Previously published in the 2017 Ouachitonian yearbook.
Growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada, chess and winter sports played significant roles in Dr. Doug Nykolaishen’s life, as did his faith. Although he had developed a love for the Bible early in his life, he studied philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan, a secular university.
“It was often very challenging,” Nykolaishen said, “but I learned why Christianity makes the most sense.”
From the beginning, he knew he wanted to pastor a church one day. However, he had to set that ambition momentarily aside. He got a job as a milkman for a year after graduating college. Then he decided to pursue seminary. Nykolaishen and his wife transitioned to the United States where he found his place at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. His living situation came unexpectedly but made his experience better: a family took in seminary students and allowed them to live in their home rent-free in exchange for help with chores.
“They had a huge mansion, and we lived in what used to be servants’ quarters—but we weren’t servants,” Nykolaishen said, “My wife prepared their evening meal Monday through Friday and did the grocery shopping and would sometimes clean the kitchen. I cut grass.”
After obtaining a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Old Testament, he finally got the job he had trained for. He pastored a church in Alberta, Canada. But after four years of Nykolaishen’s help, it was time to move on.
Coincidentally, a job in air-traffic control, which had long interested him, posted a rare job opening. He was one of the few to pass their test and get the job. But like his interest in air traffic control, Nykolaishen had another dream he had momentarily set aside.
“When I went to college and seminary, I started thinking I wanted to study more and maybe teach,” Nykolaishen said.
Hearing discouraging remarks about the difficulties of finding jobs in teaching, he decided to pursue other careers after seminary.
“Eventually the idea of teaching grew, and I thought I should get a PhD and teach,” Nykolaishen said.
This led him to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The connections Edinburgh provided led to unexpected opportunities. He was working as a teaching assistant, and one of his students was an OBU student named Brandon O’Brien.
“At the end of the year, I came to a conference in America where people would be looking to hire teachers. I met faculty members from Ouachita looking for Old Testament teachers, and they told me to send my info,” Nykolaishen said, “I thought that since I’m from Canada and studying in Scotland, they’d hire an American from the South, but they called me back. They brought me to campus for an interview, and it seemed to go really well. I went back to Scotland, and they called a few days later to ask if I was interested.”
It turned out that his friendship with O’Brien, now the director of OBU@NLC campus, played a role in him getting the job.
“Part of the process is meeting with students. Brandon was advocating for me, and it really worked in my favor,” Nykolaishen said, “The students at OBU are awesome. OBU has the most respectful and positive students you can find anywhere. It really is remarkable.”
By Morgan Howard
Photo by Andy Henderson
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