Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 | 12:29 p.m.
Dr. Gerald Higgins, distinguished Las Vegas surgeon and team doctor to generations of UNLV athletes for 40 years, died Sunday.
Higgins, 79, accumulated a number of distinctions while serving as the UNLV Athletics orthopedic surgeon, including being inducted to the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Born in Madison, Wis. in 1934, Higgins later studied at the University of Notre Dame before leaving temporarily to join the Army. After he returned from service, he went back to Notre Dame and then attended the Loyola Scritch School of Medicine. He began his medical practice in Illinois.
Higgins and his wife Lucia moved to Las Vegas in 1969, where he held an active practice until his death. He was recently awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Clark County Medical Society.
He and Lucia both sponsored the Dr. Gerald Higgins Annual Student Athletic Trainer Scholarship, awarded to outstanding UNLV athletic training students since 1991. For their contributions to Catholic education, Gerald and Lucia were also named to the Bishop Gorman High School Royal Order of the Gael.
In addition to using his expertise to provide free physical exams to Las Vegas high school students across the valley, Higgins was a lifelong fan of the Fighting Irish and the UNLV Rebels.
"Doctor Higgins would come over to the school every day of the week after hours," said UNLV Director of Athletic Training Kyle Wilson, who knew Higgins for 30 years, in a statement. "It didn't matter what time of day or night, if something happened to a Rebel student-athlete, he was always available to help. He was extremely personable and liked to talk to the players not just about their health but also about their studies and their future after graduation. He also was extremely generous not only by starting the scholarship but anytime we needed something in the training room, he found a way to get it for us. Even though he graduated from Notre Dame, Doc Higgins certainly loved the Rebels and he will be missed."
Higgins is survived by Lucia, his ten children, their spouses and 26 grandchildren.
A service for Higgins will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, the family is urging donations be made to the Gerald L. Higgins Scholarship Fund.