Suffolk University Law School Student Tom Higbee Given a Second Chance in Life

8/27/2002

All it took was a split second to change the life of Tom Higbee, Jr.

It was a Friday morning, April 23, 1993. Working as a motorcycle patrolman for the Palm Beach Police Department in Florida, Higbee became involved in an accident most people don’t live to tell about. His 900-pound motorcycle flipped over on a major roadway, slamming Higbee to the ground with such force that his helmet immediately fell off. He then bounced and rolled 77 feet before coming to a stop. He landed to the left of a cement light pole, his body sprawled on the sidewalk, his head resting on the curb. The motorcycle then crashed into the pole, only a few yards away.

“No one believed I would survive,” said Higbee, who suffered a traumatic closed-head brain injury and was in a coma for a week. “In the hospital, I was on life support and my final rites were administered by a priest. Doctors told me afterwards that I’m a walking miracle.”

Driven by a “never give up” attitude, Higbee went back to work as a regular police officer at various times over the next two years. However, in April of 1995, he felt that he could not safely perform his duties any longer. He left the force and moved back to his hometown of Milford, Massachusetts. With his boyhood dream of being a cop already achieved, Higbee decided to pursue another longtime ambition – to become a lawyer. Working as an auditor for the The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles during the day, Higbee is in his fourth year of taking night classes at Suffolk University Law School. He is scheduled to graduate in May of 2003.

“After I got hurt, doctors told me that I couldn’t go to law school,” said Higbee. “But I’m stubborn and I didn’t believe them. I had to prove to myself that I could do it.”

Since his accident, Higbee, 39, has been unable to remember what he reads. He can recall, however, what he hears. He takes his own notes in class, but there is always a back-up copy provided by a fellow student available if he needs it. When he takes his exams at Suffolk Law, he goes into a room with two tape recorders. With a hard copy of the exam in front of him, he listens to the questions on one cassette tape, and then recites his answers on the second one. A secretary in the Dean of Students office then transcribes Higbee’s cassette tape full of answers.

“The people at Suffolk Law have been fantastic with me,” said Higbee, who received his bachelor of science in business administration degree from Suffolk University in 1984.

“They’ve helped and supported me from the beginning.” Higbee is one of those people who always sees the glass as half full instead of half empty. Give him a difficult challenge and he will find a way to succeed. “Tom is a highly motivated individual who has the makings of a good lawyer,” said Suffolk University Associate Dean John C. Deliso. “He is a gentleman and a hard worker. But the most important thing is that he understands people.”

While walking to and from class, or eating his dinner in the school’s cafeteria, Higbee always has a friendly “hello” or a wave of his right hand for others passing by. You can easily tell how proud he is to be receiving a law education. He even belongs to a study group comprised mostly of women. “I call them my sisters,” he laughed.

Lorraine D. Cove, Suffolk University Law School Registrar and Assistant to the Dean, applauds Higbee’s continual progression over the years. “Tom has worked extremely hard to overcome obstacles that many people would be unable to handle,” said Cove. “I have been impressed with his perseverance, dedication to his studies and his goal to finish law school. He is an inspirational young man who has made great progress both personally and professionally.”

Upon receiving his juris doctor degree, Higbee hopes to pass the bar exam. When it comes time to practice law, there are a number of areas he’s interested in pursuing, including personal injury.

But for right now, he’s just happy to be given a second chance in life. It’s a special gift he believes has been sent from above. “I tell people that what I went through happened for a reason,” said Higbee. “God was on my side that day and he had other plans for me, like going to law school and becoming a lawyer.”

He then became silent, searching for just the right words. “Ever since my accident, I’ve been re-building my life from the ground floor up,” said Tom Higbee. “It hasn’t been easy. That’s why I try to live every second of every day to the fullest – one day at a time.”

For more information, please contact:
Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

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