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“As a result of
the experiences that mankind has gone through in the 20th century
it is my view that we will act with more maturity in the next century and thus create better prospects for peace, harmony and tolerance.”
— The Dalai Lama
The exiled leader of Tibet^
Millennium V.I.P.s*

Alumnus Gathers Celebrity Forecasts for the
Next Millennium

by Angelo Carfagna

*Very Important Prognosticators

For individuals, there are certain times that beg for reflection; birthdays certainly, and of course the dawn of a new year. Todd Nickerson, BS’90 (F-M), MBA’94 (F-M), believes a similar time for reflection is approaching, but this one applies to all of society and indeed the entire world. “The millennium is a time for communal introspection. Many people will look at this date and think about what we’re doing and where we are headed.”

And if they’re not, Nickerson will help direct their sights. A sales manager at Lucent Technologies, Nickerson is the co-founder and director of the Millennium Committee of New York, LLC. He and fellow Lucent employee David Kristof formed the committee in 1996 and have since spent more than 7,000 hours gathering predictions for the next millennium from some of the world’s most famous people.

Click to view postcard from Newt Gingrich

Click to view a postcard from Newt Gingrich

More than 800 world leaders, American politicians, Nobel Prize winners, scholars, athletes, actors and other celebrities have responded to Nickerson and Kristof’s requests with their prognostications for humanity. People like the Dalai Lama, Lech Walesa, Newt Gingrich, Christine Todd Whitman, Walter Cronkite and Bill Cosby — all have taken their time to play the role of soothsayers, some with tongues planted firmly in cheek (“interest rates will be higher and my breasts will be lower” — Joan Rivers) and many others with deep contemplations and profound forecasts (“We will act with more maturity in the next century and thus create better prospects for peace, harmony and tolerance” — The Dalai Lama).

Click to view postcard from Joan Rivers

Click to view a postcard from Joan Rivers

“We have been receiving dozens of messages every month and are getting more and more each day,” Nickerson says.

The material not only has been incorporated into a book, Predictions for the Next Millennium,but also will be the subject of exhibits at the Empire State Building and Trump Tower in New York City, is the focus of a web site and is being considered for a television special. John Ratzenberger, best known as the trivially challenged postman on NBC’s hit show “Cheers,” was so enthusiastic about the project that he purchased the television rights to the book.

“I always thought that this was a great idea,” says Nickerson, “but we’ve been overwhelmed by all the responses.”

“My prediction for the 3rd Millennium: Peace in the Middle East, all disease will be eradicated and the world’s #1 vacation destination will be a tour of the rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike.”
— Joe Piscopo

A Lasting Tribute

The idea was born in 1996. Nickerson and Kristof were looking for ways to help New York City celebrate the turn of the millennium. Back then, they said, the city had no particular plans under way, so the two formed the Millennium Committee of New York, LLC, with their own resources. After consulting various museums and the mayor’s Convention Bureau, they decided that the best way to put together a major event would be through some kind of exhibition.

Nickerson explains that as they were discussing ideas, they happened to be in Times Square and passed an elderly man screaming prophecies into a bullhorn. “We both stopped in our tracks when he yelled the word ‘millennium.’ We saw that the crowd was absorbed with his fire-and-brimstone predictions and his details of how the world will end when the year 2000 arrives.”

“I left the Earth three times, Mercury 8, Gemini 6 and Apollo 7, and I found no other place to live. Please take care of Spaceship Earth! But, if during the next millennium, the earthlings work together new propulsion systems may permit terraforming Mars. Good luck and commitment can provide wonders.”
— Capt. Walter M. Schirra
The third American to have orbited Earth^

He adds, “It didn’t take either of us long to realize that there is something tremendously intriguing about the calendar changing into the 2000s, and that predictions for the next 1,000 years would be something very original to compile and would represent a meaningful time capsule.”

Nickerson and Kristof set off on the daunting task of contacting thousands of the world’s most illustrious individuals. They first sent letters of request to 200 prominent figures asking them to describe an event they thought would occur in the next 1,000 years. The letters, mailed from a tiny post office within the United Nations basement, asked each individual to hand-write a message on the back of a colorful United Nations postcard, which featured that person’s native flag on the front.

