James Nichols graduated from North-Western in 1880 and was soon thereafter appointed principal of the Commercial Department of the College. In 1886, he wrote and published The Business Guide, or Safe Methods of Business, which ultimately led to a publishing venture J. L. Nichols & Co. that operated in Naperville for many years. Upon his death at the age of 44, James Nichols bequeathed funds to Naperville for a free public library and to the College for a gymnasium.