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By Vinny Reda (April 12, 2007)

Former UAlbany "First Lady" Had Welcoming Style

Virginia Collins with her husband, University at Albany President Evan Revere Collins

Virginia (Ginny) Lillard Collins, shown her with her husband Evan Revere Collins, UAlbany president from 1949 to 1969, is remembered for her warm, welcoming style and helping to build a sense of community on campus. (Photo from University Special Collections)

It was a simpler time, when the University's population was less than a tenth of what it is today.

But, in the 20 years of the tenure of Evan Revere Collins, the University at Albany would grow in size — from 1,500 to more than 10,000 students — and scope. It was Collins, from 1949 to 1969, who shepherded the institution from a college for teachers to a research university.

He had strong support, and not just from talented faculty and administrators. His wife of 58 years, Virginia Lillard Collins — "Ginny" to all who knew her — was at his side, helping to build and retain a family atmosphere at the College for Teachers and then UAlbany.

Ginny Collins' death on Jan. 12 at age 94 brought fond memories to many retired faculty and also former faculty wives. Mrs. Collins played a key role in the creation of the Faculty Wives Club, which met regularly for social and philanthropic purposes, at a time when the vast majority of faculty were men. As that changed in the 1960s, the group was renamed the Faculty Women’s Club, incorporating both female faculty spouses and female faculty.

"She and President Collins used to invite all the faculty out to his place in Loudonville every fall," recalled Margaret Farrell, a UAlbany Collins Fellow (1986) and a professor of education from 1960 to 1989. "They had a very close relationship, and were very welcoming to those arriving here for the first time."

Mrs. Collins may have been known most of all for a particular personal touch. "She would call on the new faculty wives at their homes, unannounced, and welcome them to the college," said Dorothy Ellinwood, whose husband Dewitt was a professor of history from 1962 to 1992. "She didn't want to call ahead because she didn't want us to go to any trouble. She was very friendly and very helpful in making us feel at home.

"They were a good team, because they both cared about people very much."


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