Nicole Nichols CunninghamClass year and major: 1997, B.S. Telecommunication Arts and B.A., French

Current position and responsibilities: Stay at home mom/writer in Greenwood, Ind. Before that, I spent six years as a broadcast news producer with some field reporting experience. I transitioned from news into nonprofit public relations, and my most recent full-time position was as public relations manager for the National Committee on Planned Giving. I was also a senior writer for International Figure Skating magazine until my son was 18 months old; I gave that up to focus full time on my son.

Major project/achievement of the past year: My book, Frozen in Time: The Enduring Legacy of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team, is the No. 1 selling figure skating book on Amazon.com currently and also one of the top 100 selling sports books. The hard cover was released in 2006 (under my maiden name, Nikki Nichols), and the expanded paperback was released in 2009. The book chronicles the lives of the 1961 U.S. skating team, which tragically died in a plane crash on the way to the World Championships. The 50th anniversary of the crash and a recent documentary on the subject have spiked interest in the book. Matt Lauer of NBC referred to it as “the most under-reported event in sports.” The crash crippled American competitive skating for some time.

The book, though rooted in tragedy, really is a story of hope and resilience. I was drawn to write the book when I learned that my own figure skating coaches had deep connections to those lost in the plane crash, and to those who survived and helped rebuild the skating program. My mother also took figure skating lessons from a gentleman who came to Indianapolis to replace one of the coaches who had been killed in the crash. Being a skater of modest ability and also a journalist made me think I was meant to write this book.

Because I had studied journalism at Butler as part of the Telecommunication Arts program, I also felt that nonfiction writing was my calling. My French degree also helped immensely with my book. The plane crash happened in Belgium and the Belgian Ministry of Communications sent me a great many materials, including the official crash report. Everything was in French.

Why did you choose journalism and writing as a career: I chose television news because as a child, I felt very drawn to Walter Cronkite. I remember being very little and watching the news when President Reagan was shot. That had a huge impact on me. I also looked up to Barbara Walters as a little girl. Mid-career, I felt that print and long-form writing was my next step, and that is how the book came about.

How did Butler prepare you for your career: Butler made sure I had a well-rounded approach to journalism. The legal aspects of the field were covered, the ethical aspects were covered, and the performance and writing aspects were covered. Internships in actual television stations were arranged, and our professors had real-world experience in what they were teaching. After hearing a guest speaker in one of my classes, I started rethinking my dream of becoming an anchorwoman like Barbara Walters and instead shifted gears into producing. As a student, I made Dean’s List and graduated cum laude.

Most memorable experience(s) at Butler: I remember when Professor Scott Bridge, asked me to stay after class and said, “I really think you have some talent writing. You have a future with this.” That same professor failed me on a journalism assignment when he found a factual error. He was not willing to overlook a factual error. The facts are sacred. I sometimes would flash back to Scott Bridge when I was working in an actual newsroom doing fact checking.

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