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Remembering Herman Collier

Herman Collier, former president of Moravian University

Herman Collier died on March 28, 2022, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He was 94 years old. Collier served as Moravian’s president from 1969–1986. Upon his passing, Moravian University President Bryon L. Grigsby said, “Herman is a significant figure in the story of Moravian University. He led the institution through a tumultuous period in American history, and his leadership created the foundation for the growth we’re experiencing today. I know many alumni will remember him fondly, and the entire community will keep the Collier family in their thoughts.” Here, additional remembrances from a few of the many who admired him.

 

With little experience in administration and none in fund-raising, I began my career at Moravian in 1975. After only a year in the fledgling position of assistant director of development (for annual giving), President Collier had the courage to appoint me head of the department. That was the genesis of a remarkable relationship—a friendship that lasted nearly five decades.

The college was launching a campaign to transform the historic Church Street buildings into a center for music and art, and President Collier decided that we would work as a team traveling around the country and meeting with alumni and friends to secure the funding for the project. As a novice, I had a lot to learn about the proper approach to individuals, groups, and businesses. Herman Collier was a master of the presentation. He naturally melded the case for the project with a genuine southern charm and obvious passion for Moravian, carefully adapting it to a large gathering of alumni, a corporate executive, or the widow of a Moravian pastor. I admired his discipline, his professionalism, and his grasp of situations and predicaments. I watched, listened, and emulated, but never matched.

Our travels for that campaign and subsequent missions over the next 12 years took us from the west coast to the Midwest and down the eastern seaboard. We frequently visited population centers for Moravians: Wisconsin, North Carolina, and of course our home region. Unrelated to a college purpose, we even made a trip to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where I had arranged for Herman to speak with cadets about his advisory role with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

These trips provided a wonderful opportunity for conversations beyond the business of the college. Stories of growing up, he in rural Virginia, and me right here in the Lehigh Valley. We discussed our families, our interests, our politics, and of course, our common love and goals for Moravian. It was in these moments that our relationship grew from one of mentor and student to an unbreakable bond of enduring friendship. And as the years went by, that bond extended, deeply, to Mrs. Collier.

Following the Colliers’ retirement from Moravian in 1986, and their move to Point Harbor, North Carolina, our close ties continued. I would visit them several times a year, always enjoying daily walks with Herm to the Post Office, which gave us time to work out all the world’s crises of the day.

Shortly after the move to North Carolina, Herm took on a series of several interim presidencies, agreeing to tackle issues at these institutions that needed to be corrected before the boards of trustees were comfortable searching for a long-term leader. The problems were primarily enrollment or financial issues. From his successes in these assignments, Herm fondly became known as “the college fixer.” It was my pleasure to visit the Colliers at each of these new presidential homes and learn about the schools and the challenges that Herm was hired to address.

When Herman finally finished up his professional work, he and Jerri made one last move together to Southern Pines, North Carolina. And there too, I would visit them once or twice a year. By this time, there were no more daily strolls, only an occasional drive around the beautiful golfing countryside. But our conversations continued with vigor, still touching on world affairs, the state of higher education, and always, my report to them on what was happening at Moravian and in Bethlehem. Through all these years, there were regular phone conversations of good length and topics, especially during the many months of the pandemic.

After Jerri’s passing last year, Herman made a final move back to Pennsylvania to be closer to son, Ed, near Hershey. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to make more frequent visits during his few remaining months. By this time, his memory was fading and his body frail, but we still managed to go out for lunch on one occasion, and take brief strolls around the community, arm in arm. I focused our conversations on reminiscing about the many good experiences of our long friendship—those happy moments frequently brought a chuckle from him with the comment, “Oh my yes, I had forgotten about that!”

Those are what I will remember of Herman and Jerri Collier.

—Tom Tenges ’70

 

Herman Collier will, indeed, be missed by many in these parts, though his life is one to be admired more than his death mourned. He was a gentleman. Charming, with a wry sense of humor, he could, nevertheless, be steely when required. He brought both corporate and academic experience to the presidency, so he was able to support scholarship with organizational skill. 

Herman was devoted to his wife Jerri (who was herself an amazing lady) and she, to him. He and Dean Heller made a remarkable team, too. Herman helped to modernize the body politic of Moravian, while Jim endeavored to keep its soul ageless.

We used to hold a senior breakfast on commencement morning, and Herman always gave the graduates a gracious, funny send-off. I remember one year him telling the graduating class that the only job in which one starts at the top is digging a hole. Is that a common old joke? It made me chuckle.

—Martha Reid, professor emerita of English, Moravian University

 

President Collier retired from his presidency at Moravian when I graduated, so he was the president during my entire tenure.  

He was the quintessential southern gentleman. When the weather was favorable, he would walk from the president's house to north campus and back, and very often, my walk from a class up north would coincide with his walk down south. He would always insist on walking alongside the traffic in the event that a car passed by and splashed something. Of course, as a student, I wasn't dressed nearly as nicely as he was! But that's who he was. He was always polite. I never saw him lose his temper, but as a student, I probably would not have seen that. He was also a true academic, having come from the faculty. And while he was a scientist, he also loved the arts. I can remember him coming to my senior recital, along with his wife, Jerri, now deceased.

—Carol Traupman-Carr, provost, Moravian University

 

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