Joseph Thomas Collins Jr.
Joe passed away Saturday, January 14, 2012, of a massive coronary at his vacation home on St. George Island, Florida.
He was born July 3, 1939, in Crooksville, Ohio, the son of Joseph Thomas Collins and Luvadelle Aichele Collins. After a childhood in Norwood, Ohio, he received an associate’s degree from the University of Cincinnati.
He wrote his first scientific paper in 1959 and his first book in l974. Since then, he has written over 300 scientific or semi-popular articles and 28 books.
At 19, Joe joined the recently formed regionally based Ohio Herpetological Society and immediately began to play a major role it its transformation into the internationally renowned Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles the world’s largest professional herpetological society. In his tenure Joe served the OHS/SSAR for over 40 years as an Editor, Secretary, Committee chair, and as its President in 1978.
In 1967 Joe joined the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History as a collections manager. He ultimately became the Editor of the Museum’s publications until his retirement on 5 September 1997 following a distinguished 30-year career. Notable achievements while at KU included his recognition as Conservationist of the Year by the Kansas Wildlife Federation, President of the Kansas Academy of Science, and the 1979 Classified Employee of the Year at KU. Joe founded the Kansas Herpetological Society in 1974. Under Joe’s watchful eye, the KHS grew to be largest and most active academically based regional herpetology organization.
Joe married Suzanne Cupp on 12 December 1984. They co-founded The Center for North American Herpetology in 1994 to benefit the amphibians, crocodilians, reptiles, and turtles of North America and the scientists that study them. CNAH and the KHS established the Collins Award in 1998 in honor of Joe and Suzanne’s contributions. Given annually, the Collins Award is the largest cash prize given for excellence in herpetological scholarship and photography.
Recently Joe enjoyed his research positions at the Kansas Biological Survey and the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. He also found time to teach herpetology classes at the Regents Center in Overland Park and Washburn University. Although his primary interest was in herpetology, he also published on mammalogy, ichthyology, systematics, and taxonomy. Joe is the state’s most prolific author about Kansas’s wildlife. The Governor of Kansas proclaimed him the Kansas Wildlife Author Laureate in 1996. His titles include Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas (three editions), Fishes in Kansas, and Turtles in Kansas. He also co-authored the Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America.
His parents and his brother, Jeffrey, preceded him in death. Survivors include his wife, Suzanne, a brother Jerry and wife Kay, a daughter Nancy Weaver (Randy), a granddaughter Chelsea (Jamie), and one great-granddaughter Laiken, his mother-in-law, Juanita Hunter, six nephews, one niece and many students whom he considered semi-adopted.
A memorial service will be held in the Kansas Room of the University of Kansas Memorial Union on Sunday 5 February 2012 at 2pm.
Contributions in memory of Joe may be given to the charity of the donor’s choice or to the Collins Award through The Center for North American Herpetology (cnah.org).
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