Area native set to retire as UI accounting professor
IOWA CITY — Dan Collins had a simple and compelling reason for attending graduate school in the late 1960s: the alternative was, in all likelihood, a deployment to Vietnam.
Over half a century later, Collins, who grew up on a farm near Albion and graduated from Marshalltown High School, is retiring as one of the longest tenured professors on the University of Iowa (UI) staff with 42 years of service to his credit. His educational journey started in Marshall County — first in Albion, then at Marshalltown High School when the Albion school closed and then at Marshalltown Community College before he transferred to the UI after two years.
When he got to Iowa City as a student, Collins opted to major in accounting because one of his uncles had a great job in the field, and he thought he would follow in his footsteps.
“It was a good fit for me. I got good grades and I did well,” he said.
As he graduated college in 1968 with a low draft number and the war raging, Collins was convinced he would be headed to Southeast Asia unless he applied for the two-year Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Iowa. He was accepted and ultimately began working on a doctorate degree and started to teach, and he was never called up to active duty.
After a brief move to the Indianapolis area with his wife, Collins finished his doctorate and accepted a position at Michigan State University, and six years later, he got the opportunity to return to his alma mater. Other than a few visiting periods at Duke University and Northwestern, Collins has spent the rest of his career in Iowa City.
Throughout his tenure, he’s watched multiple generations of Hawkeyes come and go, and he has taken pride in the strength of the UI’s doctorate program, which ultimately sends professors to other colleges and universities across the country.
“I just really enjoy seeing them achieve success and go on to be very strong people in the academic communities at these very top schools,” Collins said of his former students.
Collins has also kept the late Henry Tippie, the Belle Plaine native and alum after whom the UI’s business school is named, on his mind through his career as a guiding light of sorts and a model for philanthropy.
“I had opportunities to move to other schools at much higher salary, but with Henry and his generosity, because of that I decided to stay around, and it worked out well,” Collins said.
Once he retires at the end of the school year, Collins plans to continue living in the Iowa City area, but he’ll make trips to Fort Collins, Colo., and bounce around to various warmer locations through timeshares he owns. He also has plans to see national parks around the country.
Looking back on a long and successful career is a bit bittersweet for Collins, but he can’t help recalling how it all started as something of an accident — a young man applying for graduate school because he didn’t want to go to Vietnam.
“It’s been very rewarding and allowed me to travel all over the world. I’ve been to China, Australia and a lot of countries in Europe,” he said. “It’s given me a chance to see places around the world that I never thought I’d ever go… And helping to educate other educators, people that are professors at other schools, has been a real highlight. It gives me great satisfaction to look back and think I had a part in their success.”
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or