In this interview published in the Norfolk paper, Gene Nichol talks about a lot of boring stuff - then the interview took a sudden turn, and concluded like this:
Q. OK, now for the fun stuff. Tim Sullivan is known as “Timmy J.” among students. You’ve said you’d be willing to acquire a nickname. Is “Genie R.” out of the question?
A. (Much laughter) Oh, God, I hope so.
Q. Any other suggestions?
A. I’ve gone by “Dean Gene” for many, many years. Many people who know me call me “Nick.” I have said I would leave that to the creative minds of the College of William and Mary students. I only hope that most of the time the names will be printable.
Q. You listed your experience as a varsity quarterback in Oklahoma on your resume. How come?
A. I think great lessons can be learned from athletics, not the least of which is the lesson of getting up off the mat. The question that athletics can put to you is: How successful are you getting up and facing the problems and questions of life? I have three daughters, and they’re very involved athletes. It’s been marvelous to watch them learn those lessons early in life.
Q. Do you still play?
A. I played intramural football with law school teams the first five or more years that I was dean, but at some point a 40-year-old playing against 18-year-olds is not a wise venture.
Q. Last but not least, I don’t know if they told you this during the interview, but there’s supposedly a ghost of a soldier that haunts the president’s house. What are you going to do about it?
A. I’ll give you a side story on that one. My family and I came to visit Tim (Sullivan) and Anne a couple of years ago. Anne took my daughters upstairs and started explaining these various ghost stories and scared the life out of them, particularly my youngest daughter.
When we started discussing coming to William and Mary, my 11-year-old said, “Does that mean we’re going to live in the ghost house?”
As you know, the house will be undergoing renovations. We suggested to my 11-year-old that they’re going to get the ghosts out. She’s hopeful that occurs.