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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students distraught over Collins’ immediate departure

Published: December 6, 2013
Section: Front Page, News

Mark Collins, senior vice president for administration, is the stuff of Brandeis legends. Jesse Manning ’13, the former chief-of-staff for the student union, recalls a time last year when Massachusetts was hit by a terrible snowstorm. Manning’s friend had his winter boots stuck in the mail room, with no way of getting them over the weekend. “He emailed Mark about it, not expecting much to happen. Within the hour, Mark called my friend and told him to meet him by the mail room where they got the boots.”

Collins is famous for acting as the voice of students. “If it was for the students, Mark said yes to everything, to make it happen,” said Director of the Arts Scott Edmiston.

On Monday, Brandeis honored Collins’ legacy through a gathering at the Faculty Club. Students, faculty and staff milled around Collins, eager to talk to him. Others signed a large poster for him and wrote personal messages. The room filled quickly, as people enjoyed the food spreads and discussions. While many expressed regret about Collins’ departure planned for Dec. 31, the ceremony was a joyous one. Collins has worked at Brandeis for 27 years.

But despite the festivities, many of the Brandeis community remain upset and confused about Collins’ departure.

“I am saddened, slightly angered and most importantly confused, as most other students are, by the departure of Mark,” said Charlotte Franco ’15, vice president of the student union. “Why is someone who is such an important member of this community and who is well-liked and appreciated by so many, leaving? While the university cites that Mark is ‘taking advantage of other professional opportunities,’ I know that he loves it here and always has. He has been a tireless worker for this university for 27 years, and personally, I don’t think it is his time. What has changed about this place that makes it so he no longer wants to be a part of it?”

The email the university initially sent out to students, faculty and staff on Oct. 25 regarding Collins’ departure stated that “Mark has had a distinguished career at Brandeis,” and “Mark’s love of Brandeis, his engaging manner and his deep concern for the welfare of others will be missed.” But it did not mention his reason for departure or who will succeed Collins as senior vice president.

“As a Union officer, and even just as a student, it is important that we know who will be replacing him and when,” said Franco.

In a Hoot interview conducted earlier in the semester, when a reporter asked Collins to explain the reasons for his sudden departure from the university, Collins stated he was leaving “to explore other opportunities.” No further elaboration as to the specific circumstances behind his imminent departure was provided. It was also stated that Ellen de Graffenreid, senior vice president of communications, would be present at the interview conducted between Collins and The Hoot.

“It’s sad to think that when I go back to visit Brandeis, Mark will not be there. I believe that he will be leaving enormous shoes that I am not sure any one person can fill … I know that the student population will be losing another of their biggest advocates on campus, and that is also a tough pill to swallow,” Manning said this week.

While the Brandeis community may remain in the dark about the reasoning behind Collins departure, they are eager to share memories of his time here.

“He was always willing to give me and any student the time of day even though he had one of the busiest jobs at Brandeis. He taught me a lot about life and about how to conduct oneself in a business atmosphere. He cares about the people and would go to bat for the people that work for him,” said Manning.

“Mark is a man of unwavering character. He embodies what this university and Justice Louis Brandeis stand for,” said Franco. “He is serious yet comical, intimidating yet personable and sophisticated yet simple. Mark is a Catholic, a politician, a true Bostonian and a friend.”

Many in facilities services feel as though Collins is an integral part of Brandeis. “There are a lot of people keeping the place going, but he was our voice,” said Casey Russo, project manager for facilities services. “He was so down to earth. He’s approachable.”

Mary Sharrigan, senior associate director of facilities, argued that Brandeis will not be the same without Collins. “He lives and breathes Brandeis. It was always amazing to see his dedication to the students.”

The ceremony on Monday was a time for Brandeisians to express their appreciation for Collins. But many feel like there is still more to say.

Manning recalls the difficult time last year when the city of Boston was in lockdown as police searched for the Boston marathon bombers. “Mark called my cell phone as soon as he got my email just to make sure that I knew, and I communicated to the students and the student government that the administration was there. That they were making sure everything was safe and that before anything ever happened to us they would need to get through him first,” he said.

“Many alumni have come to me saying that Mark Collins made their Brandeis experience—and I hope that he is remembered as the kind of man that could make an impact of that magnitude,” said Franco.