Remembering Maribeth Collins

by University Communications,

  • Maribeth Collins

The former trustee and longtime friend of Willamette leaves a lasting legacy.

Willamette University is saddened to learn of the passing of one of its great friends and dedicated supporters, Maribeth (Wilson) Collins. Maribeth was within a month of her 99th birthday and, except for the last few days, was alert, lucid and engaged with her family.

Maribeth leaves a lasting legacy at Willamette University, as a member of the Board of Trustees for more than 50 years and as an extraordinarily generous donor.

Maribeth was a member of one of the university’s largest and oldest legacy families. Her father-in-law, Everell S. Collins, became a trustee in 1912. Her husband, Truman Wesley Collins Sr., graduated from the university in 1922 and was elected a trustee in 1926. Another 12 Collins family members — including Maribeth and Truman’s four children, Terry ’70, Timothy 70, Cherida 72 and Truman Jr. 86 — also became Willamette alumni.

Although Maribeth was a graduate of the University of Oregon, she forged a deep relationship with Willamette. After Truman’s untimely death in 1964, Maribeth followed his 20 years of service on the Willamette University Board of Trustees, becoming a trustee herself and eventually, in 2011, a life trustee emeritus. One of her sons, Truman Jr., continues the family tradition as a current trustee.

Over the years, Maribeth also made personal gifts of more than $11 million to the university, especially to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art (HFMA) and the College of Law. At HFMA, Maribeth created several endowed positions, supported art acquisitions for more than 25 years and endowed an exhibition fund that helps organize a major regional art exhibition every two years.

In 2007, Maribeth funded a complete reconfiguration and renovation of the museum basement into a “state-of-the-art” support space where collections are stored, new acquisitions are processed and exhibition preparation can take place in a fully equipped workshop. In 2013, the HFMA lobby was named in her honor.

“Through her quiet philanthropy, Maribeth transformed the Hallie Ford Museum of Art from a small college museum of art into a major regional institution that reaches beyond Salem and the mid-Willamette Valley to the nation and the world,” says John Olbrantz, the Maribeth Collins Director of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art.

“Maribeth was a visionary philanthropist. She always approached me with a simple question: ‘John, what is your biggest need?’ No director could ask for a better friend, colleague, confidant, advisor or champion, and the wonderful institution that Maribeth helped build will always bear her stamp of love, generosity and commitment to the arts.”

Maribeth also supported a number of projects at the College of Law, which is named after her late husband. Most recently, she endowed the Truman W. Collins Sr. Law Internship Fund, which helps law students pursue real-life, practical legal experience, especially in nonprofits and other public interest organizations.

From 1974 to 2005, Maribeth served as chairman of the board of the Collins Companies. As president of the The Collins Foundation following her husband’s death, Maribeth also helped direct the foundation’s philanthropic giving over the past 30 years, supporting Willamette as well improving the quality of life and well-being for people in communities across Oregon

“The Collins family’s impact on Willamette is highly visible on campus in the shape of the Truman Wesley Collins Sr. Legal Center and the Collins Science Building, named after Everell Collins,” says President Steve Thorsett. “Less obvious but equally as important and meaningful are the numerous scholarships and other gifts from Maribeth and other members of the Collins family that over the years have transformed Willamette University and the lives of its students.”  

Services will take place at the First United Methodist Church of Portland (1838 SW Jefferson St., Portland, OR 97201), and a time and date is pending.* In lieu of flowers, Maribeth’s family has asked that donations in her memory be made to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art.

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*This announcement will be updated when a time and date is set for a memorial service.

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