2021 Alexis De Tocqueville Mentor: Dick Nicely

Richard (Dick) Nicely, earned a degree in Civil Engineering in Syracuse, New York, and is a veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers. After college, Dick returned to Canton, and joined his father, Christy, at R. G. Smith Company. Dick eventually purchased the company from his father and now R. G. Smith, an industrial general contractor, is in its third generation of Nicely leadership with Dick’s son, Geoff, serving as Chief Operating Officer.

In 1999 Dick’s life changed; he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Dick says, “Parkinson’s has made me humble.” He became passionate about finding a cure and served on the Board of The Michael J. Fox Foundation and as chairman of the Parkinson’s Action Network lobbying in Washington, D.C. for funding for Parkinson’s research. In 2016, he opened a local Rock Steady Boxing, a nationwide program that provides exercise and physical training to Parkinson’s patients. “Physical activity is very important in slowing the progression of the disease. That’s why I opened Rock Steady Boxing.”

Dick describes himself as a “driver” and says, “You have to have a passion; a drive to make things happen.” His drive to make things happen locally has been evident by, among other things, his board service on Whispering Grace Horses, a non-profit faith-based program dedicated to providing hope for people through building relationships with horses and
with each other. It was Dick’s idea to establish Freedom Farm at Whispering Grace Horses to serve veterans and their families and he made it happen.

Dick is being honored by Geoff and Shawn Marie Nicely, his son and daughter-in-law. Geoff says, “Our father has, and continues to be, an inspiration when it comes to philanthropy and his love for his community. We felt the best way to recognize his generosity and his mentorship would be to honor him this way, by making this donation in his name.”