By Morris Collins/ guest columnist
I was born Morris Lynn Collins in May 1947. I am a native Missourian and lifelong resident of the Warrensburg area. I was reared on a farm in rural Johnson County, attending a one-room country schoolhouse until integration of schools placed me in the fourth grade in Warrensburg Public Schools in 1956. I graduated from Warrensburg High School in 1965 and later enrolled in Central Missouri State College as the first person in my family to attend college. I graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree in art education and English. In 1973 I received a master’s degree in education from Central Missouri State University and did additional work toward a specialist degree. I have also continued studies at Aenon Bible College in Indianapolis, Indiana.
My 49-year career as an educator began in 1969 when I was hired as the first African-American teacher in the Warrensburg school system following the integration of schools in 1954. As a teacher in the classroom, I have had an opportunity to know and appreciate each student that came through each school where I taught. Over that period of time I have come in contact with nearly 20,000 students.
Following my retirement from the Warrensburg School District in 2002, I became an adjunct professor for the University of Central Missouri, teaching for the Department of Art and Design. I am currently a liaison and university supervisor for student teacher candidates.
When asked about the differences between teaching elementary students and college students, I will tell you there is very little. All students desire attention and want to know that you care, no matter what age.
I currently serve as a 15-year member of the Warrensburg R-VI Board of Education, where I have served twice as the first African-American board president. Statewide, I serve on the Board of Directors for the Missouri School Boards Association. I am president of the Howard School Preservation Association, a not-for-profit group dedicated to preservation and restoration of the historic Howard School in Warrensburg. I am also a co-founder of the local Diversity & Dialogue Group which serves the Warrensburg community, along with the Diversity & Inclusion Commission on human relations established by the Warrensburg City Council to address discrimination issues concerning housing, jobs, community participation, etc.
I accepted my call to the ministry at age 42 and served as a licensed minister and assistant pastor for 23 years with my father, the late Senior District Elder Jesse T. Collins Sr. In December 2012, I was installed as senior pastor of Jesus Saves Pentecostal Church in Warrensburg. The church serves a diverse mix of longtime members, military personnel, university students, young people and visitors from a variety of backgrounds and religious experiences.
I have been married for 45 years to the former Loretta Mae Derritt of Leavenworth, Kansas. We have four children: Christa Collins, Seth Collins (Rebecca), Barbara Hill (Daunte), and Sarah Collins, all who are graduates of UCM. We also have four grandchildren, A’Nyah, Lynden, and Daunte Kevin II (DK) Hill and the newest member of the Collins family, Abigail Collins.
In recalling my many memories of attending UCM as a student, I remember the early days of trying to stay in school with good grades. Without good grades, most young men were classified as eligible for the draft and immediately drawn into some form of the Vietnam War from 1965-1969.
I also recall the many friendships and lifelong associations that college life provided. I still have friends and acquaintances I stay in touch with from over 50 years ago.