John J. Higgins '76
He studied economics while a student at Holy Cross, but Jack Higgins arrived on Mount St. James with the soul of the artist. The fact that he was born Irish and Catholic and on the Southside of Chicago had more than a little to do with focusing that artist’s sensibility onto the political realm. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a political cartoonist, Jack has said. And his passion for his work is evident in its skillful execution, its thoughtfulness and its relevance.
After a year spent with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps following graduation, Jack began honing his craft at The Daily Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. Soon, he progressed to freelance work for the Chicago Sun-Times, eventually earning a staff position at that paper as editorial cartoonist. And, in short order, the wind down Michigan Avenue was filled with the echoes of readers asking one another, “Did you see Higgins today?”
It quickly became apparent to Chicago and the wider world that there was no room for sacred cows on Jack Higgins’ canvas. With pen and ink and a sense of both outrage and bemusement, he skewered the pompous and the self-righteous, the hypocrites and the charlatans. For his efforts, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1989.
Other honors followed: A Scripps-Howard Award, a Peter Lisagor Award, and the John Fischetti editorial cartooning award. He is a two-time winner of the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 1996, he was named Illinois Journalist of the Year. His work has appeared as the front piece on volumes of The Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year.
What all of these honors signify, beyond the artist’s talent and accomplishments, is the conscience of the man who holds the pen. Jack’s values are readily evident in much of his work—a concern for those with great need but little power; a regard for the verities of justice and compassion and honesty.
Week after week, with humor and style and depth of thought, Jack fulfills one of the great needs of his community: He speaks truth to power through a medium both popular and instructive. Perhaps Jack put it best himself when, speaking of his fellow editorial artists, he noted, We can draw the naked emperor.
For his insight, his conviction and his ability to read and reflect the body politic with pen, ink and a unique wit, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Jack Higgins the Sanctae Crucis Award.