ALBANY, N.Y. - Dr. Donald Anthony Biggs, much-loved father to Faith Biggs King of Montpelier and grandfather to Rory and Aidan King of Montpelier, died March 16, 2014, in Albany, N.Y., following a long period of failing health. Don is also survived by his wife, Sara; brother, Patrick Biggs; children, Sheryl, Donald, Mary, Sara; grandchildren, Mary Grace, Katie, Anthony, Rubin, Heike, Goldali; and many nieces and nephews.
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Don was born Jan. 19, 1936, in South Bend, Ind., "on a very cold day to a very warm family." He was the youngest of seven in a Catholic family, with Indiana roots stretching far into the 19th century.
After losing his mom at age 17, Don did not slow down. He moved to Arizona to live with his beloved sister, Mary Grace, on her ranch. He earned a B.S. in psychology, M.S. in counseling, and Ed.D. in educational psychology - in Arizona, Indiana and California, respectively (with no break).
In the same spirit, Don started his 54-year marriage to Sara Banks in 1959, and they proceeded to have four babies in five years. When his student life at UCLA ended, Don and family moved to flat Nebraska, where he started his professional academic career at Creighton University. After five years in Omaha, Don and crew moved north to Minneapolis, Minn., in 1967. There he began an 11-year stint as professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, and introduced his kids to orchestra, smelt fishing and Catholic churches that welcomed the Berrigan Brothers.
He taught every summer (NYU, Mount St. Agnes, McGill), driving cross-country with his family in a station wagon. In 1975, Don received a Fulbright award. He and Sara flew the children to Birmingham, England, for a year (where Don became a lifelong Anglophile). After England came one more baby and a move east. In 1978, Don became professor of educational and counseling psychology, as well as religious studies, at the University of New York at Albany. He circled his house with gardens, remained at SUNY-Albany for 26 years, and chaired the department for six years.
Until his passing, Don held a visiting professorship at Siena College, where he worked alongside his colleague and dear friend, Dr. Robert Colesante, at the Center for Urban Education. At SUNYA, Don was deeply involved in international exchange programs, serving as visiting faculty in the United Kingdom, Germany, Indonesia, the U.S.S.R. and Cyprus. He took students to Brazil, co-authored 60 articles, wrote books, edited journals, conducted research and delivered presentations. After many years of accomplishments, Don was most proud of his work fostering the talents of young people in urban communities. For his remarkable efforts, Don was honored with a "Human Rights Spirited Achievement Award" from the city of Albany, and a "Visions for Life Award" from the NAACP, among other honors and distinctions.
Don was loved and respected by so many for his moral and intellectual commitment to progressive models of education and human development. He believed in human potential and stood against bias and reductive thinking, wherever he saw it. He lived a deeply principled life and will be remembered for his contributions to local and international communities.
Don's family will remember his startling generosity and penchant for gifting coats and Harrington's hams. He believed in his children beyond reason. Don's warm voice and loving smile will be missed most of all.
Holy Mass was offered for Don on March 19 at St. Joan of Arc Church, Menands, N.Y.
Donations may be made to the Urban Scholars Program at Siena College, Siena College Development Office, St. Francis House, 515 Loudon Road, Loudonville, NY 12211.
Published in Times Argus from Mar. 29 to Mar. 31, 2014