Click to view postcard from Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Click to view a postcard from Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“From the first response (which was from Archbishop Desmond Tutu) we began to see that these very busy and very accomplished people had been giving the future and the turn of the millennium much thought. We quickly realized that we might have a potentially historic project.”

Nickerson adds that it is not only interesting to see the content of the messages but also to see how celebrities have phrased them and written them across the cards. “The messages are both meaningful and personal,” he says.

By the end of 1997, Nickerson and Kristof had written to more than 6,000 international figures (that number today has passed 7,000), including every head-of-state, every Nobel laureate and hundreds of figures in the worlds of business, entertainment, literature, religion, science and sports.

No Need for a Bullhorn

Nickerson and Kristof say that all their initial energies were focused on putting together an exhibition, but as their collection grew, they saw the potential for an interesting book. Forced by their publisher to be selective, the two then poured through the predictions, grading each one. “Narrowing down the predictions was one of the most difficult parts of this project,” Nickerson says. “We basically had two criteria — fame and the quality of the message — and we ranked each from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best.”

Read about the book on the Millennium Committee of New York, LLC Website

The book, whose full title is Predictions for the Next Millennium: Thoughts on the 1,000 Years Ahead from Today’s Celebrities,was published late last year and contains 259 predictions. The compilation is divided into 10 chapters categorized by the specialties of the various celebrities.

As the book was being completed, plans for a public display of the material were being finalized. The first public showing was on September 3 in the lobby of the Empire State Building. The management of the famous skyscraper chose Nickerson and Kristof’s project for its commemoration of the new millennium and will keep reproduced postcards (with photographs and biographies) from the book on display until January

An even larger exhibit began October 25 at Trump Tower, where an entire retail store is dedicated to Nickerson and Kristof’s material until the end of the year. Because the organization has accumulated more than 800 messages, this exhibition will unveil hundreds of never-before-seen predictions, with contributors ranging from Nancy Reagan to Arnold Palmer.

Nickerson says, “Since the publisher’s deadline last year, we have received one celebrity message after another, all of which we wish could have made the book. With all of the unpublished material to be shown at Trump Tower, it will be the equivalent of reading a second volume — plus some.”

“We’ve seen throughout the world that democracy works, that education pays off, that intolerance destroys, and that free markets expand opportunity. And on every continent, a commitment to careful stewardship of the world’s precious resources is reawakening.”
— Christine Todd Whitman
Governor of New Jersey^
“Three nations will rule until each breaks up into its component parts — Russia, U.S., China. Two will emerge from this chaos — then three again; the creation and destruction of great powers will continue forever. Hope will die and rise again.”
— Arthur Miller

On the show’s opening day, there was a reception held in the Trump Towers’ atrium with Donald Trump as chairman of the event. Several of the celebrities who contributed to the project joined Nickerson, Kristof and Trump to celebrate the end of the century.

An integral part of the project for Nickerson and Kristof is the raising of proceeds for charitable funds. Visitors to the Trump exhibition will be encouraged to contribute to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) or other international charities. Visitors also will have a chance to submit their own handwritten prophecies into a time capsule. In January 2000, that time capsule will be placed into the foundation of the Trump World Tower, the 90-story skyscraper under construction opposite the United Nations Headquarters.

Other institutions, from as close as Philadelphia to as far as Moscow, have also requested exhibitions. And, the postcards may be displayed at FDU. Updates on the exhibits and other aspects of Nickerson and Kristof’s work are available on the Millennium Committee’s web site at Visitors to the site also can submit their own thoughts on the next millennium.

Working on the book and exhibition has consumed nearly every spare hour of time for the duo during the last three years. Just building the database of names and keeping addresses current has been a nonstop challenge. Most of the work has been done from Nickerson’s basement in Basking Ridge, N.J.

For Nickerson, the most fulfilling aspect of the entire experience has been the opportunity to get to know some of the world’s greatest personalities. “We have met a handful of the celebrities and talked with many more on the phone. We have had extraordinary conversations with people like Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra. And we have had the chance to befriend people such as Harrison Schmitt, an astronaut who walked on the Moon, and Sir James Mancham, the founding president of a small country called Seychelles — people who we would normally never meet.”

