Higgs stepping down
Not slowing down
By Jeff Green
Dr. Colin Higgs recently helped put together a long-term athlete development resource paper for Canadian sport groups. Dr. Higgs officially steps down as Memorial’s director of the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation on Aug. 31. (Photo by Chris Hammond)
Stepping down as director of Memorial University’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation doesn’t mean slowing down for Dr. Colin Higgs, the affable department head for the past eight years. He’s spending the better part of the summer on vacation in Ontario for a “much-needed break” with family and friends before officially leaving his post on Aug. 31. But you won’t find him lounging around. His travel plans kick into high gear later this summer and his passport will get quite a workout. He’ll visit three continents in the span of just a few months as a volunteer with sport development groups around the world.
In early August, he leaves Canada for Nepal where he’ll spend time with the Nepal Disabled Human Rights Center.
“It’s a group that wants to establish, for the first time, an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to have the same human rights as others in their community. I’ve done a fair amount of this work as a volunteer in the past,” explained Dr. Higgs, who has taught at Memorial since 1975. He will use various sports to ensure people with disabilities get proper exercise and interact with others. “This is both a physical and social development tool,” he said.
From Nepal, Dr. Higgs heads to Bonn, Germany, for meetings with the International Paralympic Committee’s sport development team. He was recently appointed to a six-member group which is made up of fellow sport experts from around the world. Their goal is to co-ordinate plans to advance sport for people with disabilities around the world. “Showing what people with disabilities can do in these countries has a really powerful affect on public opinion towards people with disabilities.”
Following his meetings in Germany, Dr. Higgs heads back to Nepal and by September he heads to Bhutan, a country located in southern Asia between China and India where he’ll volunteer with two schools; one for students who are blind and the other for children who have physical disabilities. Aside from the challenging work, Dr. Higgs is looking forward to seeing the stunning scenery in that part of the world. “My big hope is that it is a clear day because the scheduled flight from Kathmandu, Nepal into Thimphu, which is the capital of Bhutan, flies right across the face of [Mount] Everest. I have heard that on clear days the flight is absolutely spectacular,” he said with a wide smile.
If that weren’t enough to fill his day planner, Dr. Higgs is also busy researching and working with national sport organizations across Canada to implement long-term athlete development plans.
Add to his itinerary a three-month stint working with Barbados’ Olympic committee next January, Dr. Higgs admits his extensive travelling and long hours will be exhausting yet exhilarating.
And, although he’s leaving his position as director of the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Dr. Higgs isn’t severing his ties with Memorial just yet. He’s taking a year off but plans to return to Newfoundland in time for the 2006 fall semester and teach for another two or three years.
Dr. Higgs said he is amazed at the transformation his department has undergone, especially during his tenure.
“We’ve gone through massive changes. We’ve gone from about 900 registrations a year when I took over eight years ago, to 4,200,” he said proudly. “We went from being essentially a physical education teacher preparation school to bringing on stream a new degree in recreation and a new kinesiology degree.
“That shift reflects a real change in what students want,” added Dr. Higgs. “I just happened to be sitting in this chair when we were going through this transition. Now we have a really young and dynamic group of faculty who are just taking stuff and running with it.”