Tony and Sonja Nicholson
Photo courtesy of Orlando Magazine

To us, the Nicholsons are more than just a name. They are our supporters, our advisors, and most importantly, our friends.

Mr. Anthony J. Nicholson and Mrs. Sonja Rose Nicholson have long been involved with the University of Central Florida, which they like to refer to as their second home. They both previously served on the UCF Board of Trustees while Tony Nicholson has served as chief of the UCF Development Committee and Sonja Nicholson has served as a member of the board of directors for the Golden Knights Club. In 1996, the Nicholsons pledged a $2 million donation to the university, and in return, the university named the School of Communication after them. The Nicholson School of Communication became the first program or building at UCF to be named after a person.

Since then, the Nicholsons have remained actively involved in the school. They are members of the Board of Visitors, which assists the faculty and administration in enhancing the quality of the school’s educational and research missions. They are also supportive of the advertising-public relations department’s Quotes Club, of which they are honorary members. In 2000, the Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Committee inducted Tony Nicholson into the school’s Hall of Fame as an honorary member.

The Nicholsons are also very involved with life outside of the Nicholson School. Currently, Tony Nicholson serves as a member of the board of directors for both the UCF Foundation and the UCF Athletics Association. The Nicholsons’ continued philanthropy with UCF has earned them the rank of Diamond Knights, which is the highest level of donor giving. Together, they have donated $2 million for the construction of the Nicholson Fieldhouse, the first full-length indoor football field in the south. They also helped to pay for the football team’s entry fee for the Mid-American Conference in 2002.

About Tony Nicholson

Tony Nicholson started his entrepreneurial career in 1962, shortly after he graduated from college. He attended Tulane University, where he was very engaged in the college life. He was a member of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, which he joined in 1956, and he was elected senior class president in 1960. That same year, he graduated from Tulane with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

After graduation, Nicholson began working in new site acquisition and lease negotiation for the McDonald’s Corporation. This experience led Nicholson to Site Finders Unlimited, a real estate brokerage, where he offered site locations to food chains. Within a short period of time, Nicholson had mastered the business and decided to start his own company, Anthony J. Nicholson Inc. The company’s main function was as a real estate brokerage dealing in the placement of first, second and land mortgages. In this position, Nicholson was able to place several million dollars’ worth of land mortgages, the largest being the Tyson Corner Shopping Center in Washington, D.C. At that time, this was the largest shopping center in the United States.

Soon thereafter, he expanded his services to financing and managing apartments. This decision led him to the Orlando area in 1967. Once in Central Florida, he joined in limited partnerships with interests in some 2,000 apartments from West Berlin, New Jersey, to Orlando, Florida. He was responsible for locating properties, selling properties and managing the assets for the partners. He also owned and operated more than 850 apartment units in Louisiana.

Meanwhile, Nicholson’s Orlando-based business empire started to grow. In 1981, he founded Alltelco, Orlando’s first long-distance telephone resale company, which he sold in 1990 to Phone One. Not long after, he founded Hi-Res Magazine, which was internationally distributed by Dell with 150,000 copies in monthly distribution. Nicholson then bought Microfilm Services in Orlando and formed Dakota Microfilm Services, which he sold in 1996.

In the mid-80s, Nicholson even brought a touch of Hollywood to Orlando. In 1985, he formed Nicholson International Productions Inc., a company that promoted concerts and managed and produced videos here in Florida. The company co-produced Richard Harris in Camelot and produced “Swayze Dancing,” featuring actor Patrick Swayze. The video won the ITA Gold Video Award for production. Additionally, the company is responsible for employee leasing and real estate acquisition.

After working in video production, Nicholson then ventured into radio production. He purchased “Pirate Radio” in Panama City, Florida, and under his direction, the station soon rose to No. 1. He owned the radio station for two years before selling it in 1992.

