Anyone who doubts that a career in accounting can be exciting or meaningful has not met Greg Collins ’79.
For more than 30 years, Collins worked in the sports and entertainment industry. He held executive positions at Columbia Pictures and AT&T and served as the chief financial officer for Stevie Wonder’s business organization. He also spent time as a director at the New York-based certified public accounting firm Koenigsberg & Parker, LLP and was a partner at Mitchell & Titus, LLP, the largest minority-owned certified public accounting firm in the country. Collins capped this phase of his career as managing director of his own boutique firm, G. Collins & Company, LLC.
But success never clouded Collins’ perspective about the importance of ensuring that all children have access to high quality education. “More than 20 years ago, I helped establish Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark,” he says, noting that the school recently joined the BRICK (Building Resilient Intelligent Creative Kids) Education Network. BRICK, also based in Newark, builds and manages charter schools for the city’s neediest children. BRICK schools align excellent education with supports outside the classroom to enable children to succeed.
He is also clear on why he is so passionate about supporting Montclair State University. “I never forget where I came from, and I believe that if people help you, you owe a debt back,” he says.
Collins first encountered Montclair State while studying at Malcom X. Shabazz High School in Newark. Unhappy with the colleges he was looking at, his guidance counselor suggested he take a look at Montclair State. “He put me in touch with his twin brother, who was Assistant Registrar at the University,” he recalls.
“I had a vision of becoming a corporate executive, so I majored in business,” he says. “I thought I was going to concentrate in management, but when I got involved in the cooperative education program, I saw that the best jobs were in accounting, so I moved into accounting.”
Collins remains grateful for the guidance he received at Montclair State. “Dr. Freyda Lazarus, who was Director of Cooperative Education at the time, really pushed me,” he says. “She really helped me get started in my career.”
He also credits the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program with providing crucial support during his college years. “The EOF program really helped me make it through until I was self-sufficient,” he says.
Because of the support he received from Dr. Lazarus and so many others, Collins was quick to accept an invitation to serve on the University’s Co-op Education Advisory Board. Membership on the Alumni Advisory Board and the Foundation board followed.
“I have been on the Foundation board for 17 years,” Collins notes. In 2021, he assumed the board’s chairmanship. “I look forward to bringing my perspective as an alumnus to this position, and I am honored that the University trusts me in the role,” he says.
“This is the first time that the Foundation has had an African American Chair,” he adds. “This is long overdue, which makes me especially excited to be stepping into this position.”
Collins is focused on growing the Foundation’s endowment and providing more resources to the University. “I also hope to strengthen what the EOF program can provide in terms of scholarships, support for books and other academic resources, room and board, and general sustenance,” he says, with a nod to the program that helped him so much.
Because of his ongoing involvement, Collins has watched with pride as his alma mater has grown and developed. “Montclair State is a very different place since I went to school here – and not just because there are so many new buildings, majors and programs,” he says. “The diversity is such that the University is becoming a wonderful example of community, of all kinds of people working together. It makes me proud to see so many different people getting along and taking education seriously, and to know professors who are so devoted to helping students transition into becoming professionals.”
Collins encourages students to see what he sees when he looks at Montclair State. “Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can while you’re here,” he counsels. “This is a chance to set yourself up for the rest of your life.”
He promotes co-op experiences, in particular. “Practical experience through co-op is the kind of thing that will help you when you get out in the real world,” he says. “You want that head start.”
But most of all, Collins hopes students will learn how to enjoy life while working hard and moving forward. “Keep a smile on your face and learn who you are. Become a well-rounded person.”