Feb 12, 2015
Rindy Higgins
Worcester History, Author of Against the Current

Worcester native Clarinda Higgins will explain how she solved a 54-year old mystery when she addresses the Rotary Club of Worcester luncheon on February 12 to talk about her new book, “Against the Current: How Albert Schweitzer Inspired a Young Man’s Journey.”

Higgins and her husband William Armstrong wrote the non-fiction adventure narrative about her cousin Mark Higgins, a son of prominent Worcester industrialist Carter Higgins and grandson of John Woodman Higgins.

As an 18-year-old right out of Milton Academy, Mark Higgins yearned for several years of service before beginning his college education. He leveraged family contacts and landed a job in Gabon, Africa, with the famous medical missionary and Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian Albert Schweitzer.  The young man worked for a year at the Schweitzer jungle hospital before embarking on a courageous solo back-packing trek across the newly independent and rebellious Belgian Congo in the summer of 1960. His destination was Israel, where he hoped to work on a farming kibbutz before returning to the U.S. to begin his education and his career. But his life ended abruptly in the eastern Congo, and for decades the family knew very few details. Clarinda made it her mission to learn as many facts as she could, and to tell her cousin’s story.

Her book recounts his life growing up in Worcester, his adventures at the Schweitzer clinic, the challenges he faced attempting to cross Africa, and the enduring legacy that his life inspired.

“In gathering data for this book, we researched archives on three continents and interviewed primary sources around the world.  To complete our research, last spring my family and I traveled to Gabon in West Africa and retraced Mark’s steps through extremely very remote villages. Our findings led to some surprising and gratifying conclusions,” Higgins said.  “It turns out that Mark Higgins embodied what many today would recognize as Rotary’s motto of Service Above Self.”

Ms. Higgins, who now lives in Westport, Connecticut, remains involved in Worcester affairs, having been active in the effort to preserve the Higgins Armory Museum and helping to find the buyer for the iconic Barber Avenue building.