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Joseph and Judith Nickleach Scholarship

Joe and Judy (Wakefield) Nickleach were both born and raised in Ford City, married in 1962, and together chose to return to Ford City to raise their family, pursue their careers, and leave their legacy. 

Joe was born May 19, 1940, to Betty and Steve Nickleach, who were small business owners, running Ford City Beer Distributor.  During his early life, Joe saw the importance of hard work and community connections in maintaining a successful business.  Joe attended Holy Trinity Grade School and Ford City High School, graduating in 1958.  While in school he participated in many school-related activities and organizations.  He went on to St. Vincent College and then attended Duquesne University Law School, graduating second in his class while working full time to pay his tuition.  After briefly working in the U.S. District Court, he returned to Armstrong County to serve its citizens.  He worked for many years in private practice, then as District Attorney and finishing his career as the President Judge in the Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas.  During his judicial career he was proud to be known as both fair and compassionate in his decisions. 

Judy was born September 28, 1940, to Charles and Katharine Wakefield.  Her father worked at PPG, and after sustaining a serious work-related injury he became an advocate for worker’s rights, working as a union organizer.  Through his example Judy learned the importance of looking out for those most in need, a quality she has exhibited throughout her life.  She attended St. Mary’s Grade School and was also an active member of the Ford City Class of 1958.  Judy went on to Butler Hospital School of Nursing and worked at Armstrong County Memorial Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.  She later became the Health Coordinator for Armstrong County Head Start, providing access to medical care for many of the community’s most needy.  She often drove families to appointments in Pittsburgh when they did not have transportation.  She also worked at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, coordinating Well Baby Clinics to ensure that all children had access to vaccines.  After developing a devastating medical illness Judy was forced to retire from her nursing career.  After much hard work and rehabilitation, she returned to normal activities, and continued to use her skills in various volunteer roles and in caring for her extended family. 

Both Judy and Joe have been very active in the community.  Joe was an elementary school basketball coach for many years and was proud of the future successes of his players both on and off the court.  He was a member of many organizations and boards during his career, including the Board of Directors for Lenape Heights Golf Course.  Judy has been very active in many Civic and Advocacy roles, including HAVIN and American Field Service.  Their faith has been very important to Joe and Judy.  They have been active members of Holy Trinity, then Christ Prince of Peace Catholic Church, serving in liturgical and leadership roles within the Church and Catholic School. 

Joe and Judy have spent their lives exhibiting the important values of hard work, perseverance, honesty, advocacy, and service to the community.  Joe lost his battle to pancreatic cancer in 2018, but this commitment has been continued by Judy and their children and grandchildren.  Through this scholarship they hope to encourage others to follow in their path.   

Scholarship Details

Available to High School Seniors

Must be:

  • High school senior from Armstrong High School or a private school. 
  • The student can be pursuing any course of study at a 4 year college or university or nursing school. 
  • The applicant should have community or volunteer service.
  • The application should include school/community service, job and/or work history, recommendations and an essay. 

Essay Question

Please write an essay explaining why you have chosen your field of study and what your career goals and aspirations are. Include items such as experience and personal traits that will make you excel in your career path.