In Memoriam: Gerard Higgins

A benchmark is defined as a standard used for comparison. It's a term usually reserved for measures, but I've had the honor of working with a person who fits the definition -- Gerry Higgins, vice president of Verizon's IT infrastructure (or VIPS, as it's know internally).

Sadly, Gerry passed away on Nov. 16, just as Computerworld was preparing to honor him as an IT leader, an award for which I nominated him.

One of the notices of his death tells a lot of the story. It isn't a headline you'd expect to see about a technology leader: "Gerry Higgins, Borough of Manhattan Community College Board Member Who Saved Many Lives Through Organ Donation Programs, Dies at 58."

The college's notice recounted some of Gerry's history: "Born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, he began his career as a systems engineer at IBM and quickly rose to senior strategist. ... He eventually joined Nynex as senior vice president. When Nynex and Bell Atlantic merged to become Verizon, he was named vice president for information processing and oversaw a companywide restructuring that resulted in cost savings of over $400 million."

That tells part of Gerry's story, but there's more. When IT leaders around the world asked me to offer a benchmark for infrastructure operations, performance and economics, I always pointed them to Gerry and his beloved VIPS organization. VIPS's benchmark performance was about a culture, about a mind-set and about a team -- all a reflection of Gerry. It wasn't just the numbers. He was a benchmark beyond and foremost outside of the office -- with family, friends and the organizations to which he gave his time and support.

Gerry survived a kidney transplant, liver cancer and more. In his last days, he was running VIPS with full energy through a fully wired remote environment linked to his team.

Gerry was best in class as a leader, a professional, a family man and a friend.

He is missed but not gone. His legacy is his benchmark and the knowledge he passed along to others. I am proud to have worked with him, proud to have learned from him and even prouder that he is being recognized as a Premier 100 IT Leader.

-- Howard Rubin, Professor Emeritus, Hunter College of the City University of New York, and Senior Gartner Inc. Adviser

Special Report

2006 Premier 100 IT Leaders

Stories in this report:


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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