Kent Collins, who led thousands of University of Montreal journalism students to successful careers in television and radio news, died Thursday.
With a journalism career spanning more than 50 years, Collins, 74, has worked in newsrooms across the country, but found his home at the Missouri School of Journalism in Colombia.
The son of two journalists, Collins’ commitment to journalism was instilled in him from an early age. His first newsroom was at KOMU-TV, the school’s television lab, where he studied his craft as a student until graduating in 1970.
Collins joined MU’s faculty in 1983 and worked as KOMU’s news director from 1983 to 1985 and again from 1988 to 1990. He retired as an associate professor in 2018 after teaching for 35 years and in having served nearly 20 years as president of the broadcast news school. department.
Collins’ love of journalism sent him around the world. He studied and trained international journalists in countries like China, Kenya and Eastern Europe, where he helped teach journalists how to critically report on governments and democracies.
In addition to teaching, Collins also wrote The Senior Forum, which was a nationally circulated daily newspaper column on retirement and aging, for 23 years. He also founded Medialine, a national employment and information service for television news professionals.
In 2019, Collins won the Edward L. Bliss Award for Distinguished Training in Broadcast Journalism.
But even after Collins retired, colleagues and alumni said he still played an important role in helping students navigate industry careers.
Stacey Woelfel, a colleague of more than 30 years who worked under Collins at KOMU as deputy news director, said he remembers the dedication he had for his students and his commitment to ensuring their success.
“He really developed, over the last eight or 10 years before he retired, a very robust placement system where he would bring all the owners of television groups on campus for interviews … and it really became quite a operation,” Woelfel said. .
Woelfel eventually took over as KOMU’s news editor after Collins returned to teaching in 1990.
“His love for the school extended to decades-long relationships with media organizations and leaders across the country,” David Kurpius, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, told faculty and staff in a statement announcing Collins’ death.
“As we all know, he skillfully engineered these relationships into a recruiting operation to benefit our students that is the gold standard nationwide,” Kurpius wrote.
Denise Vickers, who studied with Collins in KOMU’s newsroom, said she remembered his approachable teaching style and “big smile and big heart”.
“Kent is the most influential person in my career,” Vickers said.
She noted that Collins was always willing to give students her time whenever they needed advice or just to talk. “Tigers around the world are crying big tears today over the loss of our friend, mentor and teacher,” Vickers said.
Lisa Collins, a student of Collins as well as her daughter-in-law, said even in retirement her passion for the journalism school was unwavering.
“The J-School was really important to him, and he was committed to remaining a steward of the J-School and its mission,” Collins said.
One person who shared Collins’ passion for the welfare of the journalism school was George Kennedy, the former editor of the Columbia Missourian.
Kennedy became friends with Collins after years of working as colleagues, and the two would eat breakfast together on Saturdays. Kennedy described Collins not only as a great journalist but also as a dedicated faculty member.
“Kent left a bigger footprint than most of us, in that he was not just a teacher and administrator, but a practitioner and student of the craft,” Kennedy said. “He will not only be missed by people in Colombia and the journalism school, but also by people across the country – and, for that matter, people around the world.”