BEDFORD _ Known to generations of students, alumnus, trustees, employees and friends, as “Mr. Saint Anselm,” Robert J. Collins, 95, retired executive vice president of Saint Anselm College, died Sunday at a local nursing facility with his four children by his side.
Born in Dover, N.H., February 1, 1916, to James E. and Elizabeth (O’Rourke) Collins, Mr. Collins was educated at St. Mary’s Academy and graduated from Dover High School, before graduating with honors from St. Anselm College in 1937.
His connection to the college was a lifelong one that spanned nearly 80 years and included being the school’s first director of public relations, an English instructor and director of alumni activities, before being appointed vice president for development in 1960, the first layman ever to hold that position at a Benedictine College.
Mr. Collins would then go on to serve as both the college’s first layman vice president for development and first layman executive vice president at the college, until his 1985 retirement. Following his retirement, he continued to serve as a trustee and trustee-emeritus of the Saint Anselm College Board, with which he was involved since its 1957 founding.
“To know Bob Collins (was) to know the history of Saint Anselm College,” according to a feature article, ‘Bob Collins, Anselmian,’ in the college magazine’s fall/winter edition of 2007. “It is a history that he has lived. And in ways that few people understand or appreciate, it (was) a history that _ with wisdom, vision, devotion, a rich array of talents, and an infectious wink and a smile _ Bob Collins shaped.”
A recipient of an honorary doctor of law degree in 1980 from Saint Anselm, Mr. Collins and his wife, Dorothy Margaret (Falvey) Collins, to whom he was married 60 years until her death in 2005, were recognized for their devotion to the college community with the dedication in 1988 of two student campus residences, the Falvey House and the Collins House.
Throughout his life, even when he volunteered for enlistment in 1941 in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and when he joined WMUR Radio’s original announcer’s staff after his discharge, Mr. Collins maintained a connection with the college, as an alum and volunteer in public relations.
Yet Mr. Collins’ community involvement ranged far beyond the school and his family. He and his wife, whom he married in 1944, were honored by Pope Paul II in 1984 with membership in the Papal Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, in which he held the rank of Knight of the Grand Cross.
A member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, he also was honored to serve as Grand Marshal of Manchester’s 2001 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
In addition, Mr. Collins was a life member of the Saint Anselm Council, Knights of Columbus; a life member of the Sweeney Post, American Legion, and was awarded the Saint Anselm College Alumni Association’s Award of Merit.
He worked with the Manchester Police Department, county, state and New England agencies to provide higher education opportunities for police and law enforcement officers, developing the state of New Hampshire’s first college degree program in criminal justice.
During his career, Mr. Collins served as a former division chairman for the Greater Manchester United Way, incorporator of Catholic Medical Center, incorporator of the former Merchants Savings Bank, member and past president of the Manchester Lions Club, director of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and secretary of the State Historical Commission.
Appointed by then Gov. John W. King to the original executive committee of the Governor’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency, he served under three governors, including a term as commission chairman.
Mr. Collins also was a director of the N.H. Chapter of the National Conference on Christians and Jews, as well as a member of the Task Force of the Diocesan Synod to study parochial schools in New Hampshire.
He was a communicant of St. Raphael Church.
Mr. Collins leaves behind four children, Dr. Robert J. Collins Jr., and wife, Joan, of Fort Myers, Florida; Mrs. Kevin J. (Christine) Powers and husband, Kevin, of Manchester; David G. Collins, and wife, Lucie, of Bedford and Dr. Brian C. Collins, and wife, Rachel, of York, Maine; 13 grandchildren, Sara, Patrick, Timothy, Matthew, Kathleen, Thomas, Elizabeth, Catherine, Gregory, Kelly, Sean, Erin and Liam and four great-grandchildren, Rebecca, Zachary, Paige and Emily. He was predeceased by his siblings, Frank, Elizabeth, Lucy, Christina, Leona, Florence and James.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Thursday, September 22, 2011 in Abbey Church of Saint Anselm College. Burial followed in St. Joseph Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Collins-Falvey Scholarship Fund, c/o Development Office, Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester, 03102.