Although Nicholson wore many different hats over the course of his career, his main focus was on real estate development and building. He founded Nicholson Homes, and was the president and co-owner of the company, along with his wife, Sonja. Since 1995, Nicholson has overseen the development of more than 3,000 homes and 10,000 lots in the Orlando area.

Over the past few years, Nicholson’s main focus has shifted toward the arts. He has been a limited partner in Broadway shows such as “Porgy and Bess,” “The Best Man,” starring James Earl Jones; and “Evita,” starring Ricky Martin. He has also invested in “Matilda” and “Cinderella.”

Professionally, Nicholson has been involved in a number of organizations. He has been elected to the board of directors for Who’s Who Worldwide Business Leaders, the New York City Center, the Orlando Area Apartment Association, the Florida Apartment Association and the National Apartment Association. He also serves as president of the Orlando Area Apartment Association, the Committee of 200 for the Orlando Area Chamber of Commerce and the Walt Disney Memorial Cancer Center at Florida Hospital.

Nicholson’s present companies include Nicholson USA Properties Inc., Affordable Homes of America Inc., Magic Housing Inc., United States Financial Services Inc., U.S. Title Co., and Systems and Solutions International. He is also one of the owners of the Orlando Predators.

About Sonja Nicholson

Like her husband, Sonja Nicholson also has a passion for real estate. She is the owner of RE/MAX Park Avenue in Winter Park, a boutique real estate agency that was previously known as Rose Properties Inc.

In 1980, she moved to the Orlando area from Birmingham, Alabama, and shortly thereafter, she earned her Real Estate Salesman License and her Brokers License. After working with local real estate experts, she started her own real estate company.

Nicholson is currently on the Florida Hospital Cancer Board, the Board of the Nicholson Center, the Board of Directors for the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, the YMCA of Central Florida’s Metropolitan Board, Winter Park Memorial Women’s Task Force, the Florida Leadership Council, The Rep Theatre, and is an Emeritus Board Member. She was previously on the Orlando Chamber of Commerce Committee and Record Management Boards.

Her humanitarian efforts extend to other parts of the Central Florida community, with donations that have led to the construction of aquariums in numerous Florida Hospital locations around the area. The Coalition for the Homeless, the Central Florida Children’s Home, the Shrine Circus and Kissimmee Little League have also benefited from her support.

The Nicholson Name

The Nicholson name isn’t exclusive to the UCF campus. The Nicholson Center at the Florida Hospital in Celebration was also named after the philanthropic couple, who donated $5 million to Florida Hospital to build the center. The $35 million, state-of-the-art facility now trains thousands of surgeons from all across the nation in robotic surgery, particularly in the use of the da Vinci Surgical System.


Buhr Graduate Endowed Scholarship

Founding Date: Jan. 9, 2003

This annually awarded endowed scholarship was created in 2003 with the purpose of providing financial assistance to students on the basis of merit. The Buhr Graduate Endowed Scholarship was established at an opportune time in the program’s growth and has been of great benefit as the school has worked toward new and innovative programs that continue to attract top students to the university.

Donald J. Bergquist Endowed Scholarship

Founding Date: Jan. 4, 2013

This scholarship fund was established in honor of Dr. Thomas O. Morgan, a faculty member who gave
the donor, Donald J. Berquist, excellent advice that helped him to reach his goals in life, and prepared him to get where he is today. That advice included the following:

1. Reflection – understand your talents and analyze your goals so that you can
choose paths in life that will provide both rewards and adventure.

2. Exploration – grasp the complexities, differences, perspectives, beyond the
boundaries of what is familiar and comfortable to be better prepared for the
world that waits over the horizon.

3. Preparation – find the place, teachers, friends, mentors, and educational
experiences that best suit your goals and personal style to prepare you for the
world of today and tomorrow.

Students chosen to be recipients of this competitive scholarship are screened by a College Scholarship selection committee who then sends recommendations to the director of the school for final selection and approval.

Florida Association of Broadcasters Scholarship

Founding Date: Dec. 8, 1998
This operating scholarship was created to help fund a UCF senior majoring in one of the disciplines in the Nicholson School of Communication.

