Higgins donation breaks new ground at Manhattan College

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It looks to be especially bright in 2020 for Manhattan College when the school is set to open a new 30,000-square-foot engineering and science facility.

Named for Class of 1962 alum Cornelius Higgins and his wife Patricia — thanks to a $5 million donation the couple made — the facility is planned for the college’s south campus right next to Leo Hall on West 238th Street.  It will support engineering and science programs, according to school officials, serving as a beacon of innovation for future engineering students to come. 

“I was the first to go to college in my family, and Manhattan College guided me,” Higgins said during a groundbreaking ceremony on April 26. “We want Manhattan to continue to provide that same education.”

When Higgins attended Manhattan College, his studies took place in post-World War II buildings that didn’t always have the different educational tools students needed. 

Yet, that didn’t stop him or members of his class from producing CEOs, physicians, engineers and attorneys, he said. 

After graduating, Higgins became a civil engineering officer in the U.S. Air Force, serving terms of duty in Taiwan and Vietnam. 

Later he received his master’s in astronautics from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and his doctorate and executive MBA at the University of New Mexico.

The building bearing his name will include state of the art equipment as well as a grand atrium and 14 contemporary laboratories supporting a wide range of engineering and science disciplines.

Walter Saukin, a professor in the civil and environmental engineering department, joined the school more than a decade after Higgins graduated. Yet, he sees students like Higgins who give back to Manhattan College as “an extension of the alumni that realized what they got when they came here.”

“Because of my Manhattan College education, I never felt like I never had enough background or that I didn’t measure up,” Higgins said.

The kind of giving from past graduates could inspire future ones to do the same — students like Ryan Quattromani, a senior studying mechanical engineering, who won’t get a chance to enjoy the new Higgins Center, but still appreciates the gift. 

“I think we’re fortunate to have the dedication of our alumni,” Quattromani said. 

“As a student, I can appreciate that, and I can tell they’re dedicated to the students because they’re investing in the future of the college.”

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