Greg Nickoli, Drew Miller, Ellie Nickoli, Libby Miller Nickoli, AJ Nickoli and Larry Miller

Master's degrees and more - Ashland University a big part of the Nickoli/Miller family

Published on Aug. 01, 2023
Ashland University

When it was announced in April that Ashland University had been recognized as a 2023-24 Best Graduate School for education by U.S. News & World Report, AJ Nickoli didn’t waste any time commenting about it on social media.

“Whole Nickoli family went to grad school here,” the AU assistant football coach wrote on the university’s Twitter post about the recognition. “This is LEGIT!!”  

“My mom, dad, grandpa and uncle all got their master’s at AU,” Nickoli wrote in an email when asked about his Twitter comment. “My mom is actually in the education hall of fame, I believe. Also, my younger sister is in her undergrad here as well.”  


The Nickoli family's rich history at Ashland began in 1983 when AJ’s grandfather, Larry F. Miller, graduated with a master’s degree in education. 

The Madison High School (1965) and Rio Grande College (bachelor’s degree in education in 1969) graduate is a retired social studies teacher and basketball coach. 

His career in education and coaching spanned from 1970 to 2006.   

“As a young girl, I remember my father pursuing his master’s in education degree while he was teaching social studies at Madison High School,” said AJ’s mother, Libby Miller Nickoli. “He always spoke highly of the instructors and the feedback they provided during his studies.”  

AJ’s parents took it to another level, not only earning their master's degrees from AU, but also their school superintendent licenses.   


His mother was even named the Outstanding Graduate Student in Education when she received her master’s degree in educational administration in 2012.  

The Lexington High School (1991) and Bowling Green State University (bachelor’s in education in 1995) graduate still is working in education as the principal of Butler Elementary School in the Clear Fork Valley Local Schools.

She earned her superintendent’s license in 2022.   

“As a stay-at-home mom to three children, I made the decision to pursue my master's in educational administration,” she said. “The support I received from my professors enabled me to earn my degree with confidence.”  


His father, Greg Nickoli, also is still working in education as the superintendent of the Pioneer Career and Technology Center in Shelby.  

Before getting his school superintendent license in 2005 and his master’s degree in educational administration in 2000 from AU, he graduated from Norwalk High School in 1984 and Ohio Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in history education in 1988.  

His connection to AU has gone beyond graduate schooling this year when he became a board member of the Ashland University Football Gridiron Club.   

“Ashland's M.Ed. and superintendent's licensure programs are highly revered throughout Ohio,” he said. “The quality of instructors provided invaluable experiences when I transitioned into my administrative roles.”  


The family’s master’s degrees also include one from the College of Business and Economics with AJ’s uncle, Drew Miller, graduating from AU in 2009 with a master's degree in business administration.  

The Lexington High School (1997) and Bowling Green State University (Bachelor of Science in management information systems in 2001) graduate is the assistant finance director for Richland County Children Services.   


Someday, AJ’s sister, Ellie Nickoli, could earn a master’s degree from AU, too.  

First, she has to complete her bachelor’s degree.  

The Lexington High School graduate (2021) is a music education major at Ashland University. 

She has appeared in numerous Mansfield Renaissance Theatre musical productions, has performed as a guest soloist with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the AU theater honorary, Alpha Psi Omega, and Alpha Phi Sorority.  

AJ Nickoli 

While AJ doesn’t have a degree from AU, he joined the AU football staff in 2022 and is now the running backs coach for the Eagles.   

He played college football for Great Midwest Athletic Conference rival Tiffin University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration in 2021 and shows up in the football records as a kicker, making 57 of 58 extra-point kicks attempted. He also holds the fourth spot in career scoring at Tiffin with 88 points.   

Before college, AJ graduated in 2017 from Lexington High School, where he holds the school record for career receptions.  

With the family’s history, it wouldn’t be a surprise if AJ carries on the family legacy of master’s degrees from Ashland University.   

Right, AJ?  

“I got moved up to being a full-time coach so I am not taking any classes here,” he said, “but I definitely could in the future.”