Valley Dispatch Photo by Gayle Simone
Methuen Board of Trade’s Person of the Year Arthur Nicholson with his wife, Susan, left, and Nancy Carace, right, of the Board of Trade.

METHUEN — Honoring Arthur Nicholson was the easy part.

Roasting him was another.

Former Methuen High School athletic director Brian Urquhart took a page from David Letterman when he listed the “Top 10 Reasons Why Arthur Nicholson Should Not be Person of the Year.”

At the top of the list was Nicholson’s trademark attire — blue blazer, tan khakis, red tie and boat shoes.

“He has absolutely no sense of fashion,” Urquhart said. “It’s time to retire the boat shoes.” Even the table centerpieces displayed Nicholson’s infamous attire.

Urquhart told the crowd it was extremely difficult to come up with the list. “That was obviously a bad attempt at bad humor,” Urquhart said. “It’s far easier to list his positive (qualities).”

Nicholson, Methuen High School’s principal, was honored as the Methuen Board of Trade’s Person of the Year on April 12 at GuestHouse International Inn and Suites.

State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell told Nicholson the honor comes with a price.

“We’re not just here to talk about the past, but the future,” Campbell said. “This honor comes with a cost, and that’s a contract for another 25 years.”

Mayor William Manzi said he took Campbell’s words to heart and asked her if mentioning a contract meant the money for the new high school came through. “Our children love you,” Manzi said of Nicholson. “You are a beloved icon in our community.”

Nicholson’s daughter Courtney and City Council President Steve Zanni each commented on Nicholson’s ability to be at every high-school event.

“If you look at the 1990 yearbook on page 92 you’ll see a little girl dressed in pink holding her father’s hand at a football game,” said the Holy Cross College freshman of her father. “I guess 2-years-old was the right age to start grooming me for high-school athletics.”

She had so many great words about her father, but finished with one simple phrase: “Mr. Nick, the words are synonymous with courage and perseverance.”

After numerous citations and the presentation of the Person of the Year award, Nicholson stepped to the microphone.

“I have an official announcement to make,” Nicholson said. “I’ve given very serious thought to retiring in June and running for a citywide office in the fall.”

The crowd was silenced; people looked at each other in amazement. Nicholson then laughed and said, “Do I get that 25-year contract now?” He was alluding of courae to his unsuccessful school superintendent bid last summer, when Manzi had cast the deciding vote.

Nicholson also questioned Urquhart.

“I thought you were my friend,” Nicholson said. “As my golfer friends say, ‘always be grateful for a kind lie.'”

Nicholson ended his speech by saying there hasn’t been a day in his 40 years with the Methuen public schools that he didn’t enjoy. “What makes me so proud is the way over four decades my dedication has not wavered.”

Have a story idea? Gayle Simone can be reached at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at gsimone@thevalleydispatch.com.