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Celebrating new CKI scholarships

Rich Thigpen and John & Elaine Nichelson Memorial Scholarship Virtual Reception

Hosted by the CNH Children’s Fund at DCON 2021 

Rich Thigpen’s family – his mother Mary and sister Deborah – was in attendance. Members of the Kiwanis family shared stories to honor Rich. 

Jennifer Chaves and Craig Wallace from CNH Children’s Fund thanked the donors of the memorial scholarships for their generosity. The legacies of Rich Thigpen and John & Elaine Nichelson will live on when we present the scholarships every year at DCON.

Remarks from Nguyet Tong:

Thank you to the Children’s Fund and CNH Circle K for putting this together and giving me this opportunity to say a few remarks representing UCLA Circle K and UCLA Circle K alumni. 

We are here to celebrate Rich Thigpen and the establishment of this new scholarship in his honor and to speak about his impact in our lives. For me, like so many others, this impact is direct. Rich was there for me during college in UCLA Circle K. He tolerated my crazy ideas and supported my goals. He never questioned my intentions to do what I can to make the club better. He was there for me well into my post-graduate life as both a mentor and friend. I am grateful for his guidance and encouragement as I pursued my career and personal aspirations. This was the essence of Rich’s impact. He made time to connect with so many students, CKI members and advisors, and colleagues. He did this on a personal level to listen to their worries, to soothe their anxieties, to offer a lending hand, to empower them to overcome obstacles and then to give back.

When I returned to UCLA for work, I told Rich and he scheduled a meeting with me right away. I thought we were going to have a normal lunch conversation to catch up. But he asked me to be his successor, the next UCLA Circle K Advisor. I was taken aback, that’s for sure! But I needed to repay his good will and generosity to me. I also wanted to make a direct impact in the way that Rich did and continue in this life dedicated to service. 

Why did Rich ask me to take his place? I still ask myself this question to this day. But at that moment I had asked myself – Isn’t it time I also step up? Isn’t it time for me to continue what he built and also to build something of my own? It is my honor and privilege to serve as UCLA Circle Advisor and as a member of its alumni network. I am so proud of us as we come together today to launch the Rich Thigpen Memorial Scholarship as an enduring symbol of Rich’s kindness, service, and impact. 

Rich was well known for his commitment to not only Circle K, but to all areas of his work and community. My main regret is that I only discovered just how large of an impact it was when we lost him. We now realize the extent of Rich’s reach and influence, the extent of what he was involved in, the extent of what he was doing for all of us. With this scholarship, with the newly named CNH Rich Thigpen Faculty Advisor of the Year Award, with renewed energy within the UCLA Circle K alumni network, we will continue Rich’s legacy – this ability to directly help and shape the lives of those in need, to inspire others and give them courage, to build communities of solidarity and compassion, to create a better world – in our own ways, within our own capacities.

Thank you all for being here and I am happy to share this moment with you.