John Davison Collins III, of Cora, died on Aug. 6, in Seattle, following a brief illness.
John was energetic and inspirational in pursuit of his passions in life – family and friends, academic excellence, service to others and the great outdoors.
He was born Sept. 7, 1942, the son of Dr. John D. Collins, Jr. and Mary Johnston Collins. He graduated from Garfield High School in Seattle in 1960 and from Stanford University in 1964 with a B.A. in history and two quarters of study in France. He was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. He joined the U.S. Peace Corps, serving in the Republic of Niger – first in an adult literacy program and later managing a hotel in Parc W, a wildlife park.
Following Peace Corps service, he entered the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington, D.C., where he earned a M.A. in 1968. In 1969, he completed his doctoral coursework at Johns Hopkins and received a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Fellowship to conduct field research in France and in the Republic of Niger. He was awarded his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1974.
He married Katharine Kirkpatrick Blackford, on Aug. 9, 1969, in Linville, N.C. The couple lived for one year in Niger, as John completed his research fieldwork. In the fall of 1970, he began teaching government at Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria. In 1977, he was hired by Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs, where he taught U.S. government, comparative politics, sociology and social problems until his retirement in 2003.
Over the years, he was the recipient of numerous teaching awards. He strove to involve his students in current affairs and politics; each of his American government students was required to be involved in a local political campaign or to study a local agency. He initiated an internship program, placing students for a semester in attorneys’ offices, law enforcement agencies and in various social service agencies in Rock Springs and Green River, as well as in internship positions at the Wyoming State Legislature. He developed the first distance-teaching course for the college, and designed a three-person team-taught U.S. government course. He was chosen in 1995 by the U.S. Institute of Peace (established by the U.S. Congress) as one of 30 two-year college instructors to participate in a seminar on approaches to peace in a changing world.
In addition to teaching, he pursued his research interests – chiefly the disposal of uranium mill tailings and the implementation of the 1977 federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Act – and published a number of articles in the Wyoming Land and Water Law Review and other publications.
He was appointed by Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan to the state Abandoned Mines Reclamation Committee and was reappointed to that committee by Gov. Jim Geringer.
John took an active interest in corrections and routinely escorted his social problems students on field trips to the state’s correctional facilities. He served two terms on the Sweetwater County Corrections Board, overseeing the alternative prison in the county. Geringer appointed him to the state Prison Industries Board in 2002.
Following a trip to Mexico in 1995, John’s life took a new direction, both personally and academically. During a sabbatical in the fall of 1997, he enrolled in language study at the Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa and threw himself into volunteer work at a home for elderly, disabled and abandoned adults, often joking they had no choice but to put up with his Spanish. Returning to the college, he developed a new course, Modern Mexico: Politics and Society, and took on the chairmanship of a 2001 conference at the college: “Modern Immigrants: Mexicans in the Rocky Mountain West.” Later that year, he was awarded a Fulbright to attend the International Faculty Development seminar at the University of Guadalajara, which focused on migration, the North American Free Trade Agreement and U.S. foreign investment in Mexico. For several summers, he and Katharine volunteered at a summer camp for indigenous (Otomí) children in the mountainous community of San Ildefonso Tultepec, Querétaro.
Following John’s retirement from Western in 2003, he and Katharine began spending a large part of the year in Comala, Colima, Mexico. After teaching political science at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey in Colima for two years, John decided to devote himself full time to volunteer projects in the area. He pursued his interest in corrections through volunteer work with the Pastoral Penetenciara de Colima, which provides spiritual and other services to prisoners in a medium security prison. Additionally, he organized English lessons within the prison. For nearly 10 years, he was a fixture at the Comunidad Fraterna por una Vida Mejor in Comala, where he organized English lessons for adults and secondary school students and tutored elementary school children in an after-school program in Comala.
Following his retirement, John was a regular volunteer at the Sublette Center in Pinedale, visiting with residents and reading newspapers.
John loved the Wyoming outdoors, in particular the Wind River Mountains. Hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing with family and friends were his greatest pleasures in life. Hiking and sea kayaking in Mexico were also cherished activities.
He is survived by his wife, Katharine; sons Davison (Arianna Urrutia) and their son Dariel, of La Manzanilla, Jalisco, Mexico, and Douglas (Amy Zarrett) and their sons Silas and Parker, of Seattle; sister Jo Shepherd, of Seattle; brother Daniel Collins, of Ketchum, Idaho; brothers-in-law Franklin (Jan) Blackford, of Sausalito, and Douglas (Martha Cutler) Blackford, of Todd, N.C., and a number of nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome donations to the John D. Collins Memorial Fund, 4926 52nd Ave. South, Seattle, WA, 98118, a fund established to continue John’s commitment to scholarship aid for needy rural Mexican youth. A memorial service is planned for 5 p.m. today at the Lakewood Seward Park Community Club in Seattle. nFor the complete article see the 08-08-2014 issue.
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