By Ian C. Beck ’12
Brophy Dean Mr. Patrick Higgins sits behind the black desk in his first floor Brophy Hall office, calmly reflecting on his answer to the question “What one piece of advice do you have for the students?”
He takes a moment to think, then smiles wide before leaning forward to deliver his response.
He said that there are so many things to say, then settles on four simple words that carry a lot of weight: “Be a loving person.”
There was nothing traditionally dean-like in the statement. Nothing about wearing belts to school or keeping your hair cut above your ears or shaving on a regular basis. Nothing about turning homework in on time or filling out excused absence forms two days in advance.
Rather, the first-year Dean of Students chose to remind the student body to be loving.
“It’s the little things,” he said.
Little things like taking the time to listen to others and hear what they have to say.
In his back-to-school address to students, Mr. Higgins spoke about how he’d asked maintenance members Maria Acosta and Socorro Madrid what he should tell the students in order to make their lives easier.
It was by listening to their answer that Mr. Higgins came up with his first order of business for the new school year: grapes.
The not-so-simple task of cleaning up squished grapes was adding hours of unnecessary hard work to the days of the maintenance crew and now it is the responsibility of the students to do away with that problem by confining grapes to their lunch bags and their mouths.
Mr. Higgins sees himself as a “reminder-er” for students and faculty. In his eyes, his role is to draw attention to issues around campus and remind students how to fix them.
Mr. Higgins said he has a goal of continuing the tradition of care on campus. He is committed to improving the health of the individuals that make up the Brophy community and improving the health of the community as a whole.
In addition to serving as dean, Mr. Higgins is also an assistant coach for the varsity baseball team and his team-first mentality shows in how he regards his new role on campus.
When asked how he felt in his first few days as dean, he said that how he feels isn’t important but rather it’s the health of the school that matters.
Mr. Higgins has been a teacher for more than two decades, including 10 years in Brophy’s Spanish classes. This year he will not have any classes to teach so that he can focus on his job as dean.
He admits that he will miss the day-to-day interaction with groups of 30 students at a time but also knows his job as dean will be “rewarding in a different way.”
But not everything about the job is serious and formal. In fact the job comes with a brand new nickname all its own.
Students and faculty have taken to calling Mr. Higgins “Deañor,” a clever combination of the English word “dean” and the Spanish word “señor.”
When asked his thoughts on the new moniker, Mr. Higgins could not help but smile and laugh a little.
Mr. Higgins said the nickname had an affirming effect on him when he heard it and that he actually prefers it to “Dean Higgins.”
“It reminded me how creative and clever the students are,” he said. “It made me feel at home.”
Mr. Chris Ramsey, who worked closely with Mr. Higgins last year when they both taught Spanish classes, calls him a role model for the students.
“He’s a very devout man, a very good role model (and) an example for the kids,” Mr. Ramsey said.
Mr. Ramsey said that he thinks Mr. Higgins will be consistent and just as dean.
“At the core, he’s fair,” Mr. Ramsey said. “He’s going to be consistent and he’s always acting in the best interest of the student whether they like his decision or not. He’s not out on a vendetta, he’s not out to get anybody, he’s out to keep people safe.”
Mr. Andy Schmidbauer ’88 has worked with Mr. Higgins in the World Languages Department for 10 years.
“He’s awesome, he’s incredible, he’s one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met,” Mr. Schmidbauer said of his longtime colleague.
“I think one of his greatest gifts is (that) he’s strict but he’s not mean,” Mr. Schmidbauer said of Mr. Higgins. “He doesn’t have rules just because he wants to be mean to people. He really wants kids to have a positive high school experience and he will do anything he can to help that.”
Senior Kyle Koser ’12 got an early taste of what life will be like with Mr. Higgins as dean when he was told his hair was too long for student ID pictures.
“He wasn’t really angry it was just a real polite warning that my hair wasn’t ok,” Koser, who had Mr. Higgins as his Spanish I teacher, said. “It wasn’t really intimidating or anything.”
“As a (man) he’s always seemed really respectable to me,” Koser said. “He has an air of authority around him if you know what I mean.”