Vice President and Dean of Students to Retire

Jane Higa

Jane Higa

In January, Jane Higa announced she would retire from Westmont Aug. 31 after serving for 24 years as vice president and dean of students. She went on medical leave when physicians at UCLA Medical Center diagnosed her with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease earlier in March.

“Jane has touched many lives and inspired countless students,” says President Gayle D. Beebe. “With her strong yet graceful leadership and wisdom, Jane has developed a remarkable student life program that enhances both the college’s academic and co-curricular activities. We’re grateful for her legacy, but we will miss her presence and work with us. We will be praying for her as she deals with this difficult disease.”

In June 2011, the Association for Christians in Student Development (ACSD) gave Higa its first Jane Hideko Higa Multicultural Advancement Award. The ACSD Diversity Task Force created the award to recognize individuals doing excellent work in advancing multicultural competency and named it in Higa’s honor.

Higa graduated from Westmont in 1973 and earned a Master of Science degree from USC. In the 1980s, she served for seven years as dean for student affairs and two years as dean of women at Biola University, where she met Mark Sargent, Westmont’s provost. He says Higa is deeply respected throughout Christian higher education as someone who builds bridges between the academic and student life programs.

“She has a unique capacity to draw people into conversation about the essential things, and you leave every conversation with Jane knowing that she cares about you and your hopes and ideas,” Sargent says. “At a time when student life and academic life were drifting into separate professional spheres in Christian higher education, Jane was a persistent voice for the possibilities of partnership. Her vision for that partnership was not simply programmatic: her collaboration was always rooted in a love of ideas, of people, and of possibilities.”

Higa received the ACSD’s prestigious Don L. Boender Award in 1998 and has served on the ACSD executive committee as both vice president and president-elect, spoken at numerous conferences, chaired the planning team for the annual conference and recently served as the chair of the diversity task force. She has been active in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) as former chair of the Commission of Chief Student Development Officers and as a member of the Racial Harmony Commission.

Barry Loy, vice president for student life at Gordon College, has worked with Higa for about 30 years through ACSD and CCCU. He says she often provides wisdom and advice on a multitude of student life topics for her colleagues from other schools. “Her faith is authentic and contagious,” Loy says. “She is a tireless worker for God’s Kingdom, her family, student development and Westmont. She continues to be an inspiration to me. I’ve especially been strengthened in my own faith and work by watching Jane deal with the ups and downs of life. She is a kind and gracious person always willing to listen and put others before herself. Jane’s retirement from the profession is a great loss, but she has and will continue to inspire many others to follow in her footsteps.”

Mary Docter, Westmont professor of modern languages, remembers meeting Higa during her Westmont interview in 1992. “I was initially struck by Jane’s warmth and hospitality, as she welcomed me into her office and into our community with a wide, gracious smile that still seems to accompany her wherever she goes,” Docter says. “As we chatted together, I saw a woman of vision and passion, of wisdom and humility, a woman of deep and abiding faith. Jane inspires me with her passion for the mission of the Christian liberal arts and Westmont College, something she articulates beautifully and personally. It lives in every fiber of her being. I’m inspired by her desire to appreciate all the good we do, yet to always strive to do better, to be better.”

Docter says she recently thought about Jane during a sermon about the fruit of the spirit. “Jane embodies love, joy and peace,” she says. “She is kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. Jane Higa belongs to Christ; she lives by the spirit. She is a blessing to all who know her, and I am grateful for her presence at Westmont and in our lives.”

Kristin Lo, president of the Westmont College Student Association and former multi-cultural representative to the WCSA, has treasured her friendship with Higa. “The best part of my education at Westmont has been the mentorship by my professors in the communication studies department and the building of wonderful relationships through the WCSA with people like Jane Higa.”

Beebe, who will begin a national search to replace Higa in the fall, encourages those who wish to communicate with Jane and her fiancé Jim Mannoia, to please send messages to Tiffany Lobner (tlobner@westmont.edu). The college will soon announce an interim vice president and dean of students.

Comments

  1. Dear Jim and Jane, Our hearts go out to both of you. Jim and Curt worked and “lived” side-by-side for many years and Curt also worked with Jane when Curt was Associate Academic Dean at Westmont. Our prayers are with you and with Westmont as we walk with you. Love, Curt & Erlyne Whiteman

  2. Bill Good says:

    Jane,
    I remember when you returned to the campus way back when. Your smile, positive attitude and spriitual focus were worn on the sleeve. Wishing you the very best on your retirement and will be praying for your healing now.
    Blessings to you! Bill

  3. Sara Benson Olson says:

    Jane, this beautiful piece reflects exactly who I knew you to be. Your warmth and kindness extended to every student you encountered. You are a Westmont treasure.

    • Jenny Johnson says:

      Couldn’t agree more! Jane, thank you for your commitment to Westmont’s vision and students.

  4. Leona Bergstrom says:

    Jane,
    You inspired me as a fellow-student at Westmont in the 70′s, and you encouraged me when I was a Westmont parent in the 90′s! Your commitment to Christ and your dedication to students are exemplary. Please know how grateful we are for your grace-filled service! We are praying for you as you retire and as you fight this disease. May God richly bless you. Leona

  5. Megan (Shrader) Alexander says:

    Jane – you are such an example of Christian service and encouragement. As a strong leader, you inspired countless students with your hard work and positive attitude. I am a better person and leader having known you at Westmont. Please keep us posted on your future plans and prayers for you and your health.
    - Megan
    graduate ’02

  6. Megan (Delgado) Jackson says:

    Jane leaving is a true loss to Westmont. She is a person who was always so personable and warm and you could see her faith shining through each moment. Good luck to you Jane and God bless.

    Megan class of 2007

  7. Terri Goehner says:

    Jane has had such an incredible impact on Westmont. She is a true example of servant leadership, but even more important is how she lives out her faith. Westmont is the richer for having Jane as part of the Westmont family.

  8. Jane Higa is an amazing leader. I remember her chapel talks were so inspiring. She contributed so much to Westmont.

  9. Jeremy Stringer says:

    Jane is a former colleague at USC and my friend of 35 years. She has touched my life in ways too numerous to mention by her humor, gentle spirit, and loving acceptance of all people. She has dealt with too many misfortunes. Being with Jane has always inpired me to lead my own life with greater grace, faith, and love. She is and always will be a treasured gift.

  10. Julianne Reynolds Vaccaro says:

    Jane dear one,
    The memory of the love you brought to Oakleigh when you lived with my grandparents : Annie and Hewitt Reynolds will always be with me. They adored you as you know. I remember you and Jerry planting a surprise Tulip garden for HR in front of the house. You were all joy and smiles and it was contagious. My sister Marcy has kept me up to date about your life over the years. I saw you at Annie’s graveside and you hadn’t aged in 30 years. With all your dedicated friends, I know you’ll have a direct line to the Real healing. Sending you loads of love and caring, Julianne

  11. Dear Jane, Congratulations!…I am so glad to hear that you and Jim have made this commitment. The college and all associated with it will miss your presence. You have been such a positive force for good because the Lord has used your gifts and talents in many diverse ways. This has been the case because you have sought to be His woman and have been open to His calling on your life. Blessings on you and God will use even these challenges for good! Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11-13 Love to you; I count it a privilege to have been your colleague and friend for so many years…Crystal Jorden

  12. Julie Gutierrez-Farley says:

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you for all you have done at Westmont, and for your support and encouragement to me and others to get involved in the multi-cultural program you sponsored, I attended Westmont ’87 – ’91. God bless you and Jim as you start the next chapter of your lives.

  13. John Kim says:

    Jane, our hearts and prayers go out to you. All the best and thank you for your support, generosity and dedication to students and community. God bless.

  14. Kenon Neal says:

    Jane,

    I am honored to have watched your life for so many precious years. And now, you walk a new road with courage, and Jim’s companionship, God will be ever with you. I am so grateful for your amazing role model… and dear friendship.