Nugent received his degree in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois in 1958, where he was also a member of the football team. After graduation, he worked six years with ASGCA Founding Member Robert Bruce Harris. Dick and future ASGCA President Ken Killian left Harris in 1964 to set up their own golf course architecture partnership.
The firm of Killian and Nugent developed strong relationships with many superintendents in the Chicago area. Along with original designs, they stressed the importance of master planning, leading to a number of multi-year remodeling projects.
Nugent and Killian made their big splash on the national scene with the creation of Kemper Lakes Golf, Long Grove, Illinois, which played host to the Kemper Open and the 1989 PGA Championship. During their time together, they nurtured the careers of many talented associates, including ASGCA Past Presidents Jeff Brauer and Bob Lohmann; Bruce Borland, ASGCA; Jim Blaukovitch, ASGCA; Jim Engh, ASGCA; and Dick’s son, Tim Nugent, who was elected into ASGCA membership in 2001. Another Nugent protégé is Patrick Karnick, president-elect of the Golf Course Builders Association of America.
Nugent became an ASGCA member in 1971, served as President from 1981-82 and achieved Fellow status in 2003.