Life and Leadership Lessons from Prof. Collins

Professor Collins was a young professor in the late 80s and early 90s when I had him for Water and Wastewater. I was interested in structures and initially gave the class a pretty short shrift. Not surprisingly I scored in the 50s on my first exam. Pretty embarrassing and Prof. Collins let me know it with good-natured ribbing and a big funny frown. I buckled down and scored in the 90s on the remaining exams. His energy and fun teaching made the class very accessible and I liked going and learning about the “Schmutzdecke” and “grungy water.” Who would have thought! When I ran into him at the end of the semester he said he had never seen a student come back from such a lousy first exam grade and do well in his class. I told him it was his infectious energy. During my career, I often reflected back on how he motivated his students and tried to emulate him.

I came back this year with my son to tour Clarkson. We sat in the front row and Prof. Collins – I would never be able to call him Tony or even Mr. Collins – picked on us and called us out. It was great. I wore my ancient frayed Clarkson sweatshirt. My son loved it and realized there really is no other place he could ever go!

Niklas Vigener ’91