Leslie M. Collins, an author and beloved professor at Fisk University, died Feb. 24, according to the University’s Office of Alumni Affairs. He was 99.
Described as a lifelong learner, Collins earned a master’s from Fisk in 1937 and a doctorate from Western Reserve University’s Department of American Culture in 1945. In 1952, Collins returned to Western Reserve as a Ford Foundation fellow and received a master’s in library science. He also travelled the world, conducting other postgraduate work at the University of Havana, the University of Oslo, the University of Florence, and the University of Madrid, studying the interrelationships of peoples of the world through literature.
Collins sought to impart that love of learning to a younger generation. He joined the Fisk University faculty in 1945 as a professor of English, teaching courses that have included freshman composition, advanced composition, John Milton, and Black literature.
He even developed bookmarks for his undergraduate students to teach them about Fisk writers and Black authors, and produced a series of postcards relating to the history of Fisk through his Hines-Bontemps-Collins Memorial Project.
The revered educator and mentor parlayed his knowledge into educational texts. He produced several monographs for Fisk Library institutes and the text for his course on the Harlem Renaissance, “The Harlem Renaissance Generation.” He edited Listen Lord, a compilation of Jubilee Day prayers, meditations, tributes, and testaments of faith by Fisk students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends. In 1990, his One Hundred Years of Fisk Presidents was published; that same year, he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Fisk.
His writings have extended beyond the university. His poem, Creole Girl, written in 1995, was set to music by Cleveland composer Leslie Adams and performed by Hilda Harris, a mezzo-soprano, and the Black Music Repertory Ensemble of Chicago, in a concert for national broadcast sponsored by the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild of Pittsburgh.
For 48 years, he also reviewed books for the Nashville Tennessean.
A memorial service is reportedly scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 27 in the Fisk Memorial Chapel at 12 noon.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the L.M. Collins Endowed Scholarship Fund, at Fisk University, Office of Institutional Advancement, 1000 17th Ave. North, Nashville, Tenn., 37208.