Dr. Mark Riggs, professor of mathematics, passed away Monday afternoon at the age of 67 after a battle with COVID-19 left him in the hospital for more than two weeks.
“He was so gentle and extremely smart,” said Katie Maxwell, Riggs’ daughter. “I could always go to him as a kid because I know I wouldn’t get in trouble right away. He had a really calm demeanor and that continued through his whole life.”
Riggs was a professor at ACU for a total of 24 years, first from 1980-87 and again beginning in 2003. He also served as chair of the department from 2010-13.
“He loved ACU and the mission to be a part of the future of their students,” Maxwell said. “He was the kind of person you’d want in your corner and the person you’d want to know.”
Riggs also made an impact on his former students, as many have reached out to the family after his passing.
“We’ve received so many messages from students who’ve said they wouldn’t be where they are had my dad not encouraged them to pursue higher education,” Maxwell said. “That’s something my dad was really good in was just encouraging people around him.”
Before returning to ACU to teach, Riggs worked as a senior statistician in Scott & White Hospital for 16 years. No matter where he spent his time, Maxwell said he lived a life focused on his faith.
“He had a very deep faith,” Maxwell said. “In our current culture a lot of people tend to say a lot about their faith, but he truly walked what I saw was modeling Christ in his life.”
Maxwell was married on ACU’s campus by Jacob’s Dream, and that’s where she recalls one of her fondest memories with her father.
“I started shaking and getting nervous, and my dad just reached over and started rubbing my shoulder,” Maxwell said. “And it was just exactly what I needed in that moment. It was such a quiet, but gentle way to say that ‘I’m here and I love you.’ It’s a moment I’ve always treasured.”
After his passing, the family has received an outpouring of support over text and social media.
“I would just like to thank everyone to just comment,” Maxwell said. “Every single word made us feel less alone in all of this. We have just felt so surrounded.”
Riggs is survived by his wife of 40 years, Debbie, daughter Katie and her husband, Matt Maxwell, son Will Riggs and his wife, Courtney, and three grandchildren.
Dr. Jim Orr, vice president for advancement, has created a Mark Riggs Scholarship Fund for actuarial science majors. The gift address is ACU Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132.
The Riggs’ family is planning an outdoor memorial at ACU’s Beauchamp Amphitheater Saturday at 2 p.m. Masks will be required, but they will also have a livestream on Facebook.