In Memoriam: Charles Higgins

Charles Higgins
Charles Higgins

Charles Graham Higgins Jr., professor emeritus of geology at UC Davis, died at Carmel Valley Manor in Carmel, California, on May 16, 2016. He was 90.

Higgins was the first full-time faculty member in the UC Davis Department of Geology (now Earth and Planetary Sciences), appointed in 1953, and served as the department’s first chair. He was a professor for more than 50 years, becoming professor emeritus in 1990. Although retired from teaching, Higgins kept a desk at the geology department and continued to present papers at professional conferences for many years. In 1995 he received the E.B. Burwell Jr. Memorial Award, Engineering Geology Division, from the Geological Society of America, for his work on groundwater geomorphology.

Geomorphology is the study of the physical features of the Earth’s surface. Higgins’ work on coastal processes and beyond set the scientific stage for many of the important problems we are still addressing today, said current department chair Dawn Sumner.

Higgins was born Nov. 18, 1925, in Oak Park, Illinois. After graduating from Oak Park River Forest Township High School in 1942, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology in 1946 and 1947 at the University of Chicago. He earned a Ph.D. in geology in 1950 from UC Berkeley.

Charles is survived by his wife Rosalie; daughter Lesley Higgins and her husband Peter King; and daughter Kim Higgins Tolley, her husband Bruce Tolley, and their daughter Emma Tolley and son Nathan Tolley.

Condolences and memories can be sent to daughter Kim Tolley ( and to the department (  


— Becky Oskin, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science