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OBITUARY: Peter Nicholas

May 19, 2022
By Staff Report

Peter M. Nicholas passed away on May 14, 2022 in the loving arms of his wife and best friend of 58 years, Ginny Lilly Nicholas. Pete was a family man, respected businessman, passionate boater and involved philanthropist. Pete was the Co-founder, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Boston Scientific Corporation from its founding in 1979 until his retirement in 2016, when he became Chairman Emeritus. 

Born in Portsmouth, NH on May 16, 1941, Pete was the second son of Nicholas and Vrysula Nicholas, both born in Greece. Pete lived in and was influenced by many places in his youth, including Portsmouth, N.H., Portland, Maine, Groton, Conn., Belmont, Mass., Copenhagen, Denmark, Virginia Beach, Va. and San Juan, Puerto Rico. During WWII, his mother and her four children often stayed with the larger Greek family in Pine Point, Maine while his father, Commander Nick Nicholas, captained submarines for the United States Navy throughout the Pacific theater. 

Pete attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., where he loved sports and lettered in baseball, football and squash. He attributed his understanding of the importance of personal discipline, hard work and team play to his experiences at St. Paul’s School. Pete’s father attended the United States Naval Academy and Pete was admitted as well, but was surprised by a disqualification upon arrival due to his eyesight. 

Pete pivoted and entered Duke University where he graduated with a degree in Economics in 1964. While at Duke, he met his classmate and wife Ginny Lilly of Indianapolis. They were married almost immediately after graduation. 

After Duke, Pete was proud to serve two years as a junior officer in the United States Navy. He served a year on USS Lookout as Communications Officer and the next year in Little Creek, VA as a member of the Navy Special Operations Warfare Group. He resigned his commission in 1966 to attend the Wharton Graduate School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with an MBA, with honors, in 1968. 

Pete’s spent his early career at Eli Lilly & Company progressing from sales on up to his final four years with the company in Sweden and later Denmark as General Manager of Scandinavia. Pete left the company, in large part, because he realized his true calling was to be an entrepreneur in the United States. In 1979, Pete founded Boston Scientific Corporation with his business partner, John Abele. It was at Boston Scientific that Pete discovered his deep passion of building businesses, spending over thirty-five years as Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board, and CEO while the company evolved from a start-up to a global enterprise that hit a $67 billion market capitalization with over 41,000 employees. Pete spoke often of how he loved his relationships and experiences with the people that he knew because of Boston Scientific. Like so many entrepreneurs, Pete was unable to give up his interest in building companies and he continued to work after retiring from Boston Scientific as Managing Director of Ithaka Partners, LLC, a private equity firm he created with his family. 

Pete loved Duke University. There are few graduates who have so generously demonstrated the care and provided the resources that Pete and Ginny Nicholas have given to Duke. Over decades, Pete volunteered in many roles including Trinity College Board Chair and Chair of the Board of Trustees. Together, Pete and Ginny co-chaired what was then the most successful capital campaign in Duke’s history. They supported financial aid, libraries, professorships, nursing, the medical center, athletics, and more. Of Pete and Ginny’s most proud contributions are the founding gifts to create the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. In 2021, Duke awarded Pete the University Medal for his lifetime of service to his alma mater. And yes, Pete cherished his visits with Ginny to Cameron Stadium to cheer on their beloved Blue Devils. 

Pete was forever an eternal optimist who loved his family first and foremost. He was engaged in life. Pete tinkered in his workshop, coached his kid’s teams, helped others whenever he could, enjoyed Red Sox games, but mainly he was a passionate boater. He always was, it simply was in his DNA. He loved cruising with Ginny, his extended family, and close friends. He was also an avid collector of 19th and 20th century marine art and a lover of carved Bellamy Eagles. Appropriately, his maritime call sign was ‘Big Eagle’. 

Doing well and doing good was important to Pete. He had a keen sense of the public good or the highest and best use of something. Those who knew Pete well describe him as smart as a whip, understated, curious about everything and always full of questions, comfortable letting someone else “grab the roses”, and relentless once he decided that a problem or opportunity needed to be tackled. He shared his success generously and primarily focused on education at all levels, inner city youth at risk, and various maritime institutions. 

Pete Nicholas was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and former Vice Chair of the Academy Trust. He was a member of the American Academy of Achievement and a recipient of the Phoenix Lifetime Achievement Award, signifying distinguished leadership and accomplishment in the medical device industry as well as the prestigious AdvaMed Industry Award in 2016 signifying his pioneering role in the field of Interventional Medicine. He was also a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wharton School of Business. 

Pete and Ginny spent more than thirty-five years living in Concord, Mass. with their three children before moving to Boca Grande. 

Pete leaves behind his beloved wife and most trusted lifetime best friend and advisor, Ginny, and their three children; JK of Cambridge, Mass., Peter Jr. and his wife Christy of Boston, Mass. and Katherine of Coconut Grove, Fla., his brother Nick and wife Lynn of New York, N.Y., Pete’s amazing large Greek family, Ginny’s large and loving Lilly and Rubush families, as well as his seven grandchildren; Katherine, Anna, and Matthew Nicholas of Concord and Cambridge, Mass., Lexi and Lizzy Nicholas of Boston, Mass. and Jack Curtis and Nick Ronan of Coconut Grove, Fla.

He was predeceased by his twin sisters, Sally Monroe of Staunton, Va. and Susan Johnsen of Louisville, Ky. 

The family would like to thank those who have supported Pete over the last few years including Massachusetts General Hospital and Boca Grande Health Clinic.

The family is requesting gifts, for those inclined to do so, to the Nicholas School of the Environment, The Nicholas Institute of Environmental Solutions, the Massachusetts General Hospital or the Boca Grande Health Clinic.

“To health and happiness, 

friends and family, 

and all ships at sea” 

– Peter nicholas