Hoya Highlight: Lee Higdon (C'68)

Leo Higdon

Former Dean of UVA's Darden School of Business | President Emeritus at Connecticut College, College of Charleston and Babson College


As a former dean, emeritus president at three institutions, and a current faculty member, what inspires you as an educator?

My inspiration comes from the students. Witnessing their energy, enthusiasm, passion, and intellectual curiosity is uplifting and contagious. Also, the dedication of the faculty and staff to the students’ learning and development is truly extraordinary. It is the reason that I feel so fortunate to be a part of an academic community.

After graduating from Georgetown, you and your wife joined the Peace Corps and spent two years teaching in Malawi. How did this experience shape you as a person? 

We lived in very rural surroundings in East Africa as newlyweds and recent college graduates. The absence of any western amenities certainly required an adjustment on our part. Most importantly, however, was the fact that we encountered a culture and people that had very different norms. They had very little in the way of material possessions but had an optimistic and positive attitude about life. They also valued education and sacrificed enormously to attend school.

What was the most challenging aspect of transitioning from a career in finance to higher education?

For me, one of the most challenging aspects of moving from Wall Street to academe was understanding the culture of an academic institution. It was a significant difference transitioning from a financial services firm where people were motivated by financial rewards to a mission-driven culture where financial success was not the principal motivator.

What were your most rewarding moments in your career?

My most satisfying moments have one common feature: witnessing the success of others and the institutions that I have been involved with over my lifetime. For example, I was always proud of the firm’s success in attracting a new relationship or achieving high standing in annual rankings of financings or merger transactions. This was the result of many colleagues’ hard work and effort, and that was tremendously satisfying. Equally rewarding in my academic career was a faculty member’s publication of a long-awaited book or students winning post-graduate honors such as Fulbright awards.

How did Georgetown shape you as a person?

Georgetown developed in me an unwavering curiosity and a thirst for learning. Importantly, it taught me to learn from my mistakes and to move forward with a positive attitude.

What was the last book you read? 

SPQR, A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard.