Priscilla & Michael Nicholas are fixtures of the local philanthropic community, but they see themselves as humble Midwesterners who were blessed to fall in love with Arizona. They moved here from Chicago in 1981 after a friend prompted Michael to visit for a business trip. “I got off the plane and loved it immediately,” he said.
Priscilla was a bit harder to sell. “It was 113 degrees when I landed,” she said. “I had dear friends that lived here, and I knew the Valley was stunning, but leaving family and home is always difficult.”
The couple leaned into their new community and forged wonderful relationships that made Arizona home. Priscilla started a thriving dress shop at The Borgata and Michael’s homebuilding business grew. Their older daughter Michelle was off to college, while their younger daughter Tanya attended Xavier College Preparatory.
Over time, philanthropy became an integral part of their lives. Early on, Priscilla got involved with the American Heart Association and Phoenix Art Museum. “I was a docent for 15 years and loved touring children through the museum. It was so rewarding to see the profound effect of art on these young children.” She chaired the Phoenix Heart Ball in 1997, raised remarkable net proceeds and was thankful for the generosity of the community.
The Nicholases are characteristically low-key about their giving. “When a friend is supporting a cause, you help because those relationships matter,” Priscilla said. Michael agrees. He currently serves on the HonorHealth Foundation board and has served on the St. Joseph’s Hospital board as well. “We’ve been fortunate enough that, given the opportunity, we enjoy being able to help wherever we can make a difference,” he said.
Though they’ve been significant benefactors for decades, they are quick to point out that there is always more they can do. Priscilla has been a stalwart patron for a number of important causes over the years and continues in major leadership roles for the American Heart Association as she served as Chair of the Heart Ball Governing Council.
Priscilla is particularly impressed by the younger generation she sees through her work with the numerous charities she supports. She is active in the WINGS (When In Need Grandmas Serve) at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “These young women are an extraordinary group with energy and creativity and they are not shy about raising money and being very generous personally. It is truly inspiring to see the next generation of Arizona philanthropists,” Priscilla said.
In their spare time, the Nicholases enjoy traveling with their daughters and their families. Michael loves to hit the road. “I’d be gone this afternoon if we could,” he chuckled. “Memories are the joyous moments you share with family and the only thing you take with you.”
Family and philanthropy are at the heart of everything the Nicholases have endeavored to build. “You hope you’ve instilled these values into your children and grandchildren,” Priscilla said. “You want to feel that you have given back as a family.”