CSOM Colleagues, Alumni Mourn Rev. John Collins, SJ

CSOM Colleagues, Alumni Mourn Rev. John Collins, SJ

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

He was quietly known as "Cash Collins" among the thousands of finance students he taught and mentored during a Boston College career that spanned six decades. Even his fellow Jesuits affectionately dubbed him "Rate of Return Collins" for his keen insight into the normally non-priestly world of high finance and investment banking.


Rev. John Collins, SJ, is flanked by a former student, University Trustee Peter Lynch '65, and Lynch's wife, Carolyn, during a 1996 University reception. In 1990, the Lynches helped establish a chair in Fr. Collins' name.
But there is no mistaking that the nicknames for Rev. John J.L. Collins, SJ, who died on Dec. 28 at age 90, reflect only genuine admiration for this pioneering, productive - and sometimes irascible - Boston College academic icon and founder of the Carroll School of Management's Finance Department.

"His constant physical presence, endless dedication to students and his white Jesuit collar were constant reminders to faculty, student and alumni of his commitment to service, excellence and ethical professional conduct," said Assoc. Prof. George Aragon (CSOM), the current Finance Department chairman.

After completing his Jesuit training in 1944, Fr. Collins was assigned to pursue advanced degrees in financial management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Finance. Fr. Collins joined the faculty of CSOM's predecessor, the College of Business Administration, in 1948 and a year later founded the finance department, which at the time was comprised of 22 undergraduate students. It is now CSOM's largest academic unit with more than 1,100 students.

"Fr. Collins was one of the first Jesuits to study business, and at a time when not a lot of them were doing that," recalled Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John J. Neuhauser, a former CSOM faculty member and dean of the school from 1977 to 1999.

Fr. Collins taught at Boston College until 1966, establishing a well-founded reputation as not only one of the most challenging, but best, teachers on the faculty. "John not only taught students the basics of finance," said Rev. William McInnis, SJ, in a homily delivered at Fr. Collins' Jan. 3 funeral in St. Mary's Chapel, "he cajoled, encouraged, pleaded, bullied and threatened students to work hard and get ahead.

"He had his eye on the prize. 'All I want you to do is to go out and be successful' was his constant refrain. Many of the successful businessmen of New York and Boston today got their basic training from Fr. John Collins of the Society of Jesus," Fr. McInnis said.

"He was a very, very good teacher," notes University Trustee Peter Lynch '65, a former student of Fr. Collins who went on to his own highly-successful financial career as managing director of Fidelity Investments. "He was inspirational and an amazing individual, just like so many Jesuits."

Lynch, his wife Carolyn and a group of other donors contributed $1 million in 1990 to establish the Rev. John J.L. Collins, SJ, Chair in Finance in the Carroll School. Wayne E. Ferson, one of the nation's leading scholars in financial economics and investments, currently holds the Collins Chair.

In 1966, Fr. Collins was asked to share his academic acumen at a number of other Jesuit colleges, but he eventually returned to BC to start a "new" career as a student advisor.

"In 1983, we found out that Fr. Collins had retired from Spring Hill College in Alabama and we brought him back to Chestnut Hill," noted Neuhauser. "We gave him a little office in Fulton Hall and he wound up advising every finance major in the school - whether he or she wanted it or not!"

Fr. Collins also began assembling a directory of former students, business contacts and major players in the financial world that he had befriended over the years. The list would grow to more than 7,000 names before he died.

"Many successful executives acknowledge Fr. Collins' help in getting their first job," said Aragon. "And, as far as I know, whenever he called upon them to help a student find a job, they never disappointed him."

"He was a person who liked to help young people," Lynch recalled, "especially if they were hard-working, bright and nice people themselves. We know how many BC students he helped along the way, but he did the same for kids from Boston University, Northeastern and even Harvard as well.

"He always considered helping students find their careers to be a part of his role as a teacher," Lynch said.

Part-time CSOM faculty member Elizabeth S. Bagnani recalls watching Fr. Collins in action from her neighboring office over the past 15 years. "His life's purpose was to help students find jobs," she said, "and especially in bringing students to people that they might not have the opportunity to meet. That would lead to jobs that they might not have had the opportunity to obtain if it weren't for some networking.

"Even when he was in his 80s," Bagnani continued, "he would come into school almost every morning to meet with students and help them get internships or first interviews. He was incredibly grateful for the opportunities he had while growing up and the education he received.

"Out of this gratitude, he had a strong sense of bringing opportunities to others," she said.

Neuhauser recalled having to cut short one of his monthly meetings with Fr. Collins to leave for BC's Wall Street Council dinner in New York City.

"Later, when I walked in to the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, he was standing there to greet me with a big smile on his face," Neuhauser said. "How he got there before I did I will probably never know, but my guess is he flew down in a private plane with one of his friends in the financial business."

Fr. Collins was buried in the Jesuit Cemetery at the Campion Center in Weston.

 

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