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Nugent was born on Long Island, New York, the eighth of eleven children. Educated at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, he has been a Californian working in the financial industry since 1979. Married in 1980, he and his wife are the parents of two adult children.
His passion for the history of California and The West thrived while he served on boards of the Sonoma County Historical Society and the Petaluma Historical Museum and Library. He has written a history of his church, where he led a group to restore historic stained-glass windows that had been forgotten in a ranch henhouse. His anti-war drama, "The Finger," won the Dominican University Marin Fringe Festival "First Place Best Play" honor.