Kathy Higgins – Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
By Kim Blair
I recently had a lovely afternoon tea at The Third Place Coffee Shop in the Five Points area of Raleigh with Kathy Higgins. Kathy is the Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) and the President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolinas Foundation, an independent foundation. Kathy hired me in 2013 into the role of the Director of Community Relations at Blue Cross NC. I learned a ton and met so many amazing nonprofit and community leaders in the nearly 5 years in that role. When I decided it was time to become an entrepreneur, Kathy was very supportive of me following my dreams.
Thirty Years and Counting
In October, Kathy celebrated 30 years at Blue Cross NC. Kathy shared that not one year was like another. Each year exceeded the previous, even after she wondered “how could we do any better than this?” at the end of the year.
Committed to the people of this state, Kathy is a true community leader. Under Kathy’s leadership, Blue Cross NC has become known as a strong corporate citizen and a company committed to living out its mission of improving the health and well-being of its customers and communities. The company has spent time, people resources and money to improve our state for the good of all who live here. As a result, Blue Cross NC has had a significant impact on the Triangle, and the state.
The leaders of Blue Cross NC are truly engaged community leaders. This is unique for an organization with nearly 5,000 employees. As I saw over and over again, Blue Cross NC leaders of all levels volunteered at nonprofit events, served on nonprofit boards and generously donated money to nonprofit organizations of all kinds. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is truly “for” our state, not just doing business here.
Leaving a Legacy
Looking back, under Kathy’s leadership, Blue Cross NC and the Blue Cross Foundation have many accomplishments to be proud of. A few highlights include:
Breast Cancer Button Chair – An innovative art display designed to increase awareness of breast cancer to save lives. The chair features thousands of buttons, each belonging to a victim or survivor of the disease. The chair was purchased as part of a breast cancer fundraising auction.
Be Active Kids teaches young children good nutrition and fitness habits. Implementing this evidence-based program to support children’s health in child care settings significantly impacted children’s health and childhood obesity rates in our state.
Million Step March – a 600-mile walk across North Carolina bringing awareness to walking and other forms of physical activity as easy, low-cost ways to get active and become healthier. Kathy personally walked across the state inspiring North Carolinians along the way.
Leadership Lessons from a Pro
You don’t get to the level of accomplishment as Kathy has without a focus on growth and improvement. A key leadership principle for Kathy is to deliver quality work. Also, it is important to Kathy that people love what they do.
As a mentor to many, I wondered who Kathy looked up to as leaders to model. Brad Wilson and Roberta Bowman quickly came to mind. Brad Wilson, the retiring CEO of Blue Cross NC, is a true servant leader. His decision making considers the bigger purpose in mind, not simply personal or business benefit. Further, he has mastered the art of asking more questions than giving answers. This leadership style is definitely one to model. Roberta Bowman, retired Sr. VP and Chief Sustainability Officer of Duke Energy and Blue Cross NC board member, has an unwavering drive for excellence. She demonstrates integrity and the philosophy that if you can deliver better, you should. Roberta has also emphasized the importance of being prepared. Both Brad and Roberta have taught Kathy the importance of being creative in your thinking. This has served her well.
Leaders never stop learning and growing. Currently, Kathy is working on being more inquisitive, to draw out other’s ideas. Kathy’s drive for excellence helps maximize initiatives by creating something unique or special.
On the Homefront
Kathy lives in the Hayes Barton area in Raleigh. The area is ideal for her family. It is walkable, has access to many wonderful restaurants and things to do, like the Rialto Theatre, and it is near Underwood, the landlocked magnet school where her two boys attend. The vibe of this eclectic historic area and the quality of life makes it an appealing place to live.
Kathy has made improvements to her historic home over the years. She created a back porch sanctuary that opens up to her main family area… it brings the sense of being outdoors inside. This is her favorite part of her home. A close second is her front porch. It has always been an inviting way to connect with those in her neighborhood.
Until next time
Well, this special lady isn’t finished improving the communities in North Carolina for all. Her passion and persistence haven’t even begun to wane. I look forward to seeing what she brings to life over the next 30 years.