Nickolas B. Pippen

Chemical Engineer Who Was Active In An International Aid Organization Fought Cancer With Quiet Courage

August 23, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Nickolas Benjamin Pippen, a chemical engineer and volunteer, died Aug. 13 of complications from a bone marrow transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Joppatowne resident was 26.

Mr. Pippen was born in Baltimore and raised in Joppatowne. He was a 2000 graduate of Joppatowne High School, where he played first base on the school's varsity baseball team and was a member of its golf team.

He earned a degree in chemical engineering in 2005 from the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.

After graduating from Maryland, Mr. Pippen worked for three years at Tic Gums Inc., a White Marsh company that imports, manufactures and processes vegetable gums used by food and pharmaceutical companies nationwide.

In May 2008, Mr. Pippen was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia and underwent a bone marrow transplant three months later.

"From the day he was diagnosed, Nick fought for his life with a quiet courage and strength," said his mother, Diane M. Pippen, director of the Diamond Dance Center and a Joppatowne resident.

"Nick never gave up, and his fondest wish was to get better and come home to be with family and friends," she said.

Over the past year, Mr. Pippen endured frequent hospitalizations, and at the time of his death had been in Hopkins since June 5.

Lacy Fetting, a clinical oncology social worker with the Harry J. Duffey Patient and Family Services Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Hopkins, became a close friend.

"What a totally awesome and joyous young man. I delighted in his joy, his liveliness, his intellect and his engagement with the world," wrote Ms. Fetting in an e-mail.

"He had a curious combination of acceptance and struggle so while he possessed the capacity to 'bloom where planted,' this was never blind acceptance," she wrote. "He challenged and rigorously examined the data while deliberating the many medical decisions he faced on his journey."

While not a churchgoer, Mr. Pippen maintained a deep curiosity about religious matters and read widely in the subject.

Barrett Lauder, who works for AFS-USA, a nonprofit student exchange program, was a friend since childhood.

"He was very sharp and always mature for his age. He was always ready to respectfully and lovingly tell me how he saw it," Mr. Lauder said. "He always tried to teach but was never afraid to learn."

He praised his friend's passion for discussing and examining existential matters and sharing his humanity with others.

"Everyone who knew Nick has a story of how at some point in their lives he went out of his way to help them," Mr. Lauder said. "He was a person who opened his heart to everyone and could bring smiles."

Mr. Pippen had been an active member of Engineers Without Borders, an international assistance program that works largely in Third World countries.

"Nick had traveled to Ecuador and Honduras to work on projects," his mother said.

Mr. Pippen also raised funds for the organization and attended the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., where he established and manned an Engineers Without Borders booth.

"He was very committed to finding ways to help people and contribute to society. He wanted his life to make a difference," Mrs. Pippen said.

A man of varied interests, he was intrigued by the possibilities of green engineering and architecture, she said.

He was an Orioles and Ravens fan and also enjoyed listening to music, reading poetry and the works of such authors as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.

"He had eclectic tastes when it came to music that went from jazz to bluegrass," his mother said.

"One of his favorite quotes from Emerson that kind of describes his life was: 'Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.' "

A celebration of Mr. Pippen's life will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Hall, 1403 Old Mountain Road, South Joppa.

Also surviving are his father, W. Glenn Pippen of Joppatowne; a sister, Sara Caitlin Pippen of Joppatowne; maternal grandparents, James L. Overtoom of South Bethany, Del., and Marie B. Overtoom of Perry Hall; and his girlfriend, Kate Diehn of Baltimore.

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