We’re excited to continue our monthly Member Moment, featuring the wonderful members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Members and Board Emeriti, Shirley and Frank Nicolai, are familiar faces around the farm, as both generous supporters and active volunteers of the Foundation. We are thrilled to announce that our newest addition to the property, the Education Pavilion, has been dedicated to honor their many years of service and commitment to environmental education on the Potomac.
Shirley first visited the farm with her son during his elementary days and fondly remembers climbing the hay loft in the barn, and sneezing from the hay dust. She also participated in a program at the Foundation offered to her Garden Club, where she was invited to join Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Board of Directors, serving from 2001 to 2009. An avid gardener, Shirley remains involved in various garden clubs, including the Tanta Cove Garden Club and served as President of the National Gardens Club from 2011 to 2013, as well as served on the Board of American Horticultural Society & National Arboretum.
Following Shirley’s term, Frank served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors consecutively from 2010 to 2016. In 1970, Frank started an international company in the information technology industry. Retired since 2000, Frank enjoys his time staying busy on his three acres and through his various professional commitments. An active community member, Frank also served on the Board of Melwood from 2003 to 2010, has served on the Board of Sagepoint Senior Living Services since 2013, the Finance Committee of American Society for Cell Biology from 2005 to 2011, and is a current member of the Member Ethics Bowl Committee of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges.
Both Shirley and Frank are avid supporters of the mission and goals of the Foundation, and are committed to sustainability and environmental education. Shirley feels “A combination of stewardship and trying to relate that to children so that they grow up respecting the environment” is one of the important aspects of the mission that speaks to her the most.
The Nicolai’s have a deep respect for nature, an admiration for the outdoors, and love “playing in the dirt.” Shirley’s grandparents owned a farm, and being on our property happily brings her “back in time.” Frank recalls witnessing a turtle nesting along the Wet Meadow, and feels it’s so special to walk along the boardwalk and see animals that one wouldn’t usually encounter. The Nicolai’s believe strongly that for children to experience the wonders of nature is a vital part of their development, which is why they feel the more students we serve, the better. Funding a classroom was a priority of the Nicolais and we are thrilled to announce the addition of the Education Pavilion, in honor of Shirley and Frank Nicolai.
Their intense love of the environment has also encouraged them to travel the world. They are very proud to be able to say that they have visited all 50 states as well as many special destinations, often places with significant gardens, including the Galapagos, Switzerland, and Budapest. Shirley is also a cat lover and owns 100 house plants! Frank, known as “Farmer Frank,” also loves to grow plants from seedlings, and has donated several plants for past AFF plant sales.
We are so grateful for Shirley and Frank’s commitment to the Alice Ferguson Foundation and excited for the future programs at the Education Pavilion!