Wallace C. Higgins
November 11, 1925 – August 22, 2018
Higgins, born in 1926 in Kendall, N.Y., was always driven by an intense fascination with aeronautics. One of his earliest passions was flight. As America’s involvement in World War II escalated, he’d look to the sky and see P-36 and P-40 warplanes out of Buffalo flying test runs over his family farm.
He enlisted in the Army Civil Air Patrol at 17, before finishing high school, and was sent to Biloxi, Miss. for basic training and aptitude testing. A good student with plenty of practical know-how gained on the family farm, Higgins was placed with the Tuskegee Airmen — history’s elite, all-black flight school in Alabama — where he is in the official registry as a documented, original Tuskegee Airman.
Severe illness prevented him from completing his training and with the conclusion of the war in Europe, he was transferred to the 1909th Engineers Aviation Battalion, serving in Saipan and Okinawa building roads, airfields and ammunition storage buildings. Wally would eventually become a sergeant in charge of an all-black, 30-man platoon. On March 17, 1947 he received an Honorable Discharge as a Staff Sergeant with Squadron F, 3505th Army Air Force.
During his war-time service, Higgins earned the Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and New York State Medal for Merit.
After the service, Higgins completed his high school education at Jefferson High School in Rochester and attended the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where he received a BFA in Ceramic Design in 1952. While a student there, he met and married Norma Miller, and never left Alfred. They raised four children.
The couple would become a staple of the Alfred University campus and the community, continuing on as faculty at the university. He would serve first as technical specialist at the NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and went on to become an Associate Professor there, retiring in 1985 as Professor Emeritus.
“Wally Higgins was a talented ceramic designer and dedicated faculty member. He and his wife Norma were an enormous presence on our campus, and were felt throughout the community. He was truly a remarkable man, involved in many aspects of community life in Alfred,” said a spokesperson for Alfred University.
In 2015, Higgins was enshrined in the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame, and was inducted by Senator Catherine Young.