John H. Biggs served as vice chancellor for administration and finance at Washington University in St. Louis from 1977-1985, and as chairman, president and chief executive officer of TIAA-CREF, the nation’s largest pension fund, from 1993-2002. Biggs received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 2011.
He is credited with making innovative contributions to higher education pension plans and to the internal financial management of Washington University and other universities.
He is also recognized for influencing major changes in the oversight and regulatory structure of the auditing profession.
As a member of the Public Oversight Board, Biggs’ work helped Congress formulate the auditing provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a reaction to multiple accounting scandals, including Enron Corp.
Easing the financial commitment on students
Biggs, who earned a doctorate in economics in 1983 from Washington University while vice chancellor, created the university’s Tuition Stabilization Plan, which allowed parents to prepay students’ tuition and lock it in at the current rate for the next four years.
The plan — since expanded into Partners in Education with Parents — was the first of its kind in the country and widely copied by other institutions.
An advocate for protecting individuals’ retirement, Biggs created several inflation-resistant investment options at TIAA-CREF. He credits his time at Washington University with influencing his development of the Social Choice Fund, which invests in companies that meet or exceed certain environmental, social and governance criteria.
A member of Washington University’s Board of Trustee since 1984, Biggs, along with his wife, Penelope (MA, ’68, PhD, ’74), created a visiting lectureship in 1989 in the Department of Classics in Arts & Sciences that annually brings an eminent scholar in Greek or Latin studies to campus.
They also established distinguished professorships in classics and economics.