Jim Collins. (Courtesy of Sun Journal)

By Marcelle Hutchins – Staff Reporter

“In the 33 years I’ve been here,” said Jim Collins, “I have connected with the students on a level that is easy for me to communicate with them.” Some 16,000 students later, Collins is saying goodbye to the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF).

On his last day as Senior Associate Director of admissions, a retirement party was held at the Homestead where Gary Knight from District 81 presented Collins with a legislative sentiment. Collins was recognized by the Senate and House of Representative for his retirement and was joined by wife, Arlene, President Theodora Kalikow, Celeste Branham and well-wishers that came for the ceremony.

During his 33 years at UMF, Collins says he has enrolled 500 freshmen per year. “If you multiply 500 students times 33, that’s how many students I’ve had,” said Collins who remembers students such as Paige Barker, a woman born with a chromosome disorder. According to Collins, Barker’s disease was misdiagnosed as Downs Syndrome and only 11 known cases lived to be 10 years old. “Out of the 16,000, she’s probably the most memorable. She taught me that people with handicap can overcome anything if they have the support.”

In his speech, Collins credits meeting high school juniors and seniors as his inspiration.

“This is such an enjoyable profession when you meet juniors and seniors and families and see their progress. And four years later see them as better from when they arrived,” said Collins.

As an advocate for higher education, Collins says he has enjoyed working with students and families. Throughout his profession, he has worked very closely with students during a “confusing process called college admissions,” said Collins. “You want to do it once and do it right. I’ve worked with parents and students to make this process understandable. We make sure that what we have can match up to what they’re looking for.”

Prior to his time at UMF, Collins graduated from the University of Maine at Orono (UMO) in 1969 where he received his Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education Biology. From undergrad to graduate school, he remained at UMO and gained his Master’s degree in Education, Guidance and Counseling. In 1978, Collins came to Farmington and began traveling to high schools and college fairs 12 times in the fall throughout New England, New York and New Jersey.

As a representative from UMF, Collins joined the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) in 1992. Working with NEBHE, Collins says it has given him the opportunity “to promote higher education for the residents of New England.” As a future plan, Collins will continue representing NEBHE at college fairs this spring.

In addition to future plans, Collins will continue as Town Selectman and a member of Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments. With his third term as Selectman coming to an end, Collins is considering a run for County Commissioner for District 1.

“I hope to be a county commissioner someday. It seems like an interesting thing to do next year,” said Collins.

Former colleague, Chris Yardley remembers Collins for his humor and personal relationships. “His ability to engage students was a quality that I admire in him. Whether it be at a college fair or during an interview, he just knew how to engage students.”

UMF senior Jennifer Carlston recalls meeting Collins at York County Community College during recruitment. “He’s outgoing and really approachable. Whenever he sees me he always comes up to talk to me. I’ll miss seeing him around,” said Carlston.

Collins says he is grateful for his years at UMF and will remember the campus with fondness. In his last message, specifically to the students, Collins urges students to “be extremely confident” in themselves. “The jobs are there, the potentials are there. You just have to seek it out. You’ll do well,” said Collins.