Remembering Drake alumnus and benefactor Jim Collier

The following message was sent to the campus community from President Marty Martin on Friday, Sept. 22.

I am saddened to share that Jim Collier—a dear friend, alumnus, and long-time Drake benefactor—passed away last month at the age of 85. Mr. Collier was a visionary and passionate philanthropist whose big heart and legacy will leave an indelible mark on Drake.

He grew up in Des Moines and earned his Master of Arts in education from Drake University in 1970. Following graduation, he taught high school English in Delano, Calif., until he retired to Medford, Ore., where he lived a life devoted to supporting causes focused on education and the performing arts.

It is, in part, thanks to Jim’s generosity that we have Collier-Scripps Hall, which proudly bears his name. His transformational gift helped to provide a new home for the School of Education in the heart of campus and propel the school in tremendous ways.

Jim established, with his brother John, multiple scholarship funds and a professorship in the School of Education in memory of his mother, Drake alumna Mary Collier Baker. In his own name, he endowed a faculty development fund and a scholarship for elementary or secondary education students who demonstrate financial need.

Jim was a passionate advocate of the performing arts and supported several orchestras and opera companies in Des Moines as well as in Bakersfield, California. He was nominated as Outstanding Individual Philanthropist of Central Iowa in 2006 and was sometimes referred to as “The Piano Man” after donating a handful of pianos to various organizations, including a $60,000 Steinway Model D piano to the music department at Drake. Jim’s other gifts to Drake included a $100,000 contribution for the Collier Heritage Room in Cowles Library, which displays items from Drake’s 135-year history. He also regularly contributed to Drake’s Annual Fund, Friends of Drake Arts, and the Drake Alumnae Scholarship Fund.

As we mourn the passing and celebrate the life of Jim Collier, let us acknowledge his generosity and tireless commitment to philanthropy that has improved the lives of so many. His legacy will continue to have a profound impact on our faculty, staff, and students for generations to come.