When William L. Collins ’76C, ’12HON addressed the audience in Carnesecca Arena at the 2014 Presidential Investiture of Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., the St. John’s board member praised the University’s long history of educating “those of limited means.”
“I am an example, among many alumni, of that opportunity—and I am so very grateful,” declared Mr. Collins, the son of Irish immigrants. “When I came to St. John’s, the University offered me an academic scholarship. For me, that made all the difference.”
On May 13, 2016, Mr. Collins was named Chairman of St. John’s Board of Trustees. In this role, he provides a new level of leadership to the University he loves. He and his wife, Lesley H. Collins ’83SVC, are longtime benefactors. Together, they support their alma mater as contributors and volunteers for major events and activities including the annual President’s Dinner, which they cochaired from 2006 to 2014.
Giving back to the University that has changed so many lives—including his own—is a theme Mr. Collins frequently expresses. For example, when he and Ms. Collins received St. John’s Spirit of Service Award at the 2015 President’s Dinner, he told guests that “St. John’s gave me opportunities and provided choices.” As the dinner’s Cochair in 2013, he observed that “St. John’s is about giving young people a chance.”
As a student at St. John’s in the 1970s, Mr. Collins divided his time between classes and part-time jobs. He also served as an editor on The Torch, the University’s student newspaper. He received his B.A. in Government and Politics in 1976; Ms. Collins earned an A.A. in Liberal Arts in 1983. Mr. Collins went on to graduate study at New York University, earning his M.B.A. in 1981.
Mr. Collins has distinguished himself as an executive and entrepreneur. In 2001, he founded Brencourt Capital Management, LLC, which he serves as Chairman, CEO, and CIO. In addition, he and Ms. Collins are dedicated philanthropists. In 1993, they formed the William L. and Lesley H. Collins Family Foundation, which supports causes such as Catholic Charities; the Children’s Aid and Family Services; Dwight Englewood, the private preparatory school their children attended; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; the Robin Hood Foundation, and St. Theresa’s Catholic Church.
Mr. Collins also has donated his time as a volunteer for a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations. For example, he was a Trustee and Past President of the Board of Trustees at Dwight Englewood, has cochaired the 2002 Jon Altman/Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Golf Outing from its inception in 2001 through 2016, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Furman Selz, LLC, and MortgageIT Holdings, Inc., and currently serves on the Board of Werner Worldwide Holdings.
This desire to serve is especially evident in Mr. Collins’s efforts on behalf of his alma mater. Along with his and Ms. Collins’s participation in the President’s Dinner, Mr. Collins has been a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 2007, Board of Governors (2004–07), Founder’s Society, and Loughlin Society, which he served as Chair in 2001. For all their efforts, he and Ms. Collins are recipients of the 2015 Spirit of Service Award. The University also accorded Mr. Collins its President’s Medal (2006) and Pietas Medal (2001). Ms. Collins received the Pietas Medal in 2008.
Expressing the University’s gratitude, Dr. Gempesaw said that “Bill and Lesley Collins are highly committed, dedicated, and very generous members of the St. John’s family. Bill has been an exemplary member and served on the Board for nine years in various leadership capacities. On behalf of the St