May the angels lead him into paradise! May perpetual light shine upon him!
The Story of Brother Michael Collins '55, FSC
Brother Michael Collins, FSC, current president of his alma mater, DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, MN, and a prominent national figure in Catholic, secondary education over a 53 year career, died in his sleep early Sunday morning. Brother Michael was 74. He died a week after being admitted to the hospital, and after three days in hospice care, as a result of complications related to lung cancer, a disease first diagnosed less than a month ago.
President of DeLaSalle since 1991, Brother Michael spearheaded a dramatic resurgence at the downtown, Minneapolis school. During his tenure, and with the support of a veteran, administrative team, enrollment at DeLaSalle has more than doubled, the school has raised more than $25 million from benefactors, and created an academic environment in which at least 96 percent of graduates annually have matriculated to college in the past decade.
More than two years ago, he had announced his intent to retire at the end of the 2012-13 school year, and the school has been preparing for the transition. Nonetheless, the suddenness of Brother's illness and death has been difficult. The school, at the request of Brother Michael and the Christian Brothers of the Twin Cities, established a CaringBridge site on December 20 (www.caringbridge.org/visit/bmcdls). More than 16,000 people have visited the site and approximately 570 have left a message of support in the guestbook.
As beloved as he was at DeLaSalle, Brother Michael's impact was just as significant nationally. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) from 1996-2004, in the roles of President of the national, Catholic Secondary Schools department from 1996-2000 and as vice-chair of the full Board from 2001-2004. He was invited to speak at high schools and colleges across the country on topics related to excellence in urban, multi-cultural education -- with a particular emphasis on Catholic, secondary schools.
Brother Michael served on many Boards and Councils throughout his career, including the Boards of Trustees for both St. Mary's University of Minnesota and Lewis University in Illinois. He served as chair of the Minnesota Independent Schools Forum, a consortium of all private and independent schools in the state, and was appointed by Governor Pawlenty to the Council on Black Minnesotans, where he served two terms and was chair from 2008-2010.
During Brother Michael's career, he served as a teacher or administrator at four different high schools affiliated with the international Catholic teaching order, the Brothers of the Christian Schools, beginning his teaching and administrative career at DeLaSalle from 1959-1967. Moving to Shanley High School in Fargo, ND in 1967, and on to St. Mary's College High School in Berkeley, CA in 1980. He returned to the Twin Cities in 1987 as one of the first co-principals of the newly merged Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. Many of the messages of support on Brother Michael's CaringBridge site have been written by lifelong friends that Brother first mentored in his earlier years in education.
He spent a sabbatical year in 1990-91 as part-time Assistant to the President at DeLaSalle, while finishing his work for his Doctorate in Private School Leadership from the University of San Francisco. He was named president of DeLaSalle in 1991 and was the longest-tenured chief administrator in the 112-year history of the school.
Brother Michael grew up in North Minneapolis and attended Ascension Catholic School before graduating from DeLaSalle High School in 1955. Since its inception in 1900, DeLaSalle has been affiliated with the worldwide, Catholic teaching order, the Brothers of the Christian Schools (or Christian Brothers). Today, the schools affiliated with the order are commonly known as "Lasallian" schools, because the educational concepts and the order itself were both founded by St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle in France in the 1600's.
Michael Collins, like many young men of the time, gave strong consideration to a religious vocation, and because of the support he himself had received from Brothers who were mentors in his life, he chose to attend St. Mary's University in Winona, another Lasallian institution, where he earned a BA in Religious Studies, with minors in English, Speech and Music in 1959. During his college years, after a period of discernment, Michael Collins decided to join the Christian Brothers, taking his initial vows in 1957.
The Christian Brothers and Lasallian schools draw their mission from the work of Saint de La Salle himself, who first opened schools in France to insure that children from all backgrounds and socioeconomic classes had access to quality education. This mission particularly resonated with Brother Michael - and in later years, he was instrumental in educating lay colleagues in Lasallian schools about the historical mission and modern relevance of this educational model.
Brother Michael began his teaching career at DeLaSalle in 1959, teaching English, Religion and Music. He first earned public acclaim as a choral director, leading both the men's chorus of DeLaSalle to the World's Fair in 1964, as an official representative of Minnesota, and the men's chorus of Shanley to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC in 1971 and 1978. An accomplished vocalist himself, many hundreds of his students, colleagues, and friends in education asked Brother Michael to sing at weddings, funerals and other events. If his schedule allowed, Brother Michael always made time to help at such occasions.
At this time, it is confirmed that Brother Michael's funeral will be on the morning of Saturday, January 14 at the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis. Please read below for details on other arrangements and related information on Brother Michael.
For updates on Brother Michael's Story and a forum for friends, family, classmates and students to share thoughts and prayers.
For daily updates on school happenings regarding the celebration of Brother Michael.
FOX 9 (Twin Cities) "President of DeLaSalle High School Dies at 74"
Inforum (Fargo-Moorhead) "Brother Michael's Legacy"
Inforum (Fargo-Moorhead) "Former Shanley choir director, educator Brother Michael Collins dies"
Insightnews.com (Twin Cities) "Remembering Michael Collins"
KAAL 6 (Austin, MN) "Longtime DeLaSalle President Dies"
KARE 11 (Twin Cities) "DeLaSalle Leader Honored at the Basilica of St. Mary"
KSTP 5 (Twin Cities) "Longtime DeLaSalle High School President Dies"
KSTP 5 (Twin Cities) "DeLaSalle High School Students Remember President"
Minnesota Public Radio "DeLaSalle President Michael Collins Dies"
Minnesota State High School League "DeLaSalle Remembers Brother Michael Collins"
Pioneer Press (Twin Cities) "Michael Collins, beloved president of DeLaSalle, dies at age 74"
St. Mary's University (Winona, MN) "Death notice for SMU trustee, alum Brother Michael Collins"
The Catholic Spirit (Twin Cities) "Brother Michael Collins, DeLaSalle High School president, dies"
The Republic (Columbus, IN) "President of DeLaSalle High School dies at 74"
The Star Tribune (Twin Cities) "Brother Michael Collins, DeLaSalle High School president, dies"
WDAY 6 (Fargo, ND) "President of DeLaSalle High School Dies at 74"
Winona Daily News (Winona) "Michael Collins, SMU trustee, dies at 74"