Tribute to Tom Collins

By Donaldson, John E. | William and Mary Law Review, October 2000 | Go to article overview
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Tribute to Tom Collins


Donaldson, John E., William and Mary Law Review


The editors and staff of the William and Mary Law Review have chosen to dedicate this Issue of the Review to Professor Emeritus Tom Collins. I applaud this action. Tom, whom I admire as a friend and colleague, is richly deserving of the honor. Coming on the occasion of his retirement, this dedication is a fitting tribute to a distinguished career of teaching, scholarship, and service to legal education. It is an appropriate accolade for an individual whose personal qualities have endeared him to associates and peers in academia as well as to current and former students, and an expression of gratitude for the contributions he has made to the growth and development of the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary.

Tom prepared for a career in law and law teaching by earning undergraduate and law degrees from Indiana University, where he was editor of the Indiana Legal Forum (now Law Review), and a master of laws degree from the University of Michigan, where he was a Cook Fellow. Along the way he served an enlisted term in the U.S. Army, taught high school courses, and gained valuable experience in the legislative process though his work, in part under a Ford Fellowship, as a Research Associate with the Indiana Legislative Council.

On completing graduate work at Michigan in 1970, Tom accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor of Law at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law. He attained the rank of Associate Professor in 1972 and Professor of Law in 1976. Tom came at a critical time in the history of the school--a time when it was seeking to transform itself from a small school with fewer than two hundred students, a severely limited curriculum, and a small, woefully understaffed faculty to one with a more-than-doubled enrollment, a significantly enlarged curriculum, and a substantially expanded faculty. Because the human, financial, and physical resources required for such a transformation, while promised by the central administration, were not guaranteed, Tom's decision to begin his teaching career here entailed a knowing acceptance of the challenges inherent in the vicissitudes that attend efforts to affect major structural change, particularly in the complex institutional setting of a college where the arts and sciences undergraduate program was primary, and the role of programs of professional education suspect.

The transformation of the law school, while not without difficulty or frustration, was in time successfully effected. Its history from 1970 forward is characterized by steadily increasing strength and renown. Professor Collins's efforts, devotion, and counsel have contributed substantially to the attainment of the standing and reputation the school now enjoys. For three decades he has demonstrated an unparalleled willingness to serve in whatever capacities needed, revealing a remarkable breadth and depth in his scholarly and professional interests. He has willingly accepted and ably discharged teaching assignments ranging across virtually the entire curriculum, embracing, among others, such courses as Administrative Law, Legislation, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Comparative Law, Conflicts of Laws, Unfair Trade Practices, Criminal Law, Intellectual Property, Antitrust Law, Legal and Equitable Remedies, Jurisprudence, Mass Communications, and Mass Media Law. In addition, Tom, committed to the importance of international perspectives to a meaningful legal education, assumed major roles in the management and staffing of the school's off-campus summer law programs in London, Exeter, and Madrid.

At a time when law faculty members are increasingly perceived as specialists confined to the narrow areas of the law that compose their numerous respective disciplines, Tom, while developing a special expertise in media law, has grown and matured as a generalist with a keen interest in legal philosophy and jurisprudence. He has been a valued resource to many colleagues in his willingness and ability to react meaningfully to innovative thinking and approaches and in his active participation in faculty colloquia.

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