Mary Welch Higgins '81

When Mary Welch Higgins graduated from Oakcrest in 1981, she knew that she wanted to pursue her passion for art. Today, she combines this love of beauty and creativity with an entrepreneurial spirit as she starts her own art advisory firm. 

Mary attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC for her undergraduate education.  She received a Bachelor in Fine Arts and, after graduation, stayed in DC to work at the Phillips Collection, an art museum. Six year later, she decided to pursue a Master of Arts in Visual Information Technologies at George Mason University. During the program, she delved into computer animation and programming, drawing, and the philosophy of art. After graduating with her Master of Arts in 1995, Mary was a contractor for the federal government and participated in a small business incubation program. 

Now Mary is busy setting up her own business, an art advisory firm called Distinct Studios LLC. “I chose my current field because I love the arts and artists,” she says. “With my new firm, I am integrating my professional experiences with my passion. On top of all this, I have continued to produce my own work and am producing work that will be in a group exhibition downtown in October.” When she is not busy working on establishing her new business, Mary loves to collect art, read, take long walks, visit museums, and cook. 

Mary returned to Oakcrest in 2015 to give a talk to parents and students. During her speech, she remarked, “I have worked professionally in the creative technology fields, but what I truly treasure is the gift of my liberal arts education at Oakcrest. A liberal arts education will never become last year’s technology. It will stay with you throughout your life.”

Mary remembers art teacher Mrs. Marilyn Johnson as an Oakcrest faculty member who made a particularly deep impact on her. “She was very supportive and her courses were fantastic,” Mary explains. “I learned later that some of our texts, like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, were considered college level. I, in fact, used the text when I taught Visual Thinking as a graduate assistant.” History with Ms. Jean Helsel and French with Mrs. Elizabeth van Werch were also favorite classes of hers. Mary was involved in extracurriculars as well, playing on the basketball team and participating in theater—she remembers being cast as Linus in a production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. 

Favorite memories include the Yuma Street campus where she attended, a field trip to the original Barnes Collection Museum in Philadelphia, and traveling to Boston with PE teacher Miss McPherson for the Boston Marathon. “At that time in the 80s, you could join the trail end of the marathon and run with it,” Mary explains. “It was so much fun, and what a challenge!”

Looking back, Mary can confidently say that her time at Oakcrest helped form her into the person she is today. It was the starting point for a life dedicated to art. “For me the level of support that I received as a student was fabulous,” she says. “I can see now that my unique abilities were developed at Oakcrest.”