Barbra Higgins, an attorney, motivational speaker and former Olympic athlete, shared the importance of all three in a quest to success during Tiffin University’s 125th commencement ceremony on May 4.
“Today is about you,” she told the graduates. Higgins, who was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the ceremony in Heminger Center, said the graduates had accomplished something the majority of those living in the United States hadn’t. More than 1,100 Tiffin University
students completed associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
She said she knew how they felt that day and told them to make sure they give themselves credit for what they had accomplished.
“You are extraordinary…You guys worked hard,” she said. Higgins told graduates to remember they can’t give up and said if they pay attention, opportunities exist. “If you go the extra mile, I will guarantee that you will be successful,” she said.
Higgins sought to be inspirational and leave the graduates with pointers. “They really have to have a passion for what they’re (going to) do. You have to have a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish,” she said prior to the ceremony.
Higgins told a story about buying her first new car. After she drove it off the lot, someone hit it with his or her foot while it was in a parking lot. It was like someone kicked it, she said. “I was sick,” she said. Higgins called her insurance company, got the first appointment the next day, and the employee removed the dent within an hour. “I could not see where the dent was,” she said. The price tag for the fix was just $120. Higgins recalled saying, “This is a great business.”
After a discussion with the owner, she purchased a franchise on behalf of an athlete whom she represented and became its chief operating officer.
“How does that happen?” she wondered.
Higgins has more than 30 years of experience in working with small businesses and participated in the 1984 Olympics. She said it never occurred to her to go to the Olympics when she started fencing.
“Fencing to me was just fun,” she said. Higgins said she got the idea that she could go to the Olympic Games from a friend who told her she was good enough to go. She moved to the United States to go to college but didn’t know fencing scholarships were offered until her junior year of study. She said it was a missed opportunity because she didn’t know. She said she wanted to encourage students to talk to everyone and said people should not assume they know it all. Ask and be bold, she said.
“You never do enough,” she said. Higgins said her sister, her only sibling, graduated from nursing school at 48 years old the day before Tiffin University’s commencement ceremony. She said it was her proudest accomplishment. “She did it… I’m so proud of her,” she said. Higgins said her sister was brilliant and never learned to study. Her sister decided on a path that did not necessarily involve going to college and grew up in the “real world” making a living. She realized she needed to get an education and went back to school, obtaining a bachelor’s degree, Higgins said.
“Never give up… (Our late father) was very big on education,” she said. Higgins said her father told her she could do anything she wanted in life except be president of the United States. That was only impossible because she was born in Panama. She said it never occurred to her that she could not do something.
“You can do anything you want,” she said.