College Holds Memorial For Christopher Collins '20
Issue   |   Sun, 04/01/2018 - 20:58

Christopher Collins ’20, a math major from Wakefield, Rhode Island, died on Thursday, March 29. The news was announced that day through emails sent to the college community by President Biddy Martin. His death, and the death of fellow student Andrew Dorogi ’18 two weeks before, have shaken the campus community.

A memorial was held for Collins on Friday, March 30 in Johnson Chapel. Students, faculty, staff and Collins’ family and friends came together to remember his life and impact on the Amherst community.

The chapel was filled to capacity, with many audience members sitting in the aisles and standing just outside the door, as well as in an overflow room in Stirn Auditorium. Martin began the memorial by extending her sympathies to his family and reading a passage from Marilynne Robinson’s novel “Gilead.” She continued by speaking about the impact Collins had on others in his life.

“Many of you have had the opportunity to see the incandescence in Chris,” Martin said. “You loved him for his kindness, his love of learning, his deep open love of his family. Many of you have already paid tribute to Chris in private settings, and you’ve paid tribute to the light he saw in other people, how kind he was to others, how inquisitive and curious he was about others.”

Both Martin and Brian Hamm, the head coach of the baseball team, of which Collins was a member, praised his honesty about his experience with mental illness.

“Chris was open about his struggles,” Martin said. “He was open about the depression and anxiety he experienced. Chris’ family is generous and courageous enough to be open about it as well, in knowing that, in the end, it took him from us.”

Hamm spoke about the conversation he had with Collins when he decided to take a break from baseball to focus on his health and academics.

“Chris felt that he was letting the team down and his family by not following through with baseball,” Hamm said. “He knew that he was loved and supported so much, so that he was ashamed to be in need of more help from his teammates than he was able to reciprocate … I came to realize that his friendship, his music, his brilliant mind, his ideas, his big smile and his many other attributes brought joy to others even during his most troubled times.”

Gregory Call, a professor of mathematics and Collins’ advisor, spoke next.

“There’s no doubt that Chris was special,” Call said. “I’ve had the privilege of standing at this podium many times, and each time, no matter the occasion, I’ve always looked to my heart to know what to say. And today, as I stand here, I think about Chris, I think about Andrew [Dorogi], and my heart breaks.”

Call emphasized Collins’ kindness towards everyone that he met.

“We’ll take the time to reach to those that sit beside us and those who could be, should be and would be our friends, to support each other in Chris’s memory, just as with the kindness that he showed all of us, that we treat each other with that kindness and make each other and our community stronger for it,” Call said. “It’s part of what I think of when I think of Chris and it’s what I hope we will remember.”

Friend and teammate Chase Henley ’19, who was roommates with Collins during Fall 2016, told the audience about Collins’ love of music and the performances he held for floormates and friends in common rooms.

“On campus, you could always find Chris in his free time in the common room, or in the room that we shared together with his guitar in his lap, playing music for all to hear,” Henley said. “He had a knack for attracting people through his music, and I remember that there was always an audience in the common room, waiting for him when he said he was going to play.”

Henley also expressed his hope that others would take after Collins in their own lives.

“I just want to really emphasize that we should celebrate Chris and his life and be thankful that we got to know him and learn from him,” he said. “I think we could all be better off by being more like Chris.”

Director of the Counseling Center Jacqueline Alvarez urged members of the community to turn to each other and the resources available on campus while they mourn Collins.

“I encourage you, in your vulnerability and your loss, to hold each other close,” she said. “We are an ‘us,’ we are this place of Amherst … There are so many people who will hold you. Your friends will hold you, your family will hold you, your faculty will hold you, your classmates will hold you, the counseling center will hold you, ResLife and OSA, President Martin and so many here will hold you. You are not alone. And to Chris’ family, the Collinses, you are not alone, we will hold you.”

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