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Interview Rick D. Niece

Topics of conversation:

  • What is A Side-Yard Hero?
  • Bernie Jones influence on Rick's life
  • Small Town America and the fuzzy feeling we get from them
  • Being a "Memory Keeper"
  • Literary Automythography, what is is?   

Following in his father‘s footsteps, Rick D. Niece, Ph.D., is a lifelong educator who has served as a classroom teacher, a public school administrator and a university professor, provost and president. In 1997, he was named President of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, and remains steadfast in his devotion to the University's success. After his retirement on July 1, 2013, he was named President Emeritus of the University of the Ozarks.

A small-town boy who has maintained his small-town values, Dr. Niece remembers his childhood with fond nostalgia. Growing up in picturesque DeGraff, Ohio, young Rickie was influenced by many endearing friends and neighbors who taught him the important life lessons that shaped his future-especially Bernie Jones. Confined to a wheelchair with severe cerebral palsy, Bernie became Rickie‘s friend, inspiration and superhero, opening a world of compassion, trust and adventure that benefitted them both. From Bernie, Rickie learned the value of unconditional acceptance, kindness and the triumph of the human spirit-lessons he took with him from his years as a newspaper boy to a career in academia.

Side-Yard Superhero is Dr. Niece‘s first book in the Fanfare for a Hometown series about his upbringing in DeGraff, an "automythography" describing his childhood in rich, vivid detail. Considering himself a "memory keeper," Niece takes readers with him on a poignant journey back in time to a safe haven of heartfelt remembrance. Vibrant, poetic and charming, his stories make DeGraff an open book that everyone who appreciates sentiment will want to read.

Dr. Niece is the recipient of multiple awards, both as an author and an educator. He and his wife, Sheree, are now retired and living in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. Rick is now able to devote more time to his writing   

 

Synopsis:

Although life's journey takes him far from his childhood home, Rick D. Niece, Ph.D., never forgets the people he meets and the lessons he learns as a young man growing up in picturesque DeGraff, Ohio, population 900. A small-town newspaper boy who becomes a lifelong educator himself, Dr. Niece is deeply touched by the endearing residents of DeGraff who shaped his youth=especially Bernie Jones. Confined to a wheelchair with severe cerebral palsy, Bernie becomes Rickie's friend, inspiration and superhero, opening a world of compassion, trust and adventure to them both.

When he leaves DeGraff to attend Ohio State University, Rick promises Bernie that he will visit him again. Unfortunately, when Bernie's parents pass away, Bernie disappears, too, taken in by a distant relative. Forty years later, Rick learns that his boyhood friend is living in a nursing home. Returning to Ohio, he visits the never-to-be-forgotten Bernie Jones of a childhood long past and a promise finally kept.

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