Lt. William “Bruce” Brewster Nickerson was the son of Cape Cod Community College President E. Carleton Nickerson, who led the institution from 1964-1972 while overseeing the planning and establishment of the West Barnstable campus. Bruce Nickerson was born of a storied Cape Cod heritage as a direct descendant of William Nickerson who purchased from the Native Americans and settled what is now the town of Chatham, and of Elder William Brewster who came to Cape Cod on the Mayflower in 1620.
Much of Bruce Nickerson’s life was devoted to serving others. In 1957 he was a representative of the United States at the International Conference of Boy Scouts in Europe. For two years he served as an unpaid counselor at the Episcopal Camp for boys from Halem. He was a member of Winant’s Volunteers in settlement work in England in 1962. Lt. Nickerson graduated from Deerfield Academy, and was a 1964 graduate from Dartmouth College where he was president of Palaeopitus, the student governing body, a member of the Undergraduate Judiciary Committee, the executive committee of his class, the Handel Society, Glee Club, Winter Carnival Council, and Psi Upsilon fraternity.
Upon graduation, Bruce Nickerson enlisted in the Naval Training Program and was first in his flight class, academically, and third when academic and physical factors were balanced. He was to have been limited to ground service because of a minor physical disability, but he appealed the decision to the Secretary of the Navy, and because of his excellent record, was allowed to fly.
The Naval Air Force Lieutenant planned a career of further service to others, either in the Ministry or teaching, upon completion of his duty, but gave his life instead on a mission from the Aircraft Carrier USS Kittyhawk over Vietnam on April 22, 1966. Lt. Nickerson was awarded ten medals posthumously, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and three citations from the President of the United States for heroism and achievement.
In June 1966, the Cape Cod Community College student body, by unanimous vote, established one room of the campus library to be dedicated as the William Brewster Nickerson Memorial Room, in his memory. The Memorial Room was formally dedicated and opened in 1971.