“If our species does not learn in the early part of the next century to live in harmony with nature, I predict unprece-
dented environ-
mental disasters and epidemics of disease worldwide. This means an ending of the absurd growth-
rate of populations around the globe, the acceptance of a less greedy, selfish, material-
istic lifestyle by the affluent, and less pollution and habitat destruction in industrial and agricultural practices. I predict that the human brain and our ability to solve problems will rise to the challenge. Already more and more people around the world are becoming aware of the magnitude of environmental destruction — many have already committed to changes in their behavior ...”
— Jane Goodall
Biologist, en-
Photograph of Todd Nickerson
Todd Nickerson, BS‘90 (F-M), MBA‘94 (F-M)

The ‘City Mouse’

Certainly Nickerson couldn’t have dreamt of meeting such people while he was growing up in rural Bath, N.H., just an hour from the Canadian border. “I was a city mouse in a country house.”

From an early age, Nickerson says he wanted to study business. After seeing the movie, “Wall Street,” he became convinced the metropolitan area and its hotbed of business activity was the place for him. Following his older brother, David BS’87 (F-M), Nickerson attended FDU’s Florham-Madison Campus, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing. Nickerson was an active student and played varsity soccer and lacrosse. On campus, he met his future wife Lisa Schectman, BA’89 (F-M). Today, the couple have two children, Sam and Noah.

At FDU, Nickerson made crucial contacts as a member of the Center for Human Resource Management Studies’ Executive/Scholars Program, which provides students the opportunity to meet and learn from senior executives with major companies. “That’s how I landed a job with Lucent Technologies [formerly the systems and technology divisions of AT&T].”

Richard Ottaway, professor of management, recalls Nickerson the student as a “bundle of energy and creativity.” He adds, “Todd is the classic on-the-go, make-it-work type person.” When Nickerson was planning his millennium project, he consulted Ottaway and Leo Rogers, the director of the George Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies. Nickerson says both provided direction and counsel, but Ottaway says Nickerson and Kristof were well prepared and needed little guidance. “The most I can say I gave them was moral support.”

Nickerson continued his career development and his FDU relatioship by studying at the University for his MBA, a degree he earned in 1994. Now at Lucent for nine years, Nickerson manages a national sales team that supports AT&T.

When he’s not spending time with his family, working or focusing on the Millennium Committee, Nickerson enjoys a wide range of sports from softball to golf.

But leisure time has definitely been in short supply for Nickerson, and he’s not complaining. He and Kristof are constantly exploring new ways to complement their millennium endeavors. In addition to the possibility of a television program and other exhibits, a second book of predictions may be on the horizon.

As the two proclaim to their audience in their web site, “It is our hope that you will enjoy reading these celebrities’ messages and that you yourself will also want to ponder the possibilities of the next 1,000 years. Such ideas convey both the dreams and the concerns that our ‘millennium generation’ have for humanity.” They add, “We hope this collection will inspire others to not only think of the future, but to think of what their contribution will be to it.”

“Less fanaticism. More compassion for children. More solidarity with victims of illness and injustice.”
— Elie Wiesel
Holocaust survivor and scholar^

A Renaissance Awaits

If the majority of the celebrity respondents are any indication, the new millennium offers great hope and promise for humanity. Nickerson estimates that about 70 percent of the predictions are optimistic. “Although many mention the problems we’ve caused, the majority believe we will improve in the next millennium.”

And what of Nickerson’s own beliefs? He’s reviewed hundreds of prognostications, talked with numerous dignitaries and is convinced better times are on the horizon.

“I predict that with the Third Millennium, man will experience a ‘renaissance,’ a reevaluation of our purpose and of our effect on the other inhabitants of this beautiful world of ours. This introspective voyage will be spurred by a long overdue development of a sense of ‘personal responsibility’ among men and women of all colors and creeds. And with this newfound sense of responsibility mankind will wonder how we survived the Second Millennium. ... I also believe by 2050 a fool-proof means of birth control will be developed greatly reducing the strain of overpopulation and the tragedy of unwanted and unloved children. We’ll colonize the Moon, Mars and continue on to explore the Universe; searching, exploring and seeking understanding, just as we have for thousands of years.”

^From Predictions for the Next Millennium copyright ©1998 by David Kristof and Todd Nickerson. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri 64111.

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