Nikkari Elementary Namesake
Dr. Eugene Nikkari
From 1963 -1988 Dr. Eugene Nikkari was the Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools. On May 15, 1988, the former State Street Elementary school was renamed "Nikkari Elementary" by the St. Louis Board of Education to honor Dr. Nikkari for his exemplary leadership to the school district and to his community.
Dr. Nikkari was born February 27, 1927 in Watton, Michigan a small Finnish farming community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Gene spoke very little English when he started school. When he was still a young boy, his family moved to Ramsay, Michigan, also in the Upper Peninsula, where he attended school from elementary through high school. In 1945 Gene Nikkari graduated from A.D. Johnson High School in Bessemer, Michigan.
Following high school graduation, Dr. Nikkari served in the U.S. Navy for fourteen months. He served on the light cruisers U.S.S. Vicksburg and U.S.S. Springfield. After his service to his country ended, Dr. Nikkari returned to school, attending Gogebic Junior College before graduating with honors from Northern Michigan University in June of 1951 with a major in Mathematics and minors in Physics and Chemistry. Receiving National Science Foundation Grants for his graduate work, Dr. Nikkari attended Northern Michigan University and Michigan State University to study Mathematics. Then he attended Purdue University to do more study in Chemistry and Physics. In the summer of 1957 he was chosen one of seven science and math teachers to receive an appointment to work on a summer project at Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan. In 1971 Dr. Nikkari received his doctorate in Education from Wayne State University in Detroit.
Dr. Nikkari began his teaching career at Merrill High School in Merrill, Michigan and subsequently moved to Almont High School in Almont, Michigan. In 1960 the Almont Public School District named Dr. Nikkari their Superintendent of Schools. In 1963 St. Louis Public Schools hired Dr. Nikkari as their new superintendent, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. In 1971 Dr. Nikkari was appointed an adjunct associate professor of educational administration at Central Michigan University.
Today Dr. Nikkari still lives in St. Louis, Michigan. His oldest son Matthew is an Associate Professor of English at Ferris State University. His daughter Maria is a Special Education supervisor with the Wexford-Misaukee Intermediate School District. His youngest son Andy is superintendent of the Redlands Mesa Golf Course in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Dr. Nikkari was most noted for his personal integrity. His word on a matter was more credible than a written contract.