The following memorial tribute to Norman E. Collins was presented by Eric Benson, assistant professor of bioresources engineering, at the Semiannual General Faculty Meeting on April 7, 2008.
Norman E. Collins, a professor for 40-years at the University of Delaware, died Sept. 29, 2007. Prof. Collins career spanned a transformation in both in agriculture and agricultural engineering education. During his tenure at the University, agriculture changed from an era characterized by family farms and mechanization to highly industrialized farms using computers and controllers to optimize productivity. Prof. Collins, himself, was a pioneer in using computer models for the poultry industry.
Prof. Collins received his undergraduate degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Delaware, his master's degree from the University of Maryland, and his doctoral degree in civil engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to serving on the faculty, Prof. Collins served as department chair for eleven years.
Prof. Collins was recognized for excellence in teaching and advising many times while at the University of Delaware. Among his awards and recognitions were the Outstanding Educator Award in 1975, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers Young Engineer of the Year award in 1979, the first University Excellence in Academic Advising award as voted by the students in 1988, the College of Agriculture (now College of Agriculture and Natural Resources) Outstanding Academic Advising award in 1989, and the Division of Continuing Education Excellence in Teaching Adult Students award in 1997.
Students were important to Prof. Collins, who believed in making a “Delaware difference” to his students. In particular, Prof. Collins recognized the needs of non-traditional students. He led the development of the engineering technology degree for students working in the field. He also frequently traveled to Dover and Georgetown to teach, regularly teaching in the evening, and he urged others to do the same. One student described Prof. Collins as a “student’s teacher” who would show up unannounced late at night in the computer lab on his way home from the field, surprising the students as he stopped by to answer questions.
After retiring from the University of Delaware in 2005, Prof. Collins continued to teach others about agriculture through the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village. Prof. Collins served as president, member, and acting director of Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village and led a major capital campaign to enable the museum to develop a self-sustaining endowment fund as a private nonprofit organization. As a tribute to Prof. Collins, the museum’s board of trustees created the Norman E. Collins, Jr. Distinguished Service Award to be given to the person who has done the most for the museum during the past year. Prof. Collins was the first recipient.
I met Prof. Collins as a perspective student looking at the University of Delaware. At the time, I was thinking about enrolling in mechanical engineering, but after talking with Prof. Collins, I soon enrolled in the agricultural engineering technology program. Prof. Collins challenged his students, but as a student, you knew that rising to the challenge would help you later on. Prof. Collins expected students to treat learning like a job, a job with a long term pay-off. Being both a farmer and an agricultural engineering professor gave Prof. Collins--and his classes--a unique and practical perspective.
It was an honor to come back and teach alongside the same person who helped give me my start at the University of Delaware.
Oct. 4, 2007--Norman E. Collins Jr., 67, professor emeritus of bioresource engineering at UD, died at home on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Collins, of Newark, Del, and Warwick, Md., taught for 40 years at UD before retiring in 2005. During his tenure, he served as department chairperson for 11 years.
In 1975 Collins received the Outstanding Educator Award, and in 1979 he was the recipient of the Young Engineer of the Year award from the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. President of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, he received the first University Excellence in Academic Advising award voted by the students in 1988 and the Outstanding Academic Advising award in 1989.
Collins also was a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Adult Students award from the Division of Continuing Education in 1997. His leading role in developing the engineering technology degree for students working in the field earned him recognition as a Delaware SuperStar in Education in 1993. He also was recognized as an outstanding instructor and "Friend of 4-H" in 1995.
Working in conjunction with the poultry industry in the First State, Collins developed a program to optimize the environment in broiler houses.
Upon retirement, Collins devoted many hours each week to the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village, serving as a member and subsequently president of its board of trustees. He was acting director of the museum until the time of his death. During his tenure at the museum, Collins led the board in developing a major capital campaign to enable the museum to develop a self-sustaining endowment fund as a private nonprofit organization.
Preserving Delaware's agricultural heritage was a mission and a family tradition for Collins, as his father, Norman E. Collins Sr., and a distant cousin, Corbit Collins, were among the original members of the museum. In September 2007, the museum's board of trustees created the Norman E. Collins Jr. Distinguished Service Award to be given to the person who has done the most for the museum during the past year. Collins was chosen as the first recipient of the award.
In Newark, Collins coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for 18 years and was twice the president of the Country Place Homeowners' Association.
An active grain farmer in Cecil County, Md., Collins often referred to himself as "an Ivy League tractor driver." He was an avid model railroader of HO scale trains and a serious student of the Civil War.
Collins received his undergraduate degree in agricultural engineering from UD, a master's degree from the University of Maryland, and a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
He was predeceased by his parents, Norman E. Collins Sr. and Katie Leola Hall Collins.
Collins is survived by his wife, Suzanne Smith Collins; a daughter, Denise Collins Waite, her husband Jon, and their daughters, Sara and Casey of Berwyn, Pa.; a son, Norman Edward Collins III, his wife Kim, and their sons, Jack and Tyler, of Ithaca, N.Y.; and a sister, Brenda Collins Holloway, and her husband Randy. Survivors also include a niece, Cameron Brown, and her husband Steve and their son Samuel. Others survivors include stepsons, David F. Smith, his wife Sharon, and their children, Jessica and Jake of Richmond, Va.; and Daniel W. Smith, of Charleston, S.C. He also is survived by his maternal uncle, Kenneth Hall of Beacon, N.Y., and numerous cousins of the Hall and Collins families.
Funeral services were held Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village in Dover. Interment was in the new section of Odd Fellows Cemetery, Smyrna.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations in Collins' name be made to the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village, 866 N. DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901, to preserve Delaware's agricultural heritage; or to the Kristen Ann Carr Fund at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, 1275 York Ave, New York, NY 10065, to support research to find a cure for liposarcoma.
Condolences may be sent to and guestbook signed at [www.daniels-hutchison.com].