Trula Nicholas Memorial Fund

Trula Nicholas Memorial Fund

Trula Morehead Nicholas, an associate professor in Woodring’s Human Services Program, passed away peacefully at her home in Bellingham on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Trula grew up in a series of cities across the country, ending with Seattle, as her father moved from job to job in his career as a YMCA administrator. It seems natural that, having grown up watching her father work in the YMCA, she would become a human services professional herself.  She received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in psychology from Western Washington University and held many different jobs in the human services field before joining the Human Services Program in 1993.

Trula had a passionate and undying commitment to the pursuit of social justice and to the building of community through collaboration with others, and the purpose of this fund in her name is to support collaborative projects that reflect the spirit of the projects that she worked on during her lifetime.

She deeply understood that the pursuit of social justice and the building of community involve coming to terms with nuance and complexity.  As she put it in a speech she gave at WWU’s convocation in the fall of 2015, “There are no clear answers to how we can end homelessness in this country.  There is no clear pathway that will lead us to abolish social injustice in our nation, and there is no roadmap for us to follow as we engage in the work of making our communities places where children and families can blossom. To develop this capacity to thrive in spaces where there are no absolute answers—and notice I said thrive, not survive—we need to learn to be interested in the in-between spaces; we need to learn to be interested in our confusion; we need to learn to be interested in the contradictions that present themselves to us every day.”

It is important to underscore the point that this acknowledgement of complexity did not leave Trula feeling frozen and helpless—in fact, anyone who knew her would have a very hard time imagining her in such a state. She emphatically believed in the importance of acting, not just talking.  If you went to her with a problem, her response would typically be, “Do something about it.”  That is why it seems appropriate to dedicate this fund to the support of projects that try to do something about issues that were important to her.

Another point that needs to be stressed is the centrality of collaboration to Trula’s work, and also her understanding that, as one of her colleagues has put it, true collaboration involves “people being human and present with each other.”  She absolutely believed that ends cannot be separated from the means that are used to achieve them.  In other words, if you are working on a project whose purpose is to promote democracy in some way, then your project itself needs to be conducted in a democratic manner.

At this point, you might want some more details about what Trula was like as a person.  For one thing, she was a great observer, and if you had something to hide, it was best to stay away from her.  Her observational powers weren’t just directed at other people, though.  She loved to go on walks by herself and take photographs of things she noticed—a red leaf on a sidewalk, the bare branches of a birch tree in winter, the sun hiding behind a cloud. . .  And here we reach what is perhaps the most important point to make about Trula:  she did not see the enjoyment that she found in solitude as being opposed in any way to the equal enjoyment she found in collaborating with others.  She embraced in her own person the complexity that she found in the world around her.  As she loved to say, “Both/and, not either/or!”


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