Campus Highlights

Pioneer Profile: Jackie and Bob Wiggins

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(Left to right) OU Professor Emeritus Michael Gillespie, Actor and OU Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award recipient Esau Pritchett, OU Distinguished Professor Emerita Jackie Wiggins and OU Professor Emeritus Bob Wiggins

Pioneer Profiles

icon of a calendarMay 16, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Joan Rosen

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Jackie and Bob Wiggins retired from Oakland University in 2018, after almost 25 years of teaching and service to the university and the surrounding community. Bob said that they knew little about OU when they came in 1994 to look for a house for Jackie and their daughter. He had applied to the School of Education earlier, but did not think what was offered was the right fit for him so he was ready to take a position elsewhere. Then he received a call to come in for an interview as a new faculty slot had been approved. When he was asked about making a plane reservation he said, “Not necessary; I am already here. I can come tomorrow.” It is ironic that the School of Education had no idea that Jackie had already been hired in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance in the College of Arts and Sciences.

According to Bob, they thought they would start their careers at OU because they were not sure they would make Oakland their final stop in academia. In Bob’s words, “Once here, we loved it and saw great potential for both of us, and 25 years later….” In fact, OU has become a family affair for the Wiggins. Their daughter and son-in-law earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at Oakland, and their daughter, Elizabeth Medvinsky (CAS ’00, ’05), currently serves as the director of OU Community Music, the largest outreach program in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

Both Jackie and Bob have served in multiple capacities in their respective schools as department chair, associate dean, committee chairs, and served on numerous university committees. They are passionate about their disciplines, and above all, they care about and mentor their students.

One of Jackie’s proudest accomplishments was her work toward founding OU’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance. She shepherded this for almost twenty years, submitting numerous proposals and lobbying endlessly on behalf of her colleagues in their efforts to establish the School.

Jackie and Bob are as busy in their retirement life as they were when actively teaching. They enjoy spending time with their three teenage grandchildren in Michigan and a toddler grandson in Ohio. They enjoy traveling, especially to New York (their roots) to see old friends, enjoy concerts, art museums, and the foods they love. While in New York, they have had the opportunity to see OU alumni performing. That, to quote both Jackie and Bob, “warms our hearts.”

When they are in Michigan, Bob keeps busy with woodworking and is currently creating a file cabinet from the wood of an oak tree that lived on their property. He also keeps busy with organic gardening, bike riding, and bread making - not all at the same time!

When she is not indulging in their passion for cooking, Jackie continues to engage in some professional work, mentoring doctoral students through to graduation, as well as reviewing for research journals and publishers of scholarly books. During two pandemic years, she worked remotely with a former doctoral student to interview a 90-year-old New Orleans jazz musician about how he learned to play as a child. The article was published in a special issue of the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education dedicated to the music education of African Americans.

When they are in Michigan, both Bob and Jackie continue their affiliation with OU supporting the basketball teams as well as Music, Theatre and Dance. The spend time with their Oakland friends, many of whom are emeriti faculty, and they attend as many university functions as they can fit into their busy lives. They also support the performing arts throughout Michigan, the DSO, DIA, and Chamber Music Detroit, where Jackie serves on the Board.

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