The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 13, NO. 2     NOVEMBER 2000

Farewell to longtime friends

In the past year, the WPI community lost four individuals who played critical roles in helping shape the character and success of the University. Here are their stories.

Nils Hagberg


Nils Hagberg tickets a "car" during Winter Carnival in 1958.

WPI's legendary "campus cop," Nils Hagberg, 84, died Dec. 17. He spent 45 years on campus, beginning his career as a millwright in the Washburn Shops, where he worked until the machine shop closed in 1955. He then became a campus security officer with responsibilities for traffic, parking and daytime patrols. He was a maintenance manager for Plant Services from 1969 until he retired in 1980.

A Worcester native, "Papa Nils" maintained strong connections to WPI in retirement. He was a member of Skull, the senior honorary society, and was named WPI President for a Day in 1980. He was a stalwart fan of WPI sports who was a ticket-taker at many football games and attended hundreds of other athletic events. A raconteur with a remarkable memory for WPI people and events, he was a popular after-dinner speaker at Reunion, and was a founder and a longtime president of the WPI Retirees Club.

Hagberg was an energetic and talented singer, dancer, actor, magician and clown; he was a longtime member of the Worcester Light Opera Club and performed frequently for servicemen and the elderly. In 1965, Nils and his wife, Audrey, an accomplished organist who died in 1997, received the Key to the City for their volunteer service.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Christ Lutheran Church, 112 Crescent St., West Boylston, MA 01583.

Alice Higgins

Alice Coonley Higgins, 93, a doyenne of Worcester's educational and cultural life, died Jan. 19 at her home. The Higgins family has been associated with Norton Company and WPI since both were founded.

A native of Lake Forest, Ill., Mrs. Higgins was educated in boarding schools before coming east to attend Milton Academy, Vassar and Barnard. She was a secretary at the Austin Riggs Foundation in Stockbridge in 1936 when she met Milton Prince Higgins II.

Milton Higgins, who died in 1997, was a former chairman of the board and president of Norton Company. He was the son of Norton president Aldus C. Higgins, WPI 1893, and his first wife, Edgenie. Milton's grandfather and namesake was the first faculty superintendent of the Washburn Shops; he later became one of the founders of Norton Company.

Milton graduated from Harvard. He was a WPI trustee for 31 years and chaired the board from 1971 to 1978. From 1965 to 1968 he was chairman of the WPI Centennial Fund, which supported the construction of Goddard Hall, Gordon Library and Harrington Auditorium. Higgins Laboratories, home of the Mechanical Engineering Department, is named for Milton Prince Higgins and in appreciation of gifts from the Higgins family.

Alice Higgins enthusiastically matched her husband's support for higher education. She was a member of Clark University's Board of Trustees for four decades and chaired several Clark committees. She received an honorary degree in humane letters from Clark in 1974. She spoke three languages, loved literature and enjoyed fly fishing, skiing, sailing and tennis. In 1999 she chronicled her and Milton's world travels on behalf of Norton Company in Our Magic Odyssey.

Mrs. Higgins is survived by five children, Milton P. Higgins III of Olney, Md., Prentiss C. Higgins of Wellesley, Edgenie Higgins Rice of New York City, Patricia Higgins Arnold of Mattapoisett, Mass., and David D. Higgins of Waimea, Hawaii, 11 grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. A memorial fund in her name has been established at Clark University.

Albert Schwieger

Management Professor Emeritus Albert J. Schwieger, 93, a founder and the first director of the School of Industrial Management (SIM), died Feb. 20, 2000, in Port Charlotte, Fla., of complications from a broken hip. His wife, Phyllis (Opie) Schwieger, died in 1996. The couple had no children; survivors include nieces and nephews.

Schwieger was born Nov. 28, 1906, in Red Wing, Minn. He earned an A.B. at Hamlin College in St. Paul, Minn., an M.A. at Clark University and a Ph.D. at Harvard, and received a certificate from Harvard Business School. He joined the WPI faculty in 1930. Seven years later he was appointed head of the Department of Economics, Government and Business -- the second youngest person to hold such a post [George Alden was the youngest]. In 1943 Lt. Cmdr. Schwieger was put in charge of the Navy's V-12 program at WPI, responsible for easing the Institute's transition to a wartime school.

In 1949 he and English Professor Edwin Higginbottom, along with trustees Wallace T. Montague from Norton Co. and Philip M. Morgan from Morgan Construction Co., founded SIM to fill industry's need for qualified leaders. Schwieger served as director until Nicholas Onorato succeeded him in 1972. From 1968 to 1972, when he retired from WPI, Schwieger was also head of the Management Engineering Department, which he helped organize.

After 45 years in Worcester, the Schwiegers moved to Ypsilanti, Mich., to be near his sister and her family; they also maintained a winter home in Port Charlotte. The 1961 Peddler was dedicated to Schwieger, who served as advisor to the yearbook for many years. In 1975, Onorato and the Alumni Association Citations Committee established the Albert J. Schwieger Award, presented during the annual banquet to an SIM graduate who has demonstrated sound management principles and integrity in his or her executive position. Schwieger returned to campus in March 1999 for SIM's 50th anniversary (see The Wire, May 1999).

Contributions in his memory may be sent to WPI Development and University Relations.

Helen Stoddard

Arts patron and community leader Helen (Estabrook) Stoddard died Nov. 29, 1999, at the age of 94. A graduate of Bancroft School, Vassar College and Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School, she held a diploma in French civilization from the Sorbonne. She was married for more than 50 years to Robert W. Stoddard, a longtime member of the WPI Board of Trustees who was chairman of the board of directors of Wyman-Gordon Co. and chairman of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette at the time of his death in 1984.

Helen Stoddard supported many charitable causes and organizations. In 1987 she received the Worcester Area Women in Development Award for her fund raising and philanthropic contributions. Well known for her love of plants and flowers, she graciously welcomed gardening groups who made pilgrimages to view the extensive landscaped gardens that graced her Worcester home.

The Helen E. Stoddard Fellowship in Materials Science and Engineering was funded with her bequest of $750,000. It is to be awarded each year to the outstanding MTE graduate student.

The first recipient is Samantha Garramone, who received her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in February 2000 and is completing a master's degree.

Mrs. Stoddard is survived by her daughters, Judith, wife of B.A. King, and Valerie, wife of Stephen B. Loring, seven grandchildren, including Thomas Loring '88, and nine great-grandchildren.


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