United States Military Academy. Columbia University; School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.
He was the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs from January 26, 2005 until October 1, 2007. He is a 1961 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and served eight years in active duty. He was a paratrooper and Ranger-qualified Army officer
After thirty years of military service he retired in 1991 with the rank of Colonel.
In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Graduate Award by the United States Military Academy.
Before becoming active in civilian government service, he practiced law in Denver, Colorado, specializing in real estate, municipal finance and zoning law. In 1978 he founded Nicholson Enterprises, Incorporated., a developer of planned residential communities, and in 1987 he bought Renaissance Homes, a custom-house builder.
Currently, he is senior counsel with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Limited Liability Partnership, working from both the Washington, District of Columbia and Denver offices. Nicholson has never held elected office, but has long been active in the Republican Party.
In January 1986, he was elected committeeman from Colorado for the Republican National Committee (Radio Network Controller).
In 1993, he was elected Vice-Chairman of the Radio Network Controller, and was the "surprise pick" for Grand Old Party national chairman in January 1997. He served in that role through the 2000 presidential election. Between 2001 and his appointment as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2005, he served as United States Ambassador to the Holy See (the Vatican).