Roy Sullivan Nicks, earned his bachelor of science degree in social studies at Middle Tennessee State University in 1955. He then earned a master's degree in political science at the University of Tennessee and a doctorate of educational administration from Memphis State University.
Nicks held a number of positions in education and government in the State of Tennessee, including Assistant to the Governor, Comminisioner and Deputy Commisioner of the Department of Public Welfare, and Chief of the Budget Division. He also served in administrative capacities at the University of Tennessee in Nashville.
From 1975 to 1986, Nicks served as Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents. Having served as interim president since may of 1992, he was named the university's seventh president in 1993. After his retirement from ETSU in 1997, Nicks was named Chancellor Emeritus of the Tennessee Board of Regents.