When Samuel F. Nixon of Westfield passed away in 1959, a local newspaperman, quoting the words of Alexander Pope, wrote: “Who builds a church to God, and not to fame, will never mark the marble with his name.”
Pope was right—it can be easier to remember those who would actively promote their own legacy. The journalist, however, was wrong. The civic leadership and dedication shown by Samuel F. Nixon will be remembered in perpetuity, thanks in part to gifts to the Fredonia College Foundation.
In 2001, Roderick Nixon, son of the late Samuel F. Nixon, conceived and funded the Samuel F. Nixon Memorial Scholarship and actively recruited family members across the country to join him in honoring the memory of his father. His efforts paid off—with consistent support for the scholarship provided by Samuel Nixon’s daughter Constance Nixon Wagar, granddaughter Melanie Nixon Reffner and grandson Samuel F. Nixon IV, who wrote from Texas, “My Uncle Rod wrote to me about this project…and I want to support it.”
As a result of Roderick Nixon’s work, the Samuel F. Nixon Memorial Scholarship will provide support to students majoring in elementary education or other curricular areas within the field of education. Special preference will be given to graduates from Mr. Nixon’s hometown Westfield Academy and Central School.
Who was Samuel F. Nixon?
A pillar of the Chautauqua County community during the first half of the 20th century, Mr. Nixon served as a member of the Westfield Board of Education for 34 years, including 22 years as board president. He was also a member of the Fredonia College Council for 20 years and belonged to numerous groups and organizations throughout the Westfield region.
Professionally, Mr. Nixon earned a reputation as one of the top independent communication executives in the United States during his tenure as president of The Chautauqua and Erie Telephone Company. Mr. Nixon also maintained active interests in fruit farming and helped to organize some of the first grape juice cooperatives in the area.
When the first Samuel F. Nixon Memorial Scholarship was presented at the College of Education Scholarship Ceremony in May 2001, Roderick Nixon was invited to address the audience. Reluctant to stand as the center of attention, Roderick Nixon agreed to speak because of his eagerness to honor his father and to discuss the need for new scholarships at SUNY Fredonia, and because he realized that it was important for students to know that their accomplishments were recognized and rewarded by the people of the community.
When Roderick Nixon passed away earlier this year, he left a sizable bequest to ensure scholarship opportunities for future generations. As generous in death as he was in life, Roderick Nixon had accomplished the twin goals of honoring the memory of his father and supporting educational excellence at SUNY Fredonia.
Contrary to the words of Pope, the lessons left by the lives of Samuel and Roderick Nixon can perhaps be more accurately summarized in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “…we can make our lives sublime, and departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.” Thanks to the Nixons’ commitments to SUNY Fredonia and the Chautauqua region, young people throughout New York State will have the opportunity to leave footprints of their own.
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