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Former Lipscomb president Willard Collins dies

Former Lipscomb president Willard Collins, who played a vital role in the life and history of the university for more than 70 years, died Tuesday. Collins was 92.
“I have a tremendous respect for Willard Collins. He became presidentat a very important time in Lipscomb’s history. His legacy will bepartially his steadfast love of and ministry to the church as well ashis sense of connection with students. He stepped into the role ofpresident with his unique personality and put his stamp on theuniversity and on the church forever,” said President L. RandolphLowry.
“His last appearance on campus was this fall at convocation where heconnected with a new generation of students with his sense of humor andhis engaging personality.”
During his presidency, Collins was affectionately called the “Students’President.” His outgoing personality, sense of humor and presence inchapel endeared him to students, faculty and staff and alumni.
A native of Lewisburg, Tenn., Collins arrived as a freshman at Lipscombin 1934. He was a good student and very involved in campus life,winning the Founders’ Day Oratorical Contest, serving as businessmanager for the student newspaper and being elected Bachelor ofUgliness. He was also elected president of the Student Board in 1935and as such was involved in a fundraising campaign for the university.In 1936 after graduating from Lipscomb, at that time a two-yearcollege, Collins completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees atVanderbilt University.
Collins returned to Lipscomb in 1944 as assistant director of theLipscomb Expansion Program, which was designed to prepare for an influxof students after the end of World War II.
In 1946, President Athens Clay Pullias named Collins vice president, a position he held for 31 years.
In 1977 after Pullias’ resignation Collins was unanimously appointed bythe board of directors as president and was instrumental in building astrong foundation for the university that positioned it for greatnessin the future. His leadership took the university from a time offinancial crisis to a time of financial stability. Lipscomb founditself with a $3.2 million short term debt in a period of high interestrates and a faculty and staff who had sacrificed financially to workfor the institution. He said of his first few months in office, “Atfirst, I had a few doubts. The fall quarter of 1977 was the hardestI’ve put over. I didn’t know how people would respond … (to) theannouncement of new plans. I just did not know whether or not we couldget the response we had to have. We just had to have it, to raisesalaries, build some endowment and pay off the debt to keep the schoolgoing.”
In 1986, Collins retired from the presidency. He served as chancellorfollowing his retirement and in 1989 was named president emeritus, atitle he held until his death.
Collins is preceded in death by his wife, Ruth; daughter, CorinneCollins Slayton; and grandson, Bryan Collins Demonbreun. He is survivedby daughter, Carole (Bobby) Demonbreun; son-in-law Ed Slayton;grandsons, Mark Slayton and Michael Slayton and granddaughter, TashaDemonbreun Jenkins; and three great grandchildren.
Funeral services were held on Dec. 15 at the Granny White church, Nashville.

Filed under: Obituaries Staff Reports

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