DeLaSalle president Michael Collins diesby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — DeLaSalle High School President Michael Collins, credited with spearheading a resurgence at the Minneapolis school, has died.
Principal Barry Lieske said Collins died early Sunday morning as a result of complications related to lung cancer. Collins was first diagnosed with the disease less than a month ago. He was 74.
"He is the school," Lieske said. "And so that will be a, without question, a painful period for us."
Collins grew up in north Minneapolis and graduated from DeLaSalle in 1955. By 1959 Collins was teaching at DeLaSalle. He led the school's men's chorus into the national spotlight. Collins later served on the board of directors for the National Catholic Education Association and as chair of the Minnesota Independent Schools Forum and the Council on Black Minnesotans.
Collins became president of DeLaSalle in 1991. During Collins' tenure enrollment doubled, benefactors contributed more than $25 million and the percentage of DeLaSalle graduates to go on to college rose to 96 percent.
Collins did that by getting to know every student -- in part by making a point to have lunch with them, Lieske said.
"And I think that that's, you know, just an amazing testament to his commitment to getting to know students and caring about them as individuals and not just running them through the factory of the school, Lieske said. "You know, he had a special care for people and it became his trademark."
Lieske said Collins was efficient with his improvements to the school.
"I think he helped us look at not wasting effort," he said. "If we're going to put the effort in, we're going to do it well, whether that be athletics or the classroom or fundraising or building something, let's do it well and let's do it right."
Collins' funeral will be held Saturday at the Basilica of St Mary in downtown Minneapolis.