RALEIGH — The UNC Board of Governors seats were filled by the General Assembly last week.
The House nominated five members to return to the board: Kellie Hunt Blue of Robeson County, Carolyn L. Coward of Buncombe County, Leo Daughtry of Johnston County, Reginald R. Holley of Brunswick County and current vice-chair Wendy Floyd Murphy of Duplin County. Former state Rep. John Fraley of Iredell County was nominated for the seat currently occupied by Doyle Parrish of Wake County.
The UNC Board of Governors is made up of 24 voting members elected to staggered four-year terms. The members are elected by the Senate and House at the North Carolina General Assembly and no individual can be selected for more than three full four-year terms.
The Senate’s selection included the re-election of Jimmy Clark of Greensboro, Art Pope of Raleigh and board chair Randy Ramsey of Beaufort. The seat vacated by Darrell Allison, who has been appointed Chancellor of Fayetteville State University, will be taken up by former state Sen. Joel Ford of Mecklenburg County.
New members include Kirk Bradley, a real estate developer from Sanford; Lee Roberts, who worked as former Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director before launching a Raleigh real estate investment company; and Sonja Nichols, a businesswoman from Charlotte.
Nichols is the president and CEO of Nicholant Enterprises a provider of “expert Contract Security and Executive Protection Services to clients across the greater Charlotte, N.C. area.” She spoke with North State Journal exclusively to discuss her appointment and her background.
“Only God would have me land this,” said Nichols. “Never ever in a million years would I ever have imagined that I would be invited to what I consider is a very prestigious board.”
Nichols said the UNC BOG represents “all that is North Carolina.” Of her appointment, she said she wants to help represent what “is good about North Carolina” in terms of the state’s smaller, rural colleges and HCBUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
“I don’t think a lot of people give credit to just how good our schools really are,” said Nichols. “There are things we can always do better, and therein lies your opportunity. I think I will represent those things that could be better in those schools, and I can bring a different perspective to the table.”
Philanthropy has played a major role in Nichols’s life in the Charlotte area. She served as the president of the Women’s Impact Fund, one of the largest women’s collective giving groups in the country, which on average gives away half a million dollars a year in grants.
On her philanthropy activity, Nichols laughed and said, “Yeah, I’ve been a little restless.” She said she got into philanthropic work while she was home when her children were young.
Nichols also was a co-chair of the United Negro College Fund’s Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon, which featured Oprah Winfrey. That event brought in a fundraising windfall of over $2.3 million. She said the funds helped pay for grants for students to attend HBCU’s, many of which are “right here in North Carolina.”
She was president of the Good Friends Charlotte Luncheon in 2019, which raised $510,000 to provide funding for items not typically covered by public assistance, like a baby crib. “I love the group because it is so unique,” said Nichols. She also served as chair of the Veterans Bridge Home Salute Gala which helps veterans make the transition back to civilian life.
Nichols is married to Richard Nichols Jr., and the couple has three children — two sons and one daughter.
Speaking about her children with pride and a mother’s joy, Nichol said that her eldest son Richard is a Morehouse College graduate and has recently obtained an MBA from UCLA. Her younger son James also graduated from Morehouse College and is currently at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Nichols’ daughter, Kayla Marie, graduated from Spelman College with a degree in economics and works for a financial planning group in Charlotte.
When asked what one thing people may or may not know about her, Nichols said that she is a cook and characterized herself as a “Black Julia Child.” Her favorite dish is Louisiana Gumbo, and she said she’d “match her gumbo up against anybody.”
“There are some things you are supposed to be humble about, but I am not humble about that!” Nichols said about her gumbo recipe.