Al Higdon knows bridges and highways. For 39 years, Brother Higdon (CA-TH ‘61) was involved in the design and construction of major bridges, roads and other projects in San Diego and throughout California.
Al was introduced to the civil engineering profession when a neighbor suggested he pursue that as a major at San Diego State College. It wasn’t an especially easy degree. “The classes were extremely competitive, especially considering that many Korean War vets returning to college were in the same classes,” he remembered. “They were very serious about their studies, which sometimes made it challenging for those of us fraternity members who did enjoy parties.”
Higdon had pledged Cal Theta as a freshman in 1956, when the ΣAE house was located on Saranac Street in La Mesa. “It was a great house,” he said. “San Diego State was a smaller campus then with approximately 4,500 students. Cal Theta had about 100 members and many of the bros were involved in campus activities.”
While he also worked as a part-time butcher during his college years,Al found time to serve as the fraternity’s social chairman. “One of our P&G (Purple and Gold) weekends was at Catalina; some of the bros still talk about that.”
Upon graduation in 1961, Higdon had his choice of jobs. “There were a lot of opportunities for civil engineers then because of all the highway and other construction underway. I started work for the California Division of Highways. My primary responsibility was to help design bridges and then supervise the construction.They moved us to jobs all over the state, from San Diego to Ventura, Sacramento and elsewhere.”
He supervised the construction of local bridges from downtown San Diego to Del Mar. “Much of that work was done along what were the early stages of the I-5 freeway,” he explained.
After seven years working for the State, he decided it was time for a change. “When they were about to move me to Calexico, I took the opportunity to work for the County of San Diego.”
Higdon was now in charge of Inspection Services, monitoring the construction of buildings, roads and other projects throughout the County. He considered it a good fit. “I was able to work outside half the time rather than be in an office all day.”
In 2000, Higdon, who is a fourth generation San Diegan (His great grandfather was a surgeon in Old Town in 1860.), moved back to the Pt. Loma house that his father built in 1934, and where Al was raised. Retired since 1999, he and his wife of 53 years (Marian) enjoy visiting their son, daughter and grandchild, all of whom live in San Diego.
He also likes playing golf and taking care of their five acre ranch in Crest. “I spend two days a week at the ranch. There’s always something to do and I like working outside.”
The ranch is also the site of the annual ΣAE reunions that Higdon hosts for Brothers from the 1950s and 1960s. “We held the first one in 2003 and have had 10 more since. The bros like seeing their buddies and reminiscing about the times they had in college.”
He strives to attend most other ΣAE events as well, including the luncheons and Founder’s Day dinner. A longtime member of the San Diego Alumni Association, Al is definitely glad he joined ΣAE almost 60 years ago.“Becoming an ΣAE was a terrific decision. I’ve made so many wonderful friends.” ~ By David Robinson