HBCU Storyteller Spotlight | Geo Cooper, L.M. Collins + Fisk University

HBCU Storyteller Spotlight

Fisk alumnus Geo Cooper, pays tribute to the late Professor Emeritus L.M. Collins, ’37 on Facebook

Fiskites have heavy hearts tonight. So much can be said about the life of one of America’s greatest scholars. Dr. Leslie M. Collins made an impression on every student who had the good fortune to be in his presence. We Fiskites were always proud to say a scholarly mind such as his belonged to Fisk. Now he has gone on, joining the likes of Professor Marcellus Brooks, Dr. John Hope Franklin, and so many other of Fisk’s “Immortals.” I can hear his voice with that iconic greeting “FRIEND!” So signature, it became his own special moniker (one had only to say “FRIEND” to identify Dr. L.M.Collins as the subject of a conversation!). I also personally can recall him lifting his eyes to say “George” as he was a lover of finery (no something more… a “connoisseur” of finer things) such as a “Nocturne” by Chopin or a “Liebestraum” by Franz Liszt. You see, Fisk is that kind of place where an eminent professor like L.M.C. would know of a promising yet rough-around-the-edges student like me. And not just me. Many Fisk professors knew the “particulars” about any number of students, even when the student’s area of study wasn’t in that professor’s department. They would take personal interest in order to instill in students, what was needed to go out and “MAKE FISK PROUD!” For those who never met this great and beloved professor, please know that he was LIVING, WALKING and BREATHING HISTORY! One of the last direct links to the greatness that is Black American History and Culture of the Harlem Renaissance. Dr. Leslie M. Collins was the REAL DEAL and we have lost, Fisk has lost, AMERICA has truly lost a treasure. Rest well good soul for you made an impact of generations….MANY, MANY GENERATIONS!

Dr. Collins
Fisk Professor Emeritus L.M. Collins ’37 (center) is flanked by his Fisk friends including Geo Cooper ’82 (front row, second from left).
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A historian and storyteller whose research interests include black higher education and college student activism, DR. CRYSTAL A. deGREGORY is a research fellow at Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A graduate of the historic Fisk, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee State universities, she is a passionate Historically Black College and University (HBCU) advocate, convener of the HBCUstory Symposium, and editor-in-chief of The Journal of HBCU Research + Culture. Follow her online at @HBCUstorian.