At Commencement Luncheon, Col. Beau Higgins ’85 Offers Seniors a Lesson on Leadership and Love
At the 14th Annual Commencement Luncheon, 275 seniors were given a lesson about leadership and love.
That was the message from Beau Higgins of the Class of 1985. Higgins, who retired recently with the rank of Colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps, was this year’s alumnus speaker.
The luncheon was held Friday, May 1 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with 230 alumni in attendance, many of whom were fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins of the almost newly-minted graduates.
Col. Higgins, who often was on the front lines as a commanding officer in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia, told his audience that the impact Jesuit High School had on him was instrumental in his career with the Marine Corps.
“You have all the tools in the toolbox to succeed,” he reminded the seniors. “From a pure ability, whether to write a brief or to ask questions why, the way the Jesuit education process teaches you, has set you up for success whether you know it or not. That’s the big takeaway I think you get from that Jesuit experience.”
Col. Higgins noted that he was the commanding officer of some 1,500 Marines ages 18-22 at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and many of them were “woefully unprepared” from an education standpoint, “things we take for granted” as alumni of Jesuit.
What he said he learned early in his career was that leadership and love go hand-in-hand. “To be a good leader you have to have both,” he said. “You have to have that ‘love fusion’ with your leadership to be successful.”
At the end of the day, he added, “As a leader, you have to be that man for others. You have to want to take care of that guy on your left and right. You want them to succeed.”
On the flip side, he said, there are bad leaders, “those screamers and yellers — it’s all about them and their agenda. They will work their people to the bone to make themselves look good. Those leaders typically fall away.”
Col. Higgins said as a leader, you cannot fake love. “I think you need to have that love and appreciation for it’s not about me. It’s about the greater good of the team and the way to get the best effort from your team is to take care of them. They know you have their back, they will charge a machine gun nest for you. And that’s about love, you can’t fake that.”
He encouraged seniors to keep adding tools to their toolboxes. “Leadership is an art,” he said, “something you need to practice, you have to want it, and seek it at all times. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Always wrap it around love and other people’s best interests.
Col. Higgins has experienced some notable assignments, including being part of the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He was also a member of the Special Forces Unit in the rescue of Prisoner of War Jessica Lynch. His meritorious performance in numerous deployments and combat missions in the Middle East have earned him several commendations including the Bronze Star Medal with one gold star, the Combat Action Ribbon, and, notable to his former English teachers, the Marine Corps Award for Intelligence Writing. In 2002 he was chosen as the Marine Corps Intelligence Officer of the Year.
He holds a Masters in Business Administration from George Mason University and a Masters in Military Strategy from the Air War College. After 24 years of service in the Marine Corps, Col. Higgins retired last June with several of his classmates present at the Camp Lejeune ceremony.
Col. Higgins has been an active alumnus from wherever he has been in the world. He probably has the attendance record for alumni chapter reunions, thanks to his various military assignments. He now resides in Tampa where he has quickly become involved in the Central Florida Alumni Chapter. Beau and his wife Liz have four children.