UNCP mourns loss of beloved educator

By: Mark Locklear

PEMBROKE — After her first encounter with Dr. Carol Higy, Karen Granger was second guessing her decision to accept the Teaching Fellows director position at UNC Pembroke.

Higy gave her 119 reasons to walk away.

“I remember meeting her for the first time,” Granger said. “She was the director at that time and she gave me this very thorough bulleted list with 119 bullets — I counted them — of every task that the Teaching Fellows director had to do in a 12-month cycle.

“I remember going home and looking at this list and saying, ‘I cannot do this.’ I did not feel confident that I could rise to anything that she’d been as director of the Teaching Fellows program.”

Fellow colleagues said Higy applied that same scrupulous attention to detail in all the roles she served during her 18-year career at UNCP.

Higy’s colleagues gathered on campus this week to remember Higy, who passed away on Sept. 23, after battling cancer.

They shared stories of her dedication to teacher education, her love of coaching, her collaborative skills, and her signature dry sense of humor.

She was an associate professor in the Educational Leadership and Counseling department. She taught undergraduates in Teacher Education, and inspired graduate students in the School Administration program. Higy also served as associate dean of the School of Education.

Jeff Warren, a fellow education professor, witnessed Higy’s passion for teaching while observing her class.

“She seemed to glow as she engaged her students,” he said.

“She understood the necessity to tear down artificial barriers, as well as professional boundaries in education to advance the common goal of helping students be successful.”

Retired professor Sara Simmons recalled Higy’s cheerful demeanor during countless conversations in the Education Center halls.

“She had an engaging smile and a special spark in her eyes,” Simmons said. “Every time I encountered Carol, I always found myself smiling.”

She tirelessly involved herself in service to the university, the School of Education and beyond, Simmons said.

Higy joined the UNCP faculty in 1996, serving two years as coordinator of the Freshman Seminar Program. She worked in public schools in Cumberland County in administrative roles, before returning to UNCP to lead the Teaching Fellows Program in 2002.

Additionally, she was a member of the Faculty Senate, coordinator of the Sandhills Leadership Academy, commencement marshal and Special Olympics volunteer.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Higy began her career in physical education. She coached high school basketball, volleyball and track in Ohio, before landing a job as basketball coach at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

Her 40-year career included stints at Gardner Webb and Methodist University.

She held degrees from Malone University and the University of Akron.

Higy was not only committed to teacher education, she forged lasting relationships at UNCP.

“As I transitioned into different roles here at the university and as I began my doctoral program, she was always there to nudge me along and I will always be grateful for that,” Granger said.

“There are certain folks who you admire and respect, but I can certainly say I loved Carol as a friend.”


Mark Locklear

Mark Locklear is a Public Relations specialist at UNCP.

Mark Locklear is a Public Relations specialist at UNCP.