$10 Million Gift to Name the Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute

Contributions totaling $10 million to Florida Atlantic University from David J. S. Nicholson will welcome an era of unprecedented research, education and discovery at FAU’s John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter. 

His generous $9.22 million gift expands on the legislature’s initial investment of $35 million in the 58,000-square-foot neuroscience building currently under construction that will now be named FAU’s Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute. His recent $780,000 gift supports the Institute’s ASCEND (Advancing STEM Community Engagement through Neuroscience Discovery) Program, a linchpin of the Institute’s community education program that seeks to increase access to and interest in science-technology-engineering and math related fields for the next generation of scientists.

 “The biggest scientific challenge of today is to gain a better understanding of the most complex computer ever found, the human brain. Understanding will beget solutions to neurodegenerative diseases which are rampant and plague most families,” said Nicholson. “It is my hope that the Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute of FAU will drive this critical research, while simultaneously fostering a revitalized interest among young people to pursue STEM as a career and improving U.S. rankings in high school science and math education. I am proud to partner with FAU to realize our joint vision over the years ahead.” 

Nicholson and the Stiles-Nicholson Foundation have long had their finger on the pulse of the health sciences and education fields, as well as the needs of FAU’s faculty, researchers and students, working in various capacities with the University over the past 11 years.

“David’s dedication to improving and enhancing the lives of students — and scaling that work to impact our world at large — mirrors what we have been working toward as FAU enters into a new era of excellence,” said FAU President John Kelly.  “His investment will expand and fuel this innovative facility with critical research faculty positions, focus-specific centers and cutting-edge laboratory technology.”

An exciting neuroscience ecosystem is already thriving on FAU’s Jupiter campus, and with the launch of the Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute, the campus promises to become one of the world’s leading venues for neuroscience research, education and community engagement.

“The multi-million-dollar investments in brain research at FAU, the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, and at Scripps Research have resulted in the MacArthur Campus becoming a powerhouse hub for neuroscience research and education,” said Randy D. Blakely, Ph.D., inaugural executive director of the newly christened Institute. “Mr. Nicholson’s gift will ensure for years to come that we can attract the world’s brightest scientists and students to Palm Beach County.” 

Adding to its contribution to state-of-the-art brain research, the Nicholson gift will establish The David J. S. Nicholson Distinguished Professorship in Neuroscience to be held by Blakely and create the David and Lynn Nicholson Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. The center’s focal areas will include efforts to better understand and treat Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, among other devastating brain disorders. Recruitment for a center director is expected to commence in the fall. 

Another major, transformative element of the Nicholson gift will be the establishment of the Stiles-Nicholson STEM Teacher Academy, which will aim to bridge the high-caliber research setting with middle and high school teachers and students and will provide premier experiential STEM training programs for educators through the Jupiter campus’ nationally recognized FAU High. 

Nicholson is a philanthropist and wealth manager with a demonstrated history of successful accomplishments in financial services and education. After a distinguished career with IBM and Weyerhaeuser, Nicholson applied his pioneering mathematical and engineering skills to the global financial markets, ultimately opening three quantitatively driven hedge funds and his own firm, York Management & Research, Inc., in 1978. York relocated the hedge fund complex to Jupiter in 1990 and continues today as a single-family office.

He formed the Stiles-Nicholson Foundation in 1992 to honor the military sacrifices of his father, William Stiles, a fallen soldier, and stepfather William Nicholson, a German POW survivor. The foundation supports major local and national education initiatives which educate citizens about entrepreneurship, the free enterprise system, financial literacy, education reform and STEM. 

Nicholson is a former director of Junior Achievement of the Palm Beaches, Jupiter Medical Center Foundation and the Washington-based Tax Foundation. After 10 years of service, he retired as trustee, treasurer and chairman of the Investment Committee for the Jupiter Medical Center Foundation, and currently volunteers as chair of the Stiles-Nicholson Foundation; vice chair of the South Florida Science Center & Aquarium; trustee of the Foundation for Florida’s Future; director and member of the Chairman’s Council of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County; a member of the Physics and Astronomy Advisory Council of Johns Hopkins University; the Palm Beach County School District Financial Literacy Council and STEM Advisory Council.

Funding and naming opportunities are available on all three levels of the facility, which is set to open in spring 2022.