by Bobbi Maiers
For 21 years, Reggie Higashi ’97 has been cheering for UC Davis: on the field in the UC Davis Spirit Squad as an undergrad, and from the stands for every homecoming game since he graduated. He may not parade around the field dressed as Gunrock, but Higashi could be considered UC Davis’ alumni mascot, deeply dedicated to university traditions and keeping Aggie Pride alive.
In 1993 Higashi, like many other freshmen, wondered how he’d fit into his new university community. He found his place in cheering. While playing saxophone in the California Aggie Marching Band-Uh! for a football game, he watched the cheer team and marveled at how much fun they were clearly having.
“I thought ‘wow, those guys are really good at what they do, and how do I get into that?’” he said. “Becoming part of Spirit Squad really opened me up to what people were doing on campus.”
For the next three years, Higashi was an instrumental part of UC Davis cheering.
Now, as a clinical exercise physiologist in Placerville, coming to Davis for homecoming, basketball games, Picnic Day and other events is a way for Higashi to reenergize that university spirit and reconnect with the Davis community.
“Being part of UC Davis meant I got to be with people who were open-minded, diverse individuals,” said Higashi who is a CAAA Life Member. “I like returning to that feeling of openness. Davis was a difference-maker for me.”
In 2001 Higashi helped form the Alumni Spirit Squad as a way to reunite all those whose school spirit didn’t fade once their degrees were framed on the wall. Group members provide mentorship and gather for social networking events, in addition to being a strong presence at athletic events. Even amid his busy professional life, including part-time work as a college instructor and CPR teacher, Higashi has maintained his passion for cheering through countless coaching, leadership, mentoring, and alumni activities.
This year, for his 22nd homecoming, Higashi will be in the company of his wife Erica ’97 (they met at the UC Davis Spring dance concert) and their 13- and 9-year-old children, both of whom are official members of the Junior Aggies Club and have attended every UC Davis homecoming since birth. For Higashi, homecoming truly is about returning to a place he knows he’ll always belong: the family of UC Davis alumni.
“You get out of your experience what you put into it. Luckily, I was wholeheartedly immersed in Aggie spirit and pride early on,” he said. “Being able to stay connected has helped me professionally, athletically, and personally throughout the years. Aggie Pride will always be in me.”