About the Speaker

Quick Facts

Name: Donovan Nichols

Birthday: January 29

College: The University of Toledo

Degrees: B.A. Communication / M.Ed. Higher Education

Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio (Toledo)

Current Location: Toledo, OH

Favorite Book/Movie: Pay It Forward

Favorite Quote: “Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.”


My History with Pay It Forward

During my freshman year of college, I dreamed of becoming an inspirational speaker to help people create a better world. In 2005, I held my first Pay It Forward inspirational session with a group of Service Learning students at The University of Toledo.  After finishing the session, I was asked to present the altruistic concept to 100 Resident Advisors for their mid-year training.  Later that year, I was asked to hold a session for a freshman leadership class.  After completing these uplifting sessions, I realized that students were yearning to learn how to better themselves and our world. 

In 2006, I contacted Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward, and began a relationship with her and the Pay It Forward Foundation. Together we continue to inspire more people to become involved in the Pay It Forward Movement.  In 2009, I became the United States National Coordinator of International Pay It Forward Day and later became the International Co-Coordinator.  Pay It Forward Day is one day devoted to promoting the concept of selfless giving.  I served on the Pay It Forward Foundation Board of Directors for two years (2009-2011).


My Life Story

I was born in Sylvania, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, to Tom and Sandy Nichols.  I have four siblings: Shawn, Shannon, Michelle, and BJ (BJ is my little brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program).

My formal education occurred at Maplewood Elementary School, Arbor Hills Junior High School, Northview High School, and The University of Toledo.  However, my full education continues to manifest through life experiences, trials, and tribulations.

After finishing my Masters course work in Higher Education Administration at The University of Toledo, I spent 10 weeks traveling around 13 countries in Europe.  For six of those weeks I studied in Prague, Czech Republic.  This life experience helped me become more aware of myself and the world around me.

When I returned from Europe, I spent a year serving in AmeriCorps*VISTA (“the domestic PeaceCorps”).  Through the position, I helped The University of Toledo increase its service programs and inspire more students to become civically engaged.  In order to involve more college students in reflecting on the effects of their service in the community and to inspire them to become more engaged citizens, I began holding Pay It Forward inspirational sessions.

In July 2006, I packed all of my belongings into my mini-van and traveled 2,000 miles west to Las Vegas to begin my career in Student Affairs.  As the Program Coordinator for Student Activities at UNLV for 4.5 years, I advised students on how to plan successful major campus-wide events.  In January 2011, I became the Program Coordinator for Service at UNLV.  I advised Rebel Service Council and the Engelstad Scholars program.  Through conducting service, I helped students develop the transferable skills they need to be successful in life.  

In June 2012, I moved across the country again to Athens, GA.  I worked at the University of Georgia as the Associate Director for Student Activities & Organizations.

In April 2015, I moved back to my hometown (Toledo, OH).  I currently work at The University of Toledo as the Assistant Dean for Student Involvement & Leadership.  I oversee 300+ student organizations, 30+ Greek Life fraternities and sororities, Commuter Student Services, and leadership programs.  I instruct a leadership development class each semester.

I am very blessed to have the unwavering love and continued support of my family and friends.


My Music History

I have been playing guitar since 1996; however, I didn't start getting serious about playing until 2004, when my guitar became my sanctuary after a life-altering break-up with my girlfriend of four years. 

I started singing when I was a kid. I still remember belting out harmonies with my dad and brother in church. I started organized singing in 1996 at Northview High School. During high school, I sang in every musical group that I could, including the Harmony Road Show vocal jazz choir, Chamber Renaissance choir, A Cappella choir, Men's choir, The Ritz Bitz barbershop quartet, St. Joe’s church choir, and musicals (including The Music Man, Anything Goes, and Hello Dolly). 

My first guitar and singing stage performance occurred during my high school talent show in 1998. In college, I sang in a barbershop quartet named PowerHouse. I also played guitar and sang in the Corpus Christi University Parish church choir and the musical, Godspell. My possible part-time career as a singer/songwriter became a reality when I auditioned and performed as a headlining act for the first time at The University of Toledo's Rock the Mic competition on Oct. 22, 2005. Due to this performance, Club Bijou selected me to play at the Regional Superstar Competition on November 4, 2005. I played several shows in Las Vegas when I lived in the “Entertainment Capital of the World” (2006-2012). In 2008, my song, “Blue & Green,” was featured on a nationally-released CD called, “Chill Out: An Acoustic Compilation, Vol. 4.”Blue & Green” is track #11. Unfortunately, it can no longer be purchased on iTunes.

In 2007, I finished writing the song "Give Yourself," which I feature at the end of every Pay It Forward session.

In the summer of 2014, I began playing music with jazz/gospel pianist Josh Matthews-Morgan.  With the addition of our drummer K and sax man Stan, our band "Catch of the Day" played one show in Athens, GA to a standing room only crowd before I moved to Toledo.

Who knows where my music journey will go from here, but I look forward to the fun ride! 

Major Music Accomplishments

  • Singing a vocal jazz show with Western Michigan University’s Gold Company in 1998. 
  • Singing under the director of world-renown composer, Moses Hogan, in 1998.
  • Singing the solo in James Taylor's "Lonesome Road" in front of world-renown jazz vocalists, Manhattan Transfer, in 1999. 
  • Singing with my barbershop quartet as the mic testers at the 1999 International Collegiate Barbershop Competition in Anaheim, CA as a high school senior. My quartet, The Ritz Bitz included Milton Sutton, Justin Orlow, and International Collegiate Gold Medalist Armando Lineras.
  • Playing/singing as a street performer in Prague, Czech Republic on the Charles Bridge in summer 2005.
  • Releasing my song “Blue & Green” as a feature on an acoustic compilation CD in 2008.
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