Fr. Thomas P. Higgins, S.J. (1932 - 2007)
Former Campus Minister, Golf Coach, and teacher at Loyola Marymount University
Father Tom Higgins, S.J. was born in Los Angeles, California on January 5, 1932. He attended Loyola High School in Los Angeles and went to Santa Clara University. After two years there, he entered the Society of Jesus in August of 1952, at Los Gatos. After preliminary studies, he taught Latin and coached football and golf for three years at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. He did his theological studies at Regis College in Toronto, Ontario, where, besides delving into Scriptural exegesis, he staked out a plot of land behind the College and built a nine-hole golf course. He was ordained a priest at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood on June 10, 1964.
Arriving at Loyola Marymount University in 1968, he began teaching marriage courses. He was a popular teacher whose classes were always filled. Students recalling his course talk about how he would invite to the class both married and divorced couples to describe the "do's and don'ts" of married life. As a member of the Campus Ministry Staff, he initiated his "Lucy Booth," which he operated for many years on the lawn outside the offices; a sign on the booth said, "Spiritual Advice - 5 cents." Students dropped by every day between classes to give him a nickel and get a joke and some personal care in return. Tom was a golf coach for 31 years, building up over that time not only some talented golfers but also many friends. He received very little funding and no scholarships, but was able to defray travel costs for his team through personal fund raising.
He was a creative person. For example, under the sponsorship of Campus Ministry, he put on what he called "Tent Week." He would adopt a specific theme - "growing Old" was a favorite - and with slide shows and talks and music, he would alert the students to what it was like to grow old, what they should prepare for, and always to show respect for the aged. Another theme revolved around the exploitation of women: far ahead of his time, Tom showed slides of how women are used and exploited by the advertising industry. He also started a series of "Las Vegas Gambling Nights" for which he set up blackjack tables, a craps tables, and a roulette wheel, all with fake money! He assembled a jazz band of professional musicians and a group of students he called "The Red Garter Girls" who danced while he sang and entertained the gathering. Blessed with a good and strong voice, singing was an important part of his life; he sang in his liturgies, the many weddings he performed, and his evening recreation with his fellow Jesuits.
Tom was a generous person, always willing to listen; his sympathy was legendary. He did not wear his spirituality on his sleeve; he was direct and sometimes controversial. He was blunt with those who were too ambitious or who used people for their own benefit. He hated bureaucracy and he avoided long meetings; if he found them boring or pointless, he would walk out. During the last few years, after his first stroke, he moved out of the classroom, and also the residence hall where, he said, he "kept the students in line - and laughing, and into the Jesuit Residence. In the last few weeks, he suffered another minor stroke and moved to the Jesuit infirmary facility in Los Gatos. His love of life, and his love for his friends will be long appreciated. His phone greeting sums it up: "This is Tom Higgins, a spiritual giant; I was just thinking of you, so what have you got to say for yourself!"
Tom died on June 9, 2007, at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, at age 75. He had been a Jesuit for 55 years and a priest for 43 years.
Many pictures and stories about Fr. Tom Higgins can be viewed on this collection of web pages: Tom Higgins.