University honours courageous...
University honours courageous soul
PARRY SOUND - It has been nearly a year since Rachel Anne Cecilia Higgins passed away after her lengthy battle with cancer, less than a week shy of her 25th birthday.
Rachel had such an impact on her peers and the professors at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry, that the faculty decided to graduate Rachel with the rest of her classmates.
The day before the convocational ceremony, the Higgins’ family headed down to the university to participate in a tree planting ceremony at the School of Optometry. Just outside the doors of the building stands a maple tree, planted in Rachel’s honour.
“Although she failed to complete the full degree program before her untimely death, Rachel demonstrated suitably high levels of intelligence, desire, compassion, professionalism, clinical proficiency and academic prowess for us to conclude that she was destined to successfully complete the doctor of optometry program,” said Dr. Graham Strong in a speech at the planting service on behalf of the School of Optometry. “I am pleased that the University of Waterloo will be granting Rachel this well-deserved victory by posthumously awarding the doctor of optometry that she strived so valiantly to obtain. The distinction associated with any university degree is ultimately determined by the quality of the people who obtain it. Dr. Rachel Higgins will forever remind us of the quality of graduates to which we aspire.”
Rachel’s family described the ceremony as “extremely moving and emotional.”
Additionally, Rachel’s class established the Rachel Anne Cecilia Higgins Memorial Award that was awarded to her friend Erin Axt. The award, honours individuals demonstrating undefeatable courage, strength, perseverance and determination while confronting significant challenges in their lives.
“Rachel was a hard worker, and was very determined,” said Ms Axt at the award ceremony. “This was shown by her many gymnastics medals and piano awards. She was the only girl I knew who would have three summer jobs at once. Rachel could do anything that she put her mind to, and that’s how I know that she would have finished this program. Seeing her in the hospital with her text books lined up on the window sill, or studying with her between treatments, I knew it was in her heart to be the second Dr. Higgins.
“Rachel’s battle against cancer was the greatest act of courage I have ever seen. Her strength gave us all hope and comfort.
“People say it all the time, but I am a better person for having known Rachel. I respected her and looked up, well down, to her but most of all, I now try to live my life as Rachel would have. Living Rachel's legacy means to see the best in everyone, not to judge, but to love people, to try your best in everything you do, to make time for friends and family, and to trust in God. This is a lot to strive for, but it's our way of honouring such a wonderful friend.”
This weekend Rachel’s memory will continue to live on as teams from near and far flock here to participate in the third annual Rallying Against Cancer Hardcore (RACH) Three-Pitch Tournament.
To date, the RACH fund has raised over $75,000 for brain tumour research at the Princess Margaret Hospital.