FPRA Dr. Bob Davis Endowed Scholarship

Founding Date:
In 1978, an endowed scholarship fund to be known as the “Roast & Toast Scholarship” was created. Since its inception, the fund has received over $290,000 in contributions. The original intent of the Roast & Toast Endowed Scholarship was to provide awards to University students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences in the Communication Department studying in the field of communication.
In 2014, the “Roast & Toast Scholarship” was renamed in honor of Dr. Bob Davis, Ph.D., ABC, APR, CPRC, retired professor from the University of Central Florida who gave tirelessly to the UCF community for over three decades. This award honors an individual who worked behind the scenes in support of the Nicholson School as well as the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA).

Kamelot Quasi Endowed Scholarship

Founding Date: July 1, 2008
Mrs. Fances Johnson, previous NSC faculty member, was the founder and primary organizer for the Kamelot Scholarship and The Kamelot Scholarship Auction. According to Mrs. Johnson’s wishes, the two accounts were combined into one account to establish the Kamelot Quasi Endowed Scholarship.
The scholarship is awarded each fall semester to a university student enrolled in the
College of Sciences’ Nicholson School and one scholarship will be awarded each fall semester to an university student enrolled in the College of Arts and Humanities studying in the theatre program.

Harris Corporation Broadcast Center Endowment Fund

Founding Date: Nov. 30, 1999
The Harris Corporation’s generously contributed to the Nicholson School of Communication in 1996. The endowment has been an integral part of the continued development of transformative and cutting edge teaching and research methods.

Bernard Kissel Memorial Fund

Founding Date: Oct. 20, 1999
The Bernard Kissel Memorial was created to be used to support the annual Bernard C. Kissel Annual Outstanding Student Competition. Speech participants must be pursuing their undergraduate degree at UCF and are tasked with delivering an extemporaneous persuasive speech addressing the theme of the competition. The competition encourages students to take a stance regarding the theme and are encouraged to incorporate originality.

The Weinberg Family Scholarship

Founding Date: Sep. 17, 2001
In 2001 Wayne Weinberg gave a one-time charitable gift, designated as a non-endowed fund, to the Nicholson School to help support eligible students who successfully completed an internship at WDBO Radio.

Irene Farrell Pynn Endowed Communication Scholarship

Founding Date: July 21, 2007
This endowed fund was established by Roger and Shelley Pynn, and has had contributions of more than $15,000 since 1998. The scholarship is awarded annually and is awarded to applicants who are reviewed by both university faculty and administrators, as well as one member of the Pynn-Kiefer families. Recommendations for recipients of the scholarship are sent to the appropriate university administrator for final selection and approval.

Brockman Vidcomm RTV Scholarship

Founding Date: July 30, 1990
The Harry Brockman VIDCOMM RTV Scholarship Fund is continued at the University of Central Florida through gifts from Jan Richard, VIDCOMM Productions, in honor of Harry Brockman.
The fund was established in 1989 by the University of Central Florida Foundation to award a scholarship to a selected R-TV major. An annual contribution of $1,200 shall be made in monthly installments by Jan Richard to the UCF Foundation beginning August 1990. The purpose of the fund is to award annual scholarships to full-time students in the School of Communication.

Central Florida Future Scholarship Fund

Founding Date: Sept. 3, 1997
In the fall of 1997, a non-endowed scholarship was funded by the Central Florida Future to help jumpstart the careers of students at the Nicholson School of Communication. The Central Florida Future was the universities’ first independently run student newspaper. As such, they provided students with unique opportunities to learn with hands-on experience from passionate leaders from around Orlando. The Nicholson School is grateful for all of the contributions made by the Central Florida Future over the years.

Darden Restaurants Communication Scholarship

Founding Date: March 12, 1999
The Darden Restaurants Communication scholarship was created as an endowed fund for the Nicholson School of Communication. The scholarship was created to support undergraduate junior or senior students enrolled at the Nicholson School of Communication who demonstrated financial need.

Dr. Milan Meeske Memorial Endowed Scholarship

Founding Date: Sept. 4, 2008
In September 2008, Margaret E. Meeske and the Nicholson School of Communication worked together to name an annual fund, made possible by Ms. Meeske, after the late Dr. Milan Meeske. Dr. Meeske joined the radio-television faculty at the Nicholson School in 1970 and served as director from 1993-2003. It is in the spirit of scholarship and continued excellence that this fund is dedicated in memory of Dr. Meeske and his legacy.

Dr. Fred Fedler Endowed Communication Scholarship

Date Founded: June 30, 1999
The Dr. Fred Fedler endowed fund was created to help students demonstrating financial need. The Nicholson School is grateful to Dr. Fedler and his contributions that have helped to enrich the lives of many students.

Margaret Gerow – Daniel May Communication Scholarship

Date Founded: May 9, 1990
The Margaret s. Gerow and Daniel J. May Scholarship Fund is established in the School of Communication at the University of Central Florida through a bequest from Mrs. Gerow and gifts from family and friends. The intent of the donors was to create a permanent, endowed scholarship fund to assist communication students, and to honor the memory of Margaret S. Gerow.

Mervin (Babe) Katz Scholarship

Date Founded: June 24, 1987
To honor the life and memory of their father, “Babe”, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen B. Levensohn established a fund at the Nicholson School as a gift and pledge. The scholarship’s primary goal was to help provide financial relief to students engaged in on-air activity with WUCF-FM. The Nicholson’s are grateful for all of the Levensohn’s contributions.

Orlando Sentinel Writing Scholarship

Founding Date: June 28, 1983
Historically, the Orlando sentinel provided significant and ongoing support to the University of Central Florida. As one of the strongest supporters of the University, the Sentinel aimed to achieve several goals in providing financial aid to students at the Nicholson School and the University. We are grateful for their generous contributions and their commitment to higher education at UCF.

Richard Nelson Journalism Scholarship

Date Founded:
This fund was established through the UCF Foundation as a memorial to UCF graduate Richard Nelson, ’78. The generous donations from Don Gilliland into the fund has helped to provide financial support to UCF students in financial need. The Nicholson School of Communication is grateful to Mr. Gilliland for his contributions.

Tony and Sonja Nicholson Endowment for the Nicholson School of Communication

Date Founded: Jan. 31, 2005
In 1996, the Nicholsons pledged a $2 million donation to the university, and in return, the university named the School of Communication after them. The Nicholson School of Communication became the first program or building at UCF to be named after a person. To us, the Nicholsons are more than just a name. They are our supporters, our advisors, and most importantly, our friends.

William K. Gratsy Memorial Communication Scholarship

Date Founded: Mar. 28, 2000

Newbill Scholarship Fund

Date Founded: Nov. 20, 2012
The Newbill Internship Award Program is selective and highly competitive and is opened to all eligible students at the Nicholson School of Communication beginning January 2013. The fund supports experiential-academic learning opportunities for selected undergraduate students, who have to opportunity to gain practical skills with leading industry professionals while earning academic credit.

PRSA Orlando/Frank R. Stansberry Endowed Scholarship

Date Founded: June 29, 2010

Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund

Date Founded: Oct. 21, 2014
Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can- and must pursue it in a practical sense, in a way that assembles and verifies fact s and where accuracy matters in the inevitable debate and dialogue that characterizes a healthy and modern society. Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context.
Steven Sotloff was a man who searched for truth and facts in a world with conflicting intellectual, political, social and cultural understandings of the human condition. His search took him far from his home in South Florida so that he might see, question, understand and ultimately explain to others some of the most complex questions that confront a 21st-century journalist.
His untimely death is mourned by his home country and by the UCF community with whom he once studied, a community that seeks to honor his courage, his example and his commitment to the profession of journalism with a named endowed fund in his honor.