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January 05, 2006

ULM Mourns the Loss of Jack “Cactus Jack” Collins

2005 ended on a somber note with the death of Dr. Jack “Cactus Jack” Collins, former dean of men at ULM in addition to being one of its most vigorous and dedicated supporters.

Collins, 77, was recently diagnosed with cancer and died on Sat., Dec. 31, 2005.

Known for being warm-hearted and devoted, Collins left his mark on a grateful university.

“As he told me, ‘I’m going to be your mentor whether you want me to or not,’” said Camille Currier, associate dean of student services. “I appreciated his sense of humor and his candor.”

“He was probably the most well-known and recognizable person through all phases of the university,” said Mike Vining, retired head basketball coach. “He was involved as the dean of students, the dean of men, with student teachers, booster clubs, fraternities—he touched every part of the university. Everywhere I ever went, one of the first questions asked was how old Cactus was doing.”

“He was one of my closest and best friends and the most loyal person I knew,” Vining continued. “If he was your friend, he was the best friend you ever had.”

Collins originally hailed from Gladewater, Tex., and received his doctorate from McNeese State College in 1969. He served at ULM from 1960 until his retirement in 1985, but he did not rest on his well-deserved laurels.

Collins further aided the university by his tenure as president of the ULM Booster Club in 1987, coincidentally the same year the Indians won the 1-AA football national championship.

He served for several years on the Booster Drive Campaign to advance ULM athletics. He proved the top money producer on numerous occasions and was honored for his commitment and loyalty by the Indian Athletic Foundation in 2004.

Collins promoted the Kappa Alpha Fraternity at ULM during his two decade-plus service as faculty advisor, for which the national organization recognized him with the Knight Commander Award.

Of course, Collins’s influence continues to be felt. “It was a Cactus funeral,” Vining said. “He had every detail planned out, and he was in charge. It was a celebration.”

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