James “Kimo” Higgins ’86 was born in Honolulu but moved to Kealakekua in Kona when he was four. He attended the local elementary school through the sixth grade, then switched to HPA where he became a student-athlete. After completing his undergraduate degree in economics at UNC-Chapel Hill, Higgins served four years as an officer in the United States Navy. Upon returning home, he worked as a stock broker for Smith Barney until a fateful car accident required a year of surgery and rehabilitation. Old HPA mentors leaped in to help him recover—among them Stan Shutes, his old HPA cross country and track coach. Shutes invited Higgins to assist him as a coach and suggested he think about teaching. After going back to school and earning his master’s degree in education, Higgins returned to HPA to stay, teaching English and coaching cross country.
As an alum, do you see common threads that run through the HPA of yesterday and today?
The one thing that has never changed is a faculty and staff who completely care for their students, dorm residents, and athletes. I know that each of my HPA teachers and coaches will forever hold a special place in my heart. I see my colleagues today giving of themselves in that exact same way. I hope that I, too, am touching lives that way.
What’s an important lesson you’ve learned through sports?
I have learned that sports are often a perfect analogy to life. While intangibles like luck and momentum always appear to be so crucial in determining winners, we can do a great deal to sway outcomes by employing factors completely within our control, such as practice, preparation, and determination. Sports, along with the passage of time, has taught me this other valuable lesson: If we spend our precious time doing anything, then we should do it to the very best of our ability. For example, over the course of a high school athlete’s career, she or he will have dedicated hours and hours to simply “warming up.” While a single warm-up on its own may seem trivial, every single one should be completed with precision, focus, and professionalism. Over time, this cannot but help contribute to the achievement of an athlete’s goals.
We hear you’re also quite a fisherman. When and how did that start, and what’s your favorite fishing spot?
Fishing has been in my life from my earliest memories, but “fishing” is a big category. With respect to “deep sea fishing,” my father would drag me along with friends and uncles on their big boats. This type of fishing is not always easy for young and old alike. So much preparation is involved that if someone gets seasick, the captain just doesn’t turn back. All I can tell you is that the thrill of catching a giant ahi or marlin makes all the discomfort worthwhile. On the other hand, fishing from shore or from our little dinghy boat was something I could do by myself, which made it empowering and exciting for me as a young boy. I had some great adventures, alone or with friends. As for my favorite fishing spot, it’s “my favorite spot” … period: a family cabin at Honomalino Beach on the southwest shore of Hawai‘i. Whenever I am free to decide where I spend my time, just look for me there.