Collins' life one of service and leadership
by Cheree Dye
Jun 02, 2014 | 2612 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jon Collins is the retired executive director of Adult Education at Chattahoochee Technical College. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Jon Collins is the retired executive director of Adult Education at Chattahoochee Technical College. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
For the past 12 years John Collins helped numerous Bartownians in their pursuit to obtain a GED diploma or brush up on their English-speaking skills. Collins’ ties to Bartow County extend past education; as a board member of Bartow Collaborative, Inc. he works to strengthen children and families. He retired from Chattahoochee Technical College on Friday but plans to continue to support the community through service.

Name: Jon Collins

Age: 74

Occupational Title: Executive Director, Adult Education

City of residence: Canton, Ga.

Family: Wife, Joy; two married sons; seven grandchildren.

Education: B.S. Banking & Finance, University of Utah; M.S. International Affairs, George Washington University; Graduate, U.S. Navy College of Naval Command and Staff; Graduate, U.S. Army War College; Graduate, U.S. Army Airborne School

When did you join the Adult Education Dept. at CTC and what led you to this line of work?

A: After I retired from a career in the Army, I taught adult literacy classes for then Pickens Tech and then in 2002 I was hired as the adult education director for North Metro Technical College. I have always enjoyed training and teaching and watching students succeed as they learn new skills.

Describe what being the Executive Director of Adult Education entails and what will you miss most about the position after you retire?

A: I’m responsible for organizing the adult education effort, meaning GED preparation classes and English language classes for those with limited English capability, in Bartow, Cherokee, Pickens, and Gilmer counties. I apply for and manage our annual budget, which consists of state and federal grants. We currently have five learning centers plus a very good program in the Bartow County Jail. There are about 16,000 residents of Bartow County, age 18 and over, who never graduated from high school. I will miss the opportunity to try to serve them with some really dedicated staff and teachers. After all, the best part of this job is the people!

What advancements would you like to see in continuing education in the next 10 years?

A: First, I’d like to see sensible and stable funding. We lost six teachers at the beginning of this school year. That meant our instructional hours per week for our learning centers in Bartow County were cut almost in half. We can’t wait 10 years for the fix because most of our students are unemployed and the average age is mid-30s. That means we’re talking about heads of households with children who will not make it through school either. I live 20 miles from my office. I pass 20 churches along the way. Last time I checked there’s a book that says something about the worth of a soul, and I want to make sure we have what it takes to take care of these souls.

Second, we need to move more technology into the classroom — not to replace the interaction between teacher and student, but to capture and share information. Learning is a thinking, reasoning, and sharing process.

Third, we need to have a better understanding what skills are really needed to enter the college and/or workplace of the future.

What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?

A: When I was 10,000 miles from home at war in Vietnam, I sent a letter to my dad and asked him to go buy a ring and ask a certain young lady if she would marry me when I returned. He accomplished that assignment. We’ve been married 45 years.

Is there one moment or student that stands out from the GED program?

A: Each of our students overcomes challenges to earn their GED diploma. One lady in particular from Bartow County worked particularly hard to achieve that goal. Because of physical difficulties, she had to rely on friends to drive her to campus each day for class. It took her several years to take and then pass the GED test. We recognized her achievement at that ceremony by giving her the “Columbus” award because good old Christopher Columbus never gave up either.

What are your plans for retirement?

A: People have asked me if I’m going to travel and the answer to that is, “Yes, around my back yard with a wheel barrow and shovel. There’s a lot of work to be done out there.” Plus I’ll continue to serve on the board of the Bartow Collaborative as well as with some other community organizations.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

A: Well, if you’ve ever heard of Phyllis Diller, stand-up comedienne and actress . . .her son Peter and I were high school classmates. This was in the San Francisco Bay Area where Phyllis was a regular at a San Francisco night club called the “Purple Onion.” So Pete decided to form a Dixieland Jazz band with the idea that this band would ultimately go over to “The City” and play gigs. It turns out that the band needed a clarinet player. Pete and the boys decided I should be it, so I signed up for Beginning Band to learn how to play the clarinet. (Lots of time and suffering passes.) One night, Phyllis’ husband, Sherwood, takes us over to San Fran in the Ford station wagon with the wood siding to play at this place. We go in the back entrance (we’re high school seniors), and walk down a hallway, passing ladies dressed in feathers coming the other way. To be continued . . .

What is the best advice you have ever received?

A: From a very successful sheep broker in Idaho: “Whatever you choose to do in life, do somethin’ you’d do for nothin’.”