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Journalist Turns Her Own Story of Grief Into Company

December 3, 2018

By Sydney Colopy

“The greatest thing that Duke gave me was the reassurance that I could overcome anything,” says Kimberly Holmes Wiggins PPS’02. Her perseverance, determination, and compassion have contributed to her success in journalism and led her to start her own business.

Turning a passion for storytelling into a career in journalism

When Wiggins started at Duke, she had her sights set on becoming a pediatric dentist. Her path changed dramatically after her freshman year, when she discovered her passion for storytelling.

During her junior year, she took a public policy course called Television Journalism and learned about the process of researching, producing, and writing a video story. For her final project she reported on custodians at Duke, who said they felt like second-class citizens. By following around one custodian, Wiggins learned how important it is to build trusting relationships with the people whose stories she tells.

After graduation, Wiggins couldn’t find a job in journalism. She turned to her burgeoning interest in politics and worked on a gubernatorial race in Maryland and then for the media relations department at an education non-profit in Washington, D.C., but Wiggins knew “the journalism bug” was still in her.

Driven by her interest in foreign reporting, she decided to apply to foreign policy graduate programs. After being rejected from every school she applied to, she was frustrated but not defeated.

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  • Wiggins with Sanford mug

    Kimberly Wiggins on set at WBOC-TV.

A year later, she shifted her focus again and applied to a new set of graduate schools. She was accepted to her top choice: Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

After completing the program, Wiggins began the on-air portion of her journalism career in local television news. She says telling stories through local news coverage allows her to “shed a little bit of light on a slice of America.”

She quickly learned that being an anchor is “not a career, it’s a lifestyle.” The negative stories and stress weighed on her. She grew tired of consistently canceling plans with friends and her husband to work overtime, so she walked away from the business. Wiggins says it was a difficult decision that allowed her to unknowingly recharge her spirit for the rocky journey that awaited her. Nearly two years later she would return to work; she is now the morning anchor for WBOC-TV in Salisbury, Md. and teaches a journalism course at Salisbury University. The break also turned out to be precious time with her husband.

Finding hope and spreading love after tragedy

In 2016, her husband, Rasheed Wiggins, T’99, F’10, was killed in a horrific hit and run. Wiggins says she not only lost her partner, but her ability to dream and had to relearn how to live.

Wiggins describes her experience with grief as being in a really dark room -- knowing the light switch was there, but begging friends and family to leave her inside it, so she could find her new way in her own time.

“Grief is not something you get over,” Wiggins says. “It’s something you get through and learn to live with.” One of the ways she has coped is by helping other women who have lost a significant other.

A few months after her husband’s death, Wiggins received a message of support on Twitter from another widow who used the hashtag #StillHis. Wiggins was touched and comforted by this phrase and thought it could help others, so she started a faith-based, retail, and grief outreach organization called Still His®. Proceeds go toward gift boxes that are sent to widows whom others nominate on her site. The grief gift boxes, called {LOVE} boxes, are also available for purchase. Wiggins says it’s simply to remind those grieving that “there is still love in the world.”

Wiggins is organizing a charity 5k run in Rasheed’s name to take place on March 23, 2019 on Duke’s East Campus. Proceeds will go towards the Rasheed A. Wiggins Entrepreneurial Prize, part of Duke’s Startup Challenge program.  https://www.rasheedwigginsprize.com/