Before the sun rose each morning Brigham T. Higgs would gather his custodial students and teach them about the value of work. His teachings went further than his words, however, for it was his actions and example that allowed students to learn valuable lessons from him.
Higgs started teaching carpentry at Brigham Young Academy in 1897, and starting in 1921 he served as superintendent of buildings and grounds. One of his students said of him, “Brother Higgs . . . has built a name and fame that will endure . . . He was more than a builder of saw mills, and grist mills, and bridges, and houses[;] he was a builder of character, a builder of men.”
Higgs suggested the idea of hiring students to work as custodians on campus. His idea was so successful that he was put in charge of all campus custodial work and, with the help of his students, he was the keeper of the grounds until his death in 1939. Custodial employment under Higgs was a great help to students, as “hundreds of boys worked with and for him . . . , many of [whom] would never have been able to go to school without this work.”
At age 58, Higgs fell victim to a serious accident while installing a heating system in the Maeser Building. This confined him to a full body cast for a year and a half, but as his daughter observed, “In this torturous [strait] jacket he smilingly and courageously carried on supervising his work at school much as usual.” Another friend of his said, that “He has never loafed; he has never leaned; he has always carried more than his share and wanted to.”
Beyond his care for students in the workplace, Higgs took special interest in the temporal welfare of many of his students. He was often found visiting students to make sure their housing was sufficient for their needs, and he was always happy to bring food to those who were struggling. His Christlike charity and strength in labor set the standard for many employees of BYA as they learned from and loved him. One student recounted, “The man who stands out most as an inspiration to me . . . is you, Brother Higgs.”