Lillian Elizabeth Williams Collins began her HWS career as a secretary in the Office of Publications in 1967. By the time she retired in 2011 she was a senior research specialist in the Office of Advancement Services. But Collins has also served generations of HWS students and Geneva residents as the “Coupon Queen,” an unofficial title received in deep admiration for the countless welcome baskets and care packages she gave out that made a real and positive impact on their lives.
For her service to the Colleges, to her Geneva neighbors and to the hundreds of students who turn to her for advice, compassion and support, President Mark D. Gearan recently presented Collins with the Hobart and William Smith Trustee Community Service Award on Saturday, March 25.
“In recognition of the deep and abiding difference Lillian Collins has and continues to have on the lives of students, Hobart and William Smith Colleges are proud to honor her with the Hobart and William Smith Trustee Community Service Award,” says Gearan. “Lillian, or Miss Lillian, as she is known to many, has dedicated her life to making HWS a more inclusive and welcoming place for all students, and has played a key role in ensuring the Colleges remain connected to the Geneva community.”
Collins has been a champion for multicultural students and a staunch supporter of the Afro-Latino Alumni Association (ALAA), attending campus activities and offering her services and expertise to the Office of Intercultural Affairs. She was a mother-away-from-home to countless students who wholeheartedly appreciated her care packages. Members of the community have noted care packages arriving on their doorstep, inevitably with exactly what was needed at the very time it was needed.
“Coupon clippers are often thought of as selfish fanatics solely interested in saving a few extra dollars for themselves,” Collins wrote in a 2001 edition of the Pulteney Street Survey, the Colleges alum magazine. “But I’ve proved them wrong. I use my smart shopping skills to help others who are less fortunate. What a wonderful feeling inside when you’ve added a little sunshine to someone’s otherwise gloomy day.”
In 2008, ALAA, along with her friends and family, established a means of supporting a Hobart or William Smith student of color who demonstrated a commitment to the Geneva community that reflected the passion and substance of Collins’ own leadership and service. What began as an annual prize was endowed in 2011 as the Lillian E. Collins Endowed Scholarship Fund, which supports academically qualified and financially deserving junior or senior-year students from historically underrepresented ethnic minority backgrounds.
Over the years, Collins held many positions in Alumni House, spending the majority of her tenure as an assistant to several vice presidents for development. In the Geneva community, she has been a longtime supporter of The Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club of Geneva, the Center of Concern, Family Counseling of the Finger Lakes Domestic Violence Program, and Mothers and Others. She has served as a board member of several nonprofit organizations, including the Geneva Historical Society and the Geneva Human Rights Commission, and is a member of the Martin Luther King Scholarship Award and Molly Lydenberg Scholarship Award committees and St. Paul’s Full Gospel Baptist Church. She supports the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, Relay for Life and for many years was the campus liaison for the United Way of Ontario County.
In 1995, she was honored by the Geneva Chapter of the NAACP as the first recipient of the Mary Ann Mallard Community Service Award. She also received the Martin Luther King Committee Community Service Award in 2006.
Established in 2009 by the Hobart and William Smith Board of Trustees, the Hobart and William Smith Trustee Community Service Award honors and celebrates alumni, alumnae, parents and friends of the Colleges who live lives of consequence.