February 20, 2015 – Fort Valley State University celebrates centenarian alum Wilhelmina Marie Hardeman Collins.
Collins who was better known as “Marie” was born March 5, 1914 to Thomas Beauregard and Wilhelmina Califf Hardeman. She is the third of eight children.
Collins began her education in Jones County. She completed her elementary and high school education at Haines Institute in Augusta, Ga. where she lived with her aunt, Lucy Craft Laney, who founded A. J. Johnson and Haines Normal School (which later became Lucy Crafty Laney High School). Marie received a bachelor’s degree in education from Fort Valley State College in 1942. She earned a master’s degree from Atlanta University and studied at Ohio University.
She later married James Russell Collins. Her husband was principal of the first high school for blacks in Jones County. Both began their careers in the Jones County, Ga. school system. Marie also worked in Bibb and Baldwin counties. Positions that she held included: classroom teacher, Jones County Jeanes Supervisor, teacher of the Night School Program for Veterans, elementary school principal, and Title 1 Coordinator at Maggie Califf Elementary School. Marie is remembered and respected for her many years of dedicated work and service to improve and expand the level of education of children. She encouraged children to be diligent in their studies and stressed to them that “Knowledge is Power.”
Involvement in community has been an important part of Marie’s life. She continues to be an active member of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. She has served as a board member of Gray/Jones Chamber of Commerce. For more than 50 years she has been actively involved with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and she is a licensed funeral home director and the owner of Collins Funeral Home in Gray, Georgia.
These days, Marie enjoys spending time with her family. She especially loves time spent with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She is most proud of her affiliation with Fort Valley State, and proud that her husband, two sisters, her son, and three nieces are graduates of that institution of higher learning.