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Sharing success

Some say his success was thanks to hard work. Others believe that it was his commitment to honesty, even when honesty didn't earn him friends. Nick Owens '67 attributes his success to common sense, luck, good timing, a good work ethic and what he learned from people at Bradley.

“Each person who I encountered as an undergraduate, as a member of the Board of Trustees, and as a lecturer on campus added to my life’s education and how I do business,” said Nick. “They helped me develop my personal standards.”

Born in Indiana, Nick Owens spent his early years in southern Illinois where his father was a welder. Money was tight. His family slept on the floor around a coal stove in one room of an old farmhouse to keep warm.

Nick was ten when his father accepted a job as a salesman and moved the family to Peoria. Upon graduating from East Peoria Community High School in 1958, Nick began his studies at Bradley. Working his way through school, Nick began his long and successful association with Keystone Steel & Wire Company by sweeping floors for $2.10 an hour. Nick graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and began his upward movement through the company, becoming vice president of manufacturing in 1979 and president in 1982. In 1985, he became COO of Keystone Consolidate Industries in Dallas, and served on the board of directors from 1985 to 1988.

In 1989, Nick purchased Electrical Specialties, an electrical cable and wire harness company. He led the Bartonville company through years of steady growth, then sold it to Trans Technology Electronics Inc. of Peoria in 1993.

He was named president of L.R. Nelson Corporation in 1992, having already served several years as one of its directors. He retired from that position in 1996. Later that year, Nick became the first non-family member to serve as chairman and CEO of Hagerty Brothers Co.

Even while taking care of his many business and family responsibilities, Nick always found time to support and serve Bradley. He served on the Bradley Board of Trustees from 1984 until 1996. Nick and his wife, Nancy, and their children, Natalie and Nick ‘01 have been enthusiastic fans of Bradley and the Braves. So when Nick and Nancy decided to support the Campaign for a Bradley Renaissance, it was with the encouragement of their children.

In honor of their generosity, the University is proud to name the Nick and Nancy Owens Atrium in the new Renaissance Coliseum. The Owens Atrium serves not only as the welcoming gateway to a beautiful facility, but to a new history of Bradley athletics and student and community engagement.

“Peoria has been our home for 50 years. With Bradley and Peoria being intertwined in so many ways, Nancy and I thought our gift in support of the Renaissance Campaign would be a good way to give back to both Bradley and the community,” said Nick.

“It was also a way to thank the people who influenced me, individuals like Jerry Abegg, Kal Goldberg, Chuck Stoner, Gary Anna, John Brazil and Bradley’s current president, Joanne Glasser. In fact, it was her spirit and enthusiasm in reaching out to Nancy and me that made a significant difference in rekindling our interest in the University.”

Today, Nick and Nancy reside in Florida, but when they visit Peoria for business, or to visit their many friends, you’ll find them cheering on the Braves.