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Mission Accomplished: Daniel Niccum

Daniel Galen Niccum (1953-2016) loved the entertainment business and theatre in all its forms.

As an undergraduate student at Purdue University, Niccum received a scholarship to work in the theatre’s scene shop. Curious about the origins of the merit-based award he received, Niccum investigated and learned that the fund to benefit current students had been set up by a Purdue alumnus nearly 100 years earlier.

Following graduation, Niccum’s professional career took him across the country to work on stages as a production manager, technical director, scenic designer, rigging consultant, stage manager, and projectionist. When he tired of life on the road, Niccum moved his love of theatre arts into the classroom. Over the next 33 years, he served as a member of the faculty at colleges across the Midwest and Northeast. His self-described “Golden Years,” 1979–1986, were spent in the Theatre Design/Technology program at Purchase College.

After retiring from teaching, Niccum stayed in touch with his former students and colleagues at Purchase. He was proud of their accomplishments and the part he played in their success. “This group and the College are on the cutting-edge of everything new that is happening in set design, lighting, and the industry,” Niccum would often tell his friends and family.

Nearing the end of his battle with lung cancer, Niccum reflected on his career and realized he had been able to help so many young talented theatre students and professionals find their direction because of the award he received as a student at Purdue. He vowed to pay that gift forward at Purchase College.

Reaching out to Associate Professor David Grill ’86, his former student, friend, and current chair of the Theatre Design/ Technology program, Niccum created a $250,000 endowed fund to support the department and its students at the cutting-edge of the industry.

“Dan wanted to make certain that future students could remain focused on being brilliant rather than worrying about whether they would be able to complete their degree,” says Grill. “He believed it was important to have fun and learn something new every day. I know he was proud to leave this legacy. As he always said: ‘Mission Accomplished.’”

The first awards from The Daniel G. Niccum Fund, will be announced in the spring of 2021. The selection committee, chaired by David Grill ’86 (Design Technology) Program Co-Chair and Associate Professor in Theatre Design/Technology, includes: Peter Fanelli ’81 (Design/Technology); Alison Hershman ’83 (Design/Technology) Lecturer in Theatre Design/Technology; Robert Usdin ’84 (Design/ Technology); James Youmans ’85 (Design/Technology)