Joseph Stangl, Gerry Fallon and Louise Ervin share a special connection – they’re one of the 39 recipients of the CCSTA Higgins Award.
The 40th recipient was just announced by CCSTA this week, making Kevin Feehan part of a four-decade-long tradition that began following the death of a man who was involved with CCSTA during its development years in the 1960s and 1970s – Justice James Higgins.
Originally from Newfoundland, Justice Higgins first became involved with CCSTA when they selected a board of directors to help represent different landscapes within the Canadian Catholic education community. Justice Higgins also served many years as chairman of the Roman Catholic School Board for St. John’s, Newfoundland, and he was also the first chairman of the Association of Roman Catholic School Boards.
When he wasn’t practising law or dedicating his time to the church, Justice Higgins could be found in the Newfoundland sports scene. He has a passion for both rowing and football and often dedicated his time as a volunteer. In fact, Justice Higgins passed away the day following his installation as the chairman for the Newfoundland Sports Hall of Fame board of directors in 1974. He was later inducted into the province’s Hall of Fame in 1987.
In his homily, preached at the funeral of Justice James Higgins, Archbishop P.J. Skinner noted that: “As a Catholic layman, Judge Higgins made a tremendous contribution to the church he served so constantly and generously. I would refer to the field of Catholic education…He was tireless, self-sacrificing, and dedicated to all in his work…He was just as faithful as an ordinary church helper as he was a conscientious and wise judge…May the soul of Jim Higgins, whom we have known and loved, find rest, peace and joy with God forever and more.”
Establishing the Award
So effective and influential a Catholic leader was Justice Higgins, that CCSTA established a perpetual award in his honour. The CCSTA’s Higgins Award is presented annually in memory of Justice James Higgins. It reflects recognition of an exceptional contribution to Catholic education in Canada. The first award was granted posthumously to Justice Higgins at the 1975 Annual Convention in his home city of St. John’s.
Since that time, a recipient is nominated, selected and granted the Higgins Award. From British Columbia to St. John’s to bishops to trustees, the award has recognized the work of varying roles across the Canadian Catholic education landscape.
Each year a committee is established to review the nominations that come in for the award. Although 2014 will be the 40th time in which a recipient is selected, the decision never gets easier.
“There are so many wonderful people who have dedicated themselves to Catholic education, making it difficult to select just one person,” explains CCSTA Executive Director John Stunt. “The committee has to adopt the mindset that although they’re faced with so many distinctive choices, the person selected represents all those who have demonstrated the same commitment to Catholic education as Justice Higgins.”
Like so many others, when Regis O’Connor won the award in 2012, he said, “I was honored to be named the Justice James Higgins Award winner, having my name alongside past winners who have accomplished amazing things in their time.”
The award will be handed out at the 2014 CCSTA Annual General Meeting, which takes place in Kingston, Ontario.
To review all those who have previously received the Higgins Award, click here.