NORTH CANTON — Tim Collins is searching for the soul of Walsh University.
The new president of the private Catholic university has been busy meeting people on and off campus since arriving here Aug. 5. He’s also begun formally surveying faculty and staff to find out what brings energy to the campus.
“I’m making sure I understand that so I can be as effective as I can possibly be in my own individual contributions,” he said during an interview last week with The Canton Repository.
His first impression of Walsh after being on campus for nearly a week?
“The place rocks,” Collins said.
He later added, “I can’t think of a better place to spend the next 10 years of my life than helping to build the next generation of leaders in this country.”
The university, which employs roughly 300 people and serves nearly 3,000 students, begins classes Aug. 26.
Here are five things to know about Walsh’s seventh president:
1. This is Collins’ third career. Collins spent the past 14 years at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the nation’s oldest and largest university-affiliated research center based in Maryland. At Johns Hopkins, he held a range of executive leadership positions and was the first person to hold the position of chief government relations officer. Collins also spent 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, including eight years as a senior officer responsible for operations in the United States and Asia. Beyond those titles, Collins has served as a national guest lecturer and scholar on Catholic higher education, serves as a certified flight instructor and is a board-certified aviation accident investigation board president.
2. Collins graduated from a Georgia high school in 1976 at age 16. “I came from a broken family and I was ready to go,” Collins said. “My father said you can’t go until you graduate, so I figured out a way to do that.” Collins enrolled in the Georgia Military College for two years and received his associate degree in engineering. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado in 1982, then went on to obtain a master's degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida (1986), a master’s degree in national security strategy at National Defense University (1998) and a doctorate in higher education and organizational change from Benedictine University (2013).
3. He is a Purple Heart recipient. He earned the medal after being wounded in 1996 in Saudi Arabia when a truck bomb exploded at Khobar Towers, which had been serving as a housing complex for the U.S. Air Force. Collins, then a lieutenant colonel and squadron commander, was there to enforce the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. Nineteen service members died and hundreds more were injured. Collins’ other military honors include Air Medals (1997/1998/2001), Aerial Achievement Medals (2001), Aircrew Safety Award of Distinction (2005), Bronze Star (2002), Defense Superior Service Medal (2000) and Legions of Merit (2001/2005).
4. He met his wife, Drenda, in 1976 but they had to wait to get married until he finished the Air Force Academy because the academy prohibits cadets from being married. Drenda wrote him a letter every day he was gone.
“I went four years and never went without mail,” said Collins, who stills has the letters.
They’ve been married for 37 years and have three children and nine grandchildren.
5. He’s already helping Walsh students who need financial help. Before Collins arrived on campus, he and his wife pledged $10,000 to help provide scholarships for incoming freshmen. The couple challenged the Walsh University community to match that gift. More than $11,000 was raised in less than two weeks.
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