Ivanhoe B. Higgins, 67, an orthopedic surgeon who was widely loved and respected, died May 3, at his home in Portland, Oregon. He faced cancer with characteristic grace, courage and resilience, and lived until his body could not contain his brilliant spirit a minute longer.
Born into a prominent Baltimore family he was the son of surgeon Dr. Ivanhoe Bradshaw Higgins and the former Hilda Moseley. Ivan graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, MA class of 1962, where he starred in lacrosse and wrestling and was a distinguished student leader. He earned a B.A. from Rutgers University, class of 1966, an M.D. from the University of Maryland , and completed his residence in orthopedic surgery at U.S., San Francisco .
After finishing his medical training, Ivan took a year-long sabbatical to travel the world. While in Nepal, he received a friend’s letter recommending Portland. When he returned in the U.S., he interviewed at Kaiser Permanente and began his practice in 1977. In 1982, he joined a small group that became Multnomah Orthopedic Clinic, where he practiced for 34 years and earned a reputation as an exemplary surgeon at Portland’s Providence Hospital and Mount Hood Medical Center.
Staff members mourning his loss universally describe him as one of the most respected and beloved physicians in memory: warm, kind, intelligent, highly skilled intuitive and selfless.
Throughout Ivan’s life he set an example of character and integrity that influenced everyone he met and attracted a wide circle of adoring friends, who also treasured his quick wit and playfulness. He loved nature and traveled widely with his wife and constant companion. Their friends thought of them as the perfect couple, so compatible that they were rarely apart. Their many adventures included hiking, skiing and running rivers all over the west, exploring Africa, visiting the headwaters of the Amazon and kayaking to desert islands in the Sea of Cortez.
In addition to his wife, Jill Ward, Ivan is survived by his sister, the former Auldlyn Higgins, two nieces, Brooke H.B. Williams and Eden B.B. Williams, one grandniece Ada A. Bing Liberson and grandnephew, Declan M.T. Hinds, all of New York.
Ivan had hoped to attend his 50th Phillips Academy reunion this June and contributed an autobiographical piece for a publication marking the occasion. In his characteristically modest manner he wrote, “I would like to think I touched many people’s lives in a positive way when they needed it most. I never aspired to be a Master of the Universe, but rather to ply my craft in a skillful and sensitive way, easing pain and suffering along the way.”
A celebration of his life will be held at Providence Portland Medical Center in June.