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Jack Hernandez (above) accepted the award on behalf of John Collins, at the request of the Collins family.
Dr. John Collins was a California native who graduated from Cal with a Bachelor’s degree in 1940. Later, in 1953, he received a Master’s degree from Cal, and eventually a Doctorate in Education from UCLA.
Dr. Collins was drafted into the United States Army in 1941 and served in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II. He commanded an anti-tank Company , including fighting in the battles on Saipan and Okinawa. Dr. Collins was honorably discharged as a Captain after the war and was always proud of his Combat Infantry Badge.
In 1955, Dr. Collins began teaching and coaching at Bakersfield College while it was still at the Bakersfield High School campus. Dr. Collins taught history and sociology, was a counselor and the Cross Country and Track Coach. In the fall of 1957, Bakersfield College won the State Cross Country Championship and in the spring of 1958 the Bakersfield College track team won the Southern California title and was second in the State, something he was very proud of.
In 1958, Dr. Collins was promoted to Director of Student Activities. Three years later, he was named Dean of Students at Bakersfield College. In 1966, Dr. Collins accepted a position as the first President of Moorpark College.
In 1972, John Collins returned to Bakersfield as President of Bakersfield College.
During his tenure as president, Dr. Collins John was a strong advocate for academic freedom in the classroom and the ability for faculty to choose the books used in their classrooms, arguing this issue before the Board of Trustees.
In addition, Dr. Collins supported the appearance of controversial speakers on campus, defending the value of speakers presenting all points of view on a college campus. Dr. Collins served as President of Bakersfield College until he retired in 1983. After retiring, Dr. Collins started his second career as a consultant for the Kern Community College District. He worked in this capacity for 25 years. During this time, he was active in the Bakersfield College Foundation and the Bakersfield College Archives.
And he never stopped learning, taking a woodworking class from Gary Cox after one of his retirements so that he could make fine furniture.
Altogether, Dr. Collins had 63 years in education, retiring for the third time in 2009. By the age of 91, Collins had been a teacher, coach, counselor, dean and college president.
Comments about Dr. Collins include, "He was just a brilliant and gentle and marvelous human being. I can't say enough about him." -- Bob Covey
“He was always a great leader but never had a big ego. Although he was courageous and confident, you never felt that John was puffed up about it. There was no sense that when he walked into a room that everything had to stop." -- Jack Hernandez
"He was incredibly bright, patient and hard-working, but very caring about making sure what we were doing was helping students," -- Greg Chamberlain
A comment in his obituary does a good job summarizing Dr. Collins: Do the work, spare the accolades.
But this is one accolade that we will not spare.
When you look at all that Bakersfield College is today, you see Dr. John Collin’s fingerprints on many, many things. It is not an exaggeration to say that Bakersfield College would not be what it is today without his guidance and commitment.