JACKSON, Tenn. – Sept. 16, 2002 – When a student walks into a lab taught by Union University Biology Professor James Huggins, they may at first think that they are taking a class with Dr. Doolittle himself. Various animals come to live in the labs, along with many stuffed and mounted animals from deer to a polar bear and a cheetah. Whenever someone finds a stray animal on campus, they know that Huggins will take care of it and help it get back to its proper place. Huggins’ love for animals is one of the things that makes him stand out among Union professors.
“Since we’re at the top of creation,” Huggins said, “God has made us stewards of this earth. I believe that collectively and individually, we will have to answer for our stewardship. We’re the caretakers of the third rock from the sun.” Huggins strives to pass on his views about creation and stewardship in class through his own enthusiasm and expounding on the wonders of creation.
A love for animals has been a part of the professor from his earliest memories.
“I had toy soldiers and toy animals,” Huggins said, “and I always found myself gravitating toward the animals.”
He fondly recalls a trip to the zoo with his parents as a small boy during which he ran up to them shouting excitedly, “There’s a Malaysian taper around the corner! There’s a Malaysian taper around the corner!” Huggins believes that God stamps each person with a purpose and that his is biology and a love for creation.
“There have been so many special moments with the animals,” Huggins said. “The first time I delivered a baby colt, the first time I saw a baby fawn stand up in the woods, the first time a hawk came and sat on my glove… I’m always amazed.”
One of Huggins’ dreams, a wildlife rehabilitation center on Union’s campus, is on the verge of happening. A project that has taken years to develop – filing the correct papers, completing approval and certification, and getting the school’s permission to use two small buildings near facilities management, Huggins is hopeful to see everything fall into place. Though the buildings still need to be connected to water and electricity, the facility could begin in one to two years with the support of student and community volunteers. The facility will be used to rehabilitate birds, reptiles, and some mammals for the purpose of releasing them back into the wild once they are.
This summer, Huggins had the opportunity to work with a program to reintroduce Mississippi kites back into the wild. The kites are a type of hawk that was once plentiful in Tennessee before pesticides virtually wiped them out. Huggins received eighteen kites from the Memphis zoo, and he was able to house them because of his certification as a licensed falconer. The last of the hawks were released earlier this month.
“I’m feeling a little bit of separation anxiety now,” Huggins said, smiling.
Though students weren’t able to help with the hawks because of the timing, right before fall classes, Huggins gives students many opportunities throughout the year to interact with wildlife through BIOME, the student biology organization on campus, courses in wildlife management, field trips, and the biology department’s research. He also works with Union’s Servant Leadership program to bring in students and expose them to the wonders of creation.
Huggins said he continues to find excitement in each venture he takes in the field of biology.
“I’m amazed every time I take a human body apart when I teach my gross anatomy class or when I get to dissect one of the exotic animals the zoo sends me,” said Huggins. But more than his love for animals, Huggins hopes his love for God makes the biggest impact with his students.
“I would like to be known as a praying professor,” Huggins said. He prays with students in each class as well as when they come to him for advising. “I really want to help students find out who they are and what God has in store for them. I love creation, but I love the Lord even more.”
By Jody Webster, Class of 2004
Sara B. Horn,