After a 20-year career as the Coordinator of LRC Services in the Learning Resources Center in the College of Education, Harriette Huggins is retiring at the end of December. But that does not mean she will be slowing down, as she carries on her passion for social justice and spends more time with her children and grandchildren.
“I was born in a Naval hospital in Oklahoma,” Huggins said. “But when my dad went overseas in World War II my mother and I moved to Birmingham to be close to her family. That’s also where my brother was born. When the Korean War ended, we moved to Jacksonville, Florida and shortly after that my parents separated.”
Huggins graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. One of her classmates was future College of Education professor Randy McDaniel.
Auburn was very different then – Cliff Hare stadium had a capacity of less than 40,000 and the student section started on the 50-yard line in the West stands!
“After high school I came to Auburn,” she said. “My cousin was an architect and he told me how great Auburn was and that I should come here. I had never been to Auburn until I arrived to start classes in the summer of 1961. I remember it well. Auburn was very different then – Cliff Hare stadium had a capacity of less than 40,000 and the student section started on the 50-yard line in the West stands! There was no Haley Center, and no Sky Bar, but there was the War Eagle Supper Club and the Plainsman Club on Hwy 14!”
After graduating with a degree in clothing and textiles in the College of Human Sciences, Huggins earned a teaching certificate and taught home economics in Florida. After two years teaching she embarked on a second career as linens and domestics buyer for J.B. Ivey and Co. in Jacksonville. After two years in that position she returned to Auburn and earned her Master’s degree.
“So it was back in Auburn that I met the love of my life,” she said. “I rented a place at University Apartments on Donahue across from the Goal Post, and Johnny was the resident manager. When I realized the power was off I asked him how to get the lights turned on. ‘The rest, as they say, is history.”
The two graduated on December 8, 1970. They were married 11 days later, on December 19. The newlyweds moved to Albany, Georgia, where Huggins enjoyed her third career as an Extension 4-H agent, and Johnny was a facilities engineer with Rockwell.
“We were settled in the heart of the Deep South when Johnny was transferred to the heart of the Snow Belt in Newton Falls, Ohio, Zip Code 44444! We actually lived in Garrettsville, a town of 2,000 people, 45 minutes from downtown Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown. From my kitchen window I could see the traffic light.”
It didn’t take long for Huggins to experience a memorable weather event.
“Over Thanksgiving, before our son Piet arrived, we were among 10,000 travelers who were stranded in Toledo. Some of you who are old enough may remember the John Denver song ‘Saturday night in Downtown Toledo, I spent a week there one night!’ Well, I can attest it is true! There were no rooms anywhere. The National Guard distributed cots and disposable blankets to hotels and motels for people to sleep wherever they could. Chubby Checker was playing in the lounge and stayed much later than he thought he would. There was good news the next morning when the restaurant in the motel was open for breakfast and we learned the turnpike east was open. When we finally made it to Garrettsville we found 24 inches of snow in the driveway. We were fortunate to have a friend with a snowplow!”
When Piet was a year old, the family moved to Winchester, Kentucky, east of Lexington. Daughter Jana was born in 1978 at A.B Chandler Medical Center, University of Kentucky. During their time there the family learned that the First Saturday in May is one big party across the state – not just at Churchill Downs!
“After four years in Kentucky Johnny was transferred to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the Aerospace Division of Rockwell. It was 107 degrees on our move-in day. The average low temperature that summer was 80 degrees. The only thing that kept us from wilting was the wind, which averages 20 MPH, and ‘comes sweepin’ down the plain.’”
Huggins volunteered in the library at the neighborhood school – helping to catalog, circulate, and shelve books, and read to classes. She was the president of her children’s PTA and attended the national convention in Little Rock, Arkansas where she met both Gov. Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, who gave the keynote address at the convention. The whole family was involved in church, Scouting, soccer, and music.
“In 1986, Johnny took a job with Sikorsky Aircraft – now GKN Aerospace – in Tallassee,” Huggins said. “We lived in Montgomery for eight years and we remained active in church, music, and Scouting – Piet is an Eagle Scout and Jana earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. The move to Auburn was in Jana’s junior year of high school. It could have been hard making new friends, but Walt Porter, who just passed away, was the registrar and made sure she got involved in the life of Auburn High School by enrolling her in the Women’s choir.”
“I embarked on a fourth career as a Membership and Marketing Field Executive for the Concharty Council of Girl Scouts serving five counties in Alabama. The night before Hurricane Opal came through I was traveling from Eufaula at 10:00 PM in a huge thunderstorm. I have done plenty of long-distance traveling to visit family and friends over the years, but after traveling from Auburn to Eufaula to Union Springs to Tuskegee and back to Auburn on more than one occasion I decided my body and my vehicle would be better off staying closer to home!”
Huggins recently celebrated her 20-year anniversary in the LRC.
“The LRC staff is special. It is and has always been a great team, with everyone helping each other out. Dr. Susan Bannon, Director, has done a great job creating that climate here. It does not happen by accident.”
“The LRC is really a living, dynamic unit. Technology and services are always changing, It’s fun to work with the students, especially when they are able to find what they need for their projects. Every semester has a different rhythm. So it’s an exciting place to work.”
Huggins was able to serve the greater University community as the chair of the Administrative and Professional Assembly during a tumultuous time in the University’s history. In addition, she was one of the founding members of the Women’s Center Advisory Board. She made lasting friends and still appreciates the passion and integrity of her colleagues across the campus.
“I’m looking forward to retirement, but I’ll miss my LRC and College of Education family. It’s been a wonderful 20 years and I am fortunate to have been part of such a good place with such special people.”
“After Johnny died I received great support from my colleagues here, which is probably why I’ve kept working so long,” she said. “I’m looking forward to retirement, but I’ll miss my LRC and College of Education family. It’s been a wonderful 20 years and I am fortunate to have been part of such a good place with such special people.”