of endowing a $100,000 scholarship fund to benefit EMU criminal justice students.
The third and final Greg O'Dell Golf Outing will be held Friday, Sept. 19. You can now register for the event and donate to the scholarship at www.emich.edu/odell.
People can register for the golf outing and dinner, or just the dinner. Prices are $125 for golf and $55 for dinner only, with a special combined dinner/golf rate of $75 for EMU faculty and staff.
Greg O'Dell was a proud Eastern alumnus who served as the University’s executive director of the EMU Department of Public Safety. He was known for his professionalism, unwavering integrity, and love for EMU.
O'Dell, an avid golfer, died in Dec. 2011. The outing's motto, "Keep His Dream Alive," speaks to O'Dell's longtime commitment to law enforcement and his goal to fund a scholarship for students seeking careers in the field.
Nickels, from Flint, carries a 3.65 GPA at EMU in addition to his many extracurricular activities, and is on target to graduate from EMU next April.
“I am incredibly thankful, blessed, and honored to receive such a prestigious award that represents an even larger initiative and dream of Mr. O’Dell’s,” Nickels said. “It is extraordinarily humbling to reflect that Mr. O’Dell and I were born and raised in the same area (Flint) some years apart, only to arrive at the same drive, passion, and longing to serve and protect those around us and gaining our education at Eastern Michigan.”
While at Eastern, Nickels has been active in working to help other EMU students succeed. He has served as vice president of the EMU Residence Hall Association, representing the University at state and regional conferences, and now is the RHA’s financial director. Nickels presently works as a resident advisor, providing guidance to fellow students living in the residence halls.
Nickels has been remarkably active in his church as well. At age 18, he was chosen as a trustee for the Lake Fenton United Methodist Church board, becoming the youngest member ever to serve on that oversight body.
He has been called upon as a substitute speaker for his church’s pastor, delivering sermons when the pastor is out of town and even speaking at other area churches. In addition, Nickels, a lover of water and aquatic environments, was tabbed to oversee care and upkeep of the church’s waterfront and dock when that area needed repair.
In his application for the O'Dell scholarship, which awards him $4,000 to help pay for his senior year of studies, Nickels spoke of his time at EMU and his goals.
“Heading into my senior year, I am incredibly thankful for the experience and knowledge I have gained from Eastern, and plan to use it to become a police officer or a conservation officer for the Department of Natural Resources upon graduation,” he said.
O'Dell became executive director of the Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety in 2008 after a distinguished tenure with the Ann Arbor Police Department.
The years that followed saw a wide variety of safety improvements at EMU, including the opening in fall 2009 of a new Department of Public Safety headquarters in a remodeled building at the northwest end of campus, at a cost of $3.9 million.
During O'Dell's tenure, EMU increased campus foot patrols, established a crime-solving unit, increased campus surveillance and greatly enhanced residence hall security.
O'Dell graduated from EMU in 1992 with a bachelor of science degree and then received his Juris Doctor from the University of Toledo College of Law in 1996.
Prior to joining Eastern, O'Dell served as the deputy chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department for four years. During his almost 20 years with the Ann Arbor Police Department, O'Dell served in numerous positions, including interim chief from November 2005 to June 2006.
O'Dell was born in Flint in 1957 and graduated from Clio High School. He died on December 23, 2011 and is survived by his wife, Kathy, and his two daughters, Kelly and Erin.
Eagle Crest Golf Club, a picturesque, championship caliber layout recognized as both playable and challenging, is located on the shores of Ford Lake at 1275 S. Huron Street, Ypsilanti, MI.