Richard Collings remembered as remarkable


Wayne State media relations

Remembering former WSC President Richard Collings. Courtesy of Wayne State media relations.

Clare Hornung, News Writer

Fatherly. Relationship-driven. Energized. Great. Outgoing. Genuine. Engaging. Positive. Open. Remarkable. Strong. Generous. All of these words describe Richard Collings, the former president of Wayne State College.

Collings passed away Tuesday, Nov. 2 and was nearly 75 years old. He had served as president for Wayne State College for six years, from 2004 to 2010. Faculty and community members remember Collings through his leadership and the connections that he made.

Ron Whitt was on the search committee that hired Collings. He said Collings was one of their three finalists and after the interviews, it was obvious that Collings was the candidate that was the best fit for Wayne State at that time. He recalled the decision being unanimous.

David Bohnert, dean of Arts and Humanities, initially got to know and work with Collings when the band played for his inauguration procession and recession. Bohnert recalled that in 2005, after the birth of his first child, Collings had sent him a card in the mail to congratulate them of the birth of their child.

“That stuck with me because it’s clearly above and beyond what somebody like that would have to do,” Bohnert said.

Jay Collier, director of College Relations, was hired to his role by Collings in 2006. He worked closely with Collings and said Collings was a story teller.

Collier said that Collings cited some of his best days at WSC as getting WSC reaccredited by the Higher Learning Commission, when he secured his first million-dollar gift for the Wayne State Foundation and anytime he could spend with students on campus. Collings also oversaw the creation of the campus commons project during his time at WSC.

Collings wrote the epilogue in WSC’s 2010 centennial book “Far From Normal: 100 Years of Educational Excellence.” Collier said that this piece summed up Colling’s vision for Wayne State.

In the epilogue he writes, “Our primary responsibility as members of a college community is realized through excellence in teaching and learning…Of course I am not alone in this focus on teaching and learning. I am standing on the shoulders of past Wayne State presidents who were equally committed to our mission.”

Whitt said that Collings carried on the excellence that Wayne State provides and fit in the mold of outstanding presidents that the college has had.

“He was a great guy, he loved our students and loved the faculty,” Collier said. “One of the things he was really well known for was he would go over and eat with the students like twice a week.”

Collings ate in the upper cafeteria in the student center and got to know students better, but he also ate in the lower cafeteria with faculty on a regular basis as well. Collings was also known for frequently being present at athletic and cultural events that happened on campus.

“I think as leaders have the ability to impact the workplace in the lead-by-example model, I think he was a prime example of that,” Bohnert said.

Bohnert said that Collings tried to foster some really positive relationships and he was genuine and engaging. Collings wanted to create an environment that was positive and collegiate.

Whitt said that Collings was a first-generation student from his family, too, and that’s why he fit well in to Wayne State.

“The memories that I have is that he was very, very open,” Whitt said.

Collings had an open-door policy for faculty and students and was big on working with the community Whitt said. Collier said that Collings was tied to the community and different service organizations in Wayne.

“That’s the kind of thing that hangs with me is just those relationships that he build, and his leadership above all, I think,” Bohnert said.

WSC has had a line of fine presidents with great qualities, strong values, solid leadership and academic goals and Collings held up that tradition during his time in Wayne.

“I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Collings,” Whitt said.