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First Person: John Collins '69, Hon. '02

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This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.

First Person: John Collins '69, Hon. '02

One of my most vivid memories is from my freshman year, in 1964. I’d been at Bentley, then located in downtown Boston, for one semester when my parents ran out of money to pay for my education. So I went to the bursar’s office and I told them I needed a break.

I’ll never forget that generosity.

They asked why and I said, “Well, my parents can’t afford to pay anymore, and I’m getting a job and I need a couple of months without paying. I’ll make it up to you, I’ll pay you back.” They said, “No problem.”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one asking for a break in the payment schedule that year. A lot of the kids I was going to school with came from Dorchester and Roxbury and South Boston. None of us had any money in our pockets. We were all working and going to school at the same time.

For us, college wasn’t so much about the social experience. It was the means to get where we wanted to go in our business careers. I never considered going to school anywhere else. Because I’d excelled in high school finance courses, teachers advised that Bentley was the right college for me. I also liked that I could stay at my family’s home in Watertown, since I didn’t have the money to live at school.

Bentley helped me get a job in the accounting department of Humble Oil and Refining Co. in Everett. At one point, I had to work nights and go straight to school when worked ended at 6:30 a.m. Most of the time, I took public transportation.

Boylston Street Station was the train stop for those of us going to Bentley’s downtown campus. We took classes in two buildings on Boylston Street — the “professional building” and the “classroom building” — that were a block apart. The rooms weren’t air-conditioned, so the windows were open and we could hear workers drive the piles for the Prudential Building, which was under construction at the time.

Between classes, we would congregate on Bolyston Street. There was a coffee shop next door that was not affiliated with the college, but we gave them a lot of business. We’d hang out either outside or in the shop. That was the extent of the socializing many of us did on a regular basis.

When Bentley moved to Waltham in my senior year, it was a very different story. It was a beautiful campus with dorms, a massive library and a true college atmosphere. Incoming freshmen were getting a very different social experience: Many were living on campus, talking about parties on Friday night and pledging sororities and fraternities.

The classroom experience never changed, however, and that’s what really mattered. We got the same kind of dedication from our professors.

John Collins is Trustee Emeritus and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees;
Chairman, The Collins Group

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