Nov 02

UNCG Bryan alumnus receives Minerva Award for Distinguished Service

There’s no denying that UNC Greensboro and Bryan School of Business and Economics alumnus Jeff Collins ‘84 has devoted an immense amount of time and energy to his alma mater — just scroll through his LinkedIn profile. 

Under the volunteer section, you’ll find titles like President of the Alumni Association Board and Member of the Bryan School Alumni Association listed. Not listed, however, is his involvement in the beloved UNCG homecoming bonfire tradition — Collins made the 21-foot pit that adorns the lawn of Elliott University Center each fall. 

Collins (right) chats with Bryan School dean McRae Banks after receiving the Minerva Award for Distinguished Service in October.

Also not listed is his most-recent Spartan accomplishment. This October, Collins was named the 2022 Minerva Award for Distinguished Service recipient. His list of volunteer work on campus is impressive, but what’s even more impressive than its length is that it was only built in a little more than a decade.

Though Collins said he enjoyed his time taking Business Administration courses on campus as a commuter student in the early 1980s, after graduation, he took his diploma and didn’t really look back. Well, that is, he didn’t look back until more than 25 years later. 

“It was right around the time that the basketball team started playing at the Greensboro Coliseum,” Collins recalled. “I remember thinking that it was a pretty smart move on their part. I decided I’d get some season tickets. If anything, I thought it’d get me off the couch 15 nights a year.”

Collins walked into the ticket office to secure his spots and left with two courtside season tickets, a membership to the Spartan Club, the phone number of the university’s athletic director and a meeting with the head basketball coach.

“If I bought season tickets at any other school, I’d maybe get a bumper sticker. Here, I got so much more,” Collins said.

Fast forward to a few months later when he received a call from the Alumni Association president at the time asking him to join the board. After serving under the impression that it would be a one-year deal, Collins respectfully bowed out at the end of the year — until he was asked back once again. This time, though, the board tapped Collins to head up a committee. 

“We got a lot done that year. Way more than the year before,” Collins said. “After that, they had me head more committees. I guess I am kind of a fixer.” 

After attending homecoming in 2012, Collins noticed the need for a signature Spartan event. With the help of the alumni association board, he helped host the first UNCG Homecoming Bonfire, constructing a pit that measured about seven feet in diameter himself. The following year, he was asked to make the 21-foot pit that’s used today.

A fixer, indeed. Or perhaps more accurately, a Bryan School exceptional problem solver. 

Collins worked his way up to president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and in 2016, he made his way home to the Bryan School where he served as a member of the Bryan School Alumni Association until 2019. He now focuses mostly on his job as the president of K&C Machine Co. — a metal work fabrication company where he started as a part-time member of the shipping team in the 1980s.  

While he’s taken a step back from his involvement in both the Bryan Alumni Association and the UNCG Alumni Board, Collins’s legacy of problem solving hasn’t wavered, nor has his modest approach to volunteerism. 

Collins said he was “absolutely shocked” to learn that he’d received the 2022 Minerva Award for Distinguished Service, which recognizes alumni who have given devotion, service, and visionary leadership to UNCG, the UNCG Alumni Association, academic colleges, or the Greensboro community at large.

“I never really had that full undergraduate college experience. I went to school and came home,” Collins said. “But, it’s never too late to get involved, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with UNCG.”