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Giving Thanks for Kay – Retiring after 43 years at TCU

Join Us in Kay’s Retirement Celebration

To contribute to Kay’s retirement scrapbook, please email digital photos, memories, quotes, cards, and notes to Brianne at or mail them to Student Development Services at 2901 Stadium Drive, TCU 297350, Fort Worth, TX 76129 by November 20th.

Kay’s Journey

The state of Georgia is home to a number of great things. Savory peaches, diverse community, Coca-Cola, and musical legends such as Gladys Knight, Jason Aldean and Ray Charles. The continued impact these individuals and entities have across this nation and the world are immeasurable. For the past 43 years, TCU has been blessed with the opportunity to experience the love and impact Georgia has to offer from one of its most notable individuals, Dr. Kay Higgins, also known as Ms. Kay or Mama Kay.

Kay is everything Georgia and among a laundry list of items there are two things you will never see her go a day without. First, Kay MUST have her daily dose (or two) of her favorite drink, tea. One lemon… hold the sugar please. Second, you will always see or hear Kay displaying one of her top traits. Genuine care. No matter who it is, the time of day, where they are or the subject matter, Kay will always show a level of care that is unmatched.

For those of you reading who may only know Mama Kay as Dr. Kay Higgins, Associate Dean of Student Development and Director of Parent & Family Programs here’s some insider info. Mama Kay is the product of a family that valued education. While in high school Kay was a student who was involved in various programs and held leadership roles at her local church. Mature for her age, Mama Kay was ready for the next adventure and headed off to Mercer University where she studied Elementary Education and Political Science. {Fun fact, she graduated in 3.5 years… no surprise there!} After graduating, Kay taught at a local elementary school in Macon, GA for two years before making the decision to go to Seminary. Making the 900-mile trip from Macon to Fort Worth, TX, she would attend Brite Divinity School and start her career off at TCU as the Graduate Housing Coordinator. Being the trailblazer that she is, Kay transitioned through multiple roles at TCU, was involved with the inception of Student Development Services, and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of North Texas. Kay is also an incredibly tenacious advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and has spent an endless amount of time, energy and effort into amplifying the voices of those that are not heard.

While doing all of this, she married her husband Keith and raised two lovely children, Mary Katherine and Christopher. Being a mother, wife, student and a professional is no small task. However, whenever Mama Kay receives any level of praise in regard to that phenomenal balancing act, she humbly speaks of the enormous support her husband gave her during that time and still to this day. Whether it was taking the kids to their sporting events or running to grab dinner, Keith was always there to lend a hand when necessary. A proud mother, her children are doing great things and having an impact in the Fort Worth community.

Some may find this hard to believe, but Kay is a naturally reserved individual. Well, that is until you get to know her, or she gets to know you, which ever happens first. Generally, it’s the latter. Even as a naturally reserved person there are things that are held near and dear to Kay’s heart. Animals, children, and the elderly. Knowing the kind of person Kay is makes this out to be no surprise. The number of dogs that she has at her home is endless. However, without question each dog feels that they are loved the most by Kay because she cares for them all to no end.

Kay’s character is consistent across the board and it is shown not only through her actions but in who and what she keeps around her on a daily basis. Inside Mama Kay’s office you will find these things: candy (come hungry), a few plants, her mini heater, and a wall full of pictures and quotes. Here are a few of her favorite quotes from her office.

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

“Do what adds good to the world and restores you inside.”

“Every day is a gift.”

Was I right or was I right? Kay keeps candy around because she is sweet. She has plants in her office because she helps those around her grow. She has a heater because the office does get a tad bit chilly, but also to radiate her warm spirit. The quotes … self-explanatory. Kay is the quotes and the quotes are Kay.

Kay’s legacy at TCU will forever be engrained into the fabric and make-up of the TCU culture. Her daily commitment is to lead the best life she can lead not only for herself but for the betterment of those around her. Dr. Kay Higgins is a doctor who doesn’t need a scalpel or anesthesia to heal the heart of a person who she interacts with. The genuineness in her talk and the level of grace in her walk, in concert with love and care serves as the perfect antidote.

Mama Kay, on behalf of Texas Christian University and the Fort Worth community we say thank you. You have worked for four different Chancellors and seen the mission statement go from 10 pages to today’s powerful one liner. You exemplify the true definition of dedication. Thank you for being a voice of reason in times of distress, a hug we needed when our mothers weren’t present, and most importantly, thank you for being you.

This isn’t a farewell, this is a celebration of you blessing us with your time, talent, and treasure for 43 years. You have, are and will forever be an integral piece to the puzzle that makes TCU what it is.

Kay’s Impact on the Community

Kay has left an indelible mark on all of our hearts. This is how her colleagues, students and friends described the IMPACT Kay has made in SDS, at TCU, and on all of our lives.

“I can’t imagine TCU without Kay. I have known Kay for 20 years, and she has been a solid rock for me from my days as an undergraduate orientation leader to a student affairs professional who is always willing to provide support and guidance. Kay taught me how to work hard, empower others and be a person who always provides both challenge and support. Twenty years later, a piece of Kay’s wisdom is being passed down to my own kids. As an orientation leader, we always learned from Kay, “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is never.” This mantra is something my kids repeat often and every time I hear them say this, it reminds me of Kay and makes me incredibly thankful for her.” – Brad Thompson, Student Activities

“Dr. Kay (Mrs. Kay as we know her) has become a pivotal figure in my TCU experience. First meeting her when I was an orientation leader in Summer 2019, her spirit was loving and nurturing. This same generous, welcoming spirit has extended all throughout the duration of our relationship, even to the point where I spent my Christmas with her and her family. When Valentine’s Day came months later, she made sure I knew I was loved with a goodie bag. She’s become more to me than just an SDS Staff Member, she became family, and I even refer to her as my Campus Grandma. I’m so sad to see her leave with so much passion still left inside of her, but I am grateful to have even begun this relationship with Dr. Kay Higgins.” – Rasaan Hatcher, current TCU student

“It’s been 34 years since we first met you, Kay. From boss to friend, we’ve shared much along the way.

Your heart reaches out for the people of the world As you live each day like a flag unfurled.

Your office it seems is a rare, sacred space Where laughter meets tears, and renewal brings embrace.

When we meet you next time, beyond the doors of TCU, We’ll bring the chocolate; you just bring you!” – Matt (’90) and Nancy (’90) Gallagher

“Kay – from apartment manager to hall director supervisor, from orientation director to parent confidante, from trusted advisor to every student’s advocate you have been a wonderful asset to TCU, exemplary colleague for many, and a guiding light for many a student. Congratulations on a well-earned retirement. It has been my privilege to have you as a colleague and especially as a friend.” – Dr. Don Mills, Educational Leadership

Kay’s Timeline at TCU

Honor Kay

We know many will want to show their gratitude to Kay for her unwavering dedication to TCU families. If you would like to make a gift to TCU in Kay’s honor, please visit or email Penny Bishop at