Bob Collins obituary:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
"Bio Bob" Collins
Bob Collins, a well-known biology teacher in the Port Huron area, passed away the night of January 4th after fighting cancer for 9 years. Bob retired in 2005 after 40 years as a Biology professor at Saint Clair County Community College. He was a great advocate for the appreciation and protection of local natural areas, and equally for global concerns. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biology from Eastern Michigan University. His studies took him to 7 US states, Bermuda, Costa Rica, and Belize. Bob and his wife, Carolyn, traveled to all 50 states and 6 continents, most recently to Indochina. Upon his retirement, they moved to the Dexter area, near Bob’s original family home. Bob was still active in bird watching and with the Adult Learners Institute in Chelsea.
Bob was not related to me. I first met Bob through Scouts in the late 1970’s when he was President of the Blue Water Audubon. Later, he was my biology teacher at SC4, the best teacher I had in 6 years of college. One of Bob’s favorite places to take his biology classes on nature walks was the Port Huron State Game Area. He also led an annual Spring birding trip for exceptional students to Point Pelee in Ontario, with a stop in Greek Town for lunch. He had a big influence on my college education and I feel that his influence continues through my work as an ecological consultant and in the Thumb Land Conservancy.
I recently had the honor of substitute teaching two general biology courses for two weeks at SC4 in the very classroom where Bob Collins taught. I had not been in that room for 27 years. This was significant for me not only as my first college teaching experience, but within days of my last message to Bob before he passed. Thanks to Dave Sheldon and Janice Fritz for the opportunity.
Bill Collins, President, Thumb Land Conservancy
Bob Collins obituary:
Robert "Bio Bob" Collins died on January 4, 2010, after many years of giving prostate cancer "a good run for its money".
Bob was born in Detroit, raised in Stockbridge and spent his teaching career in Port Huron. He felt particularly lucky to have lived his last five years in Dexter where he took great pride in his new and thriving community.
Bob was a "Muddy Boot" biologist. He was a life-long student, a forty-year professor and a man that loved being outside in nature. He taught thousands of students in his career at the St. Clair County Community College where he was heralded as an enthusiastic, funny and compassionate teacher. No course was complete without the requisite trip into the "field". In his element, he was able to enthuse even the novice when artfully sharing his knowledge of the living world. He won many grants and accolades over his career that allowed him to study around the world. In his retirement Bob continued to teach for the Adult Learners Institute in Chelsea.
Bob was a passionate traveler. He and his wife Carolyn’s philosophy always involved choosing the road less traveled. They trekked, hiked, biked, boated and even traveled by rickshaw into some very unusual places over the years. They celebrated each culture with ardent curiosity and appreciation; sampling the local art, customs and delicacies with great relish. Their fascination with the world took them to all seven continents. Bob’s 66th birthday was particularly exciting when his sightseeing trip of the Antarctic Sea was cut short. The teeth of an aggressive Leopard Seal punctured the Zodiac he was traveling in, necessitating an emergency rescue. Bob’s comment was, "So much nicer than a gift of a shirt."
Bob maintained the interest of a life-long learner. He read, cooked, gardened and conversed with great zeal. He followed world news and politics with both fascination and fury. He was an opinionated, well-seasoned conversationalist with an excellent sense of humor. He had a great mind and a wonderful memory for things, but above all he was a kind man. He said recently, "I would have made a kick ass seventy-year old!" And he would have, too. Bob had the knack for making you think about things, big and small.
Bio Bob’s other major interest was bird watching. His binoculars were never far from reach. He could deftly describe bird behaviors, imitate bird calls and hike for hours in search of his old friends. His family and students were always amused by the little dance he did in celebration of adding yet another "lifer" to his birding list. In his final weeks he took great comfort in watching the birds frolic in his wooded backyard. "So it goes to the survivors of this marvelous living world," he said in a letter to his family.
As his final teaching moment he shared these thoughts with us: "I find myself in somewhat of a privileged position today as I prepare for my imminent death. So many people die instantly and haven’t the time to contemplate their ending. My situation has created a double edged-sword as my wife and my immediate family also have my cancer. This has brought about conversations with laughter, crying, embracing, support and love. We have talked about fear, anger, regrets, work, play, joy, sadness and the timing of death. These recent discussions have strengthened our family dynamic remarkably . . . I have concluded that I continue and use my life experiences to teach our children and grandchildren about aging, disease and death. I have taken great joy in sharing my appreciation of a complete life and my death as a normal conclusion to the fullness of my journey."
We are all so much better for knowing and loving him.
Bob will be sorely missed by his wife Carolyn (Wilk) Collins, his children; Kate Collins (Erich Klun) of Ann Arbor, Pat Collins of Madison, WI, and Andrew Collins (Tracy Baker) of Ypsilanti, and his grandchildren; Simon, Celeste, Coco and Wren.
‘A Celebration of his Life’ will be held in his favorite season, when the earth awakes from its slumber and his beloved warblers begin their journey back to Michigan. If you would like to share a remembrance or a story about what Bob meant to you, please e-mail email@example.com.
His family wishes to thank his Oncologist, Maha Hussain, for helping him to maintain his quality of life while living with cancer, and to Arbor Hospice for allowing him to experience an equally quality death.
Memorial donations can be made in Bob’s name to the Blue Water Audubon Society c/o Robert Haas, 7820 Graham Rd., Grant Twp., MI 48032.