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Monday April 23, 2001

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UA and Arizona lose a great leader

By The Wildcat Opinions Board

Thursday evening, the UA, and indeed the entire state of Arizona, lost an invaluable community member, an outstanding scholar and a tireless lawmaker who worked to make the state a better place to live.

Sen. Andy Nichols, of District 13, died of a heart attack Thursday night in Phoenix. He was 64.

For his family and friends, and for the UA community, Andy Nichols will be remembered as so much more than merely a state senator.

A Stanford-educated medical doctor, Nichols worked as a professor of family and community medicine and taught classes in the UA College of Medicine. He served as director of the university's Rural Health Office, where he'd been since 1970.

Nichols was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and fought for public schools when he sat on the House education committee. He championed laws allowing more Arizonans access to state-funded health care and lowering the blood-alcohol standard for drunken driving from .10 to .08, and yet he still found time to remain intimately connected with the UA.

Aside from this, Nichols also advocated a cause dear to many UA students - low tuition. On campus last August for a campaign forum, he spoke out against tuition hikes for faculty salary increases, asking "Can't we come up with free tuition to every child in Arizona?" Nichols also worked on a college savings plan to help parents save for their children's college tuition even before those children were born.

On November 7, Nichols was elected to the state Senate, narrowly defeating Republican Kathleen Dunbar. Aside from campaigning for his senate seat, Nichols fought for Proposition 204, which entitled more Arizonans to state-paid health care. The proposition passed mainly due to Nichols' sponsorship of it. Nichols used his understanding of medicine and his commitment to public health to fight for a cause that is critical to many Arizonans.

Dr. Herbert K. Abrams, professor emeritus of family and community medicine and founding head of the UA department of family and community medicine, brought Nichols to the UA in 1970.

"It's a big tragedy. It's a terrible tragedy," he said.

The Associated Press remembered State Sen. Andy Nichols as "a veteran lawmaker from Tucsonˇa leading supporter of public health programs."

Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors remembered him as "a human voice, and an intellectual voice, for Southern Arizona."

We echo those sentiments, and we choose to remember Sen. Nichols for the good things he did for the UA community and the entire state. The state ought to honor his memory by following the same positive path.