Saturday, 20 May 2006

Waterloo Loses a Good Man - Michael W. Higgins Heads East

Have you ever met a person who instantly captured your attention? Have you ever met a professor or seen a public speaker who captured your imagination? Have you ever had a hero or mentor who mentored you through their work or writings? I have met two such men here at UW and met them both at the same time.

I had the privilege of meeting Michael W. Higgins in the classroom back in the spring of 1998. I had just returned to school as a part-time mature student and to be honest I did not expect to do well. I had been out of university for about five years and was lacking in confidence. I took two courses that term, RS 209 - Paul's Life and Letters with Peter Frick and RS100C - Faith Quests with Michael W. Higgins. Both of these men are scholars, professional men of character and also men of devout faith. Both of these men are involved internationally in scholarship and the promotion of specific areas of focus in their studies.

Yet here in this article I want to focus on Higgins, for the primary reason that he is leaving us. In almost every public lecture of his that I attended since that first class, he quoted Donald Nicholl's article "Scientia Cordis," an article about science of the heart and people who go on faith quests. Yet one of the quotes from that book can sum up Higgins for us. "Hence the characteristic medium of the ‘scientia cordis' is neither a principle nor a law but a story -- a story that will move the heart." (Donald Nicholl's Beatitude of Truth, p.161.) Higgins is a man who opens up whatever he is teaching or talking about through a story, and he always speaks so passionately that the audience is drawn in and captivated by his topic and talk.

Michael W. Higgins is part of the who’s who of Canadian intelligential with degree’s from SFXU, UT, and two from York, he met his wife while studying for the priesthood. Graduating (magna cum laude) at St. Francis Xavier University he then moved on and was mentored by the distinguished poet-scholar Eli Mandel. He arrived at St. Jerome’s University at The University of Waterloo in 1982 and has been a tour de force since then. Publishing many books articles and much much more.

He has a breadth of experience and roles to equal 10 lesser men: some of his former positions include being CTV Vatican Correspondent, Toronto Star Columnist, and regular contributor to The Record. He has authored numerous scripts for the CBC's Idea's program and served as editor for Grail: An Ecumenical Journal. He is also the author of many books, including Stalking the Holy, Power and Peril, Heretic Blood and The Jesuit Mystique. He has balanced these and many more roles while remaining an active member in his faith community, a public speaker, a husband and father. Last year, TVOntario named him one of the "Top Ten" lecturers in Ontario.

Currently Higgins is St. Jerome's University's President and Vice-Chancellor, but he is leaving Waterloo to pursue the same roles at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Maritimes' gain is truly our loss. Waterloo is losing a world-class scholar, a man who served in and around his community and a person of character, faith and integrity. So thus we must bid him farewell; we will have no choice but to follow his future exploits from afar.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-05-19 as ‘Waterloo loses a good man’.)

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