JANE HIGA: An appreciation
Over the years when our paths crossed—usually at national conferences—we would grab another lunch or snack or some time together to get caught up, or to try out new ideas. I remember one breakfast in Savannah with Jane and Shirley Mullen, as we tried to imagine what the behavioral policies for Christian colleges would look like in 20 years. When I came out to see my son in Santa Barbara, Jane took me to breakfast at Tre Lune, and when she came out to Massachusetts with several student life friends they once had dessert at our home. And then there was that shared taxi ride in Atlanta when Jane asked me, quietly and cautiously, how well I knew Jim Mannoia.
What made those conversations so rewarding for me was Jane's blend of transparency and hopefulness. I always felt that I could be vulnerable about the latest episodes of life . . . about what perplexed me, about what invigorated me, about what hurt. Yet, no matter the mood of the moment, I always left feeling hopeful. Jane radiates a spirit of new possibilities. Often in Christian higher education I hear tales of academics and student life professionals protecting their separate spheres and prerogatives, but with Jane it was always the creative synthesis that gave conversations their spark. She cherishes the life of the mind and loves faculty for their ideas, but always speaks of faculty as if they were on her student life team. I would continually leave conversations with the sense that Jane valued me as a friend and co-laborer—that my life and ideas mattered to the things that mattered to her.
For Jane—and for Jim—the road forward will have some time for discovery and joy, some more lunches where they can relax and soak in the beauty of their surroundings. But it will also have some trials. Recently my wife Arlyne, who spent years in Japan, told me of a famous poem by Kenji Miyazawa, a beloved author from northern Japan. His last published poem—"ame ni mo makezu"—has provided inspiration for the Japanese during tough seasons, most notably after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Some of these lines, Jane, do make me think of you:
not losing to the rain
not losing to the wind
not losing to the snow nor to summer's heat . . .
never losing temper
always quietly smiling . . .
count yourself last
and put others before you
watching and listening, and understanding
and never forgetting . . .
if there is a tired mother to the west
going and shouldering her sheaf of rice
if there is someone near death to the south
going and saying there's no need to be afraid
if there is a quarrel or a lawsuit to the north
telling them to leave off with such waste . . .
without being praised
without being blamed
such a person
I want to become
Jane, while our overlapping days at Westmont have been so few, I am grateful that I have long been able to watch you assist students and colleagues—veterans and young professionals alike—become people of hope and charity. I know that you have loved the words of Psalm 139: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know full well." And you have helped so many students, often after stark troubles, rediscover the wonder of the Lord's world and ways.
Tenure is for life, Jane. You may leave Kerrwood, but I look forward to walking some more with you in the days ahead. God bless you.