CHICAGO | It will probably be tough for Tom Nicklas to fight back the tears in a few weeks when he walks out of his classroom at Mount Carmel High School.
The memories are as long as the commute from his home in Valparaiso, up Stony Island Avenue and a left turn on West 64th Street to the place he has called home for the last 30 years. Nicklas, who is a math teacher and the school's golf coach for the last 25 years, is retiring.
Friday night, Nicklas, a 1967 Valparaiso High School and 1971 Western Michigan grad, was inducted into the Mount Carmel Hall of Fame in a dinner and ceremony. Even the gruff-voiced "Coach Nick" is elated over the honor.
"It's been a great run for me," Nicklas said. "I got to be around a great group of people and teach some great students. Academics and being a good person is what is important here.
"I am not a Mount Carmel grad, but here it is family and the Mount Carmel people have made me a part of their family."
Nicklas was hired at the school in the 1982-83 school year. He was about to head back to California when a high school friend of his, Charles Nightingale, knew then-coach Bill Barz from their Notre Dame days and told Barz about Nicklas.
"I never knew I would stay 30 years, but I am glad I did," Nicklas said. "This is a great school and look at all the tradition here and the leaders we have produced. What a great place to teach. I am pleased as plum with how everything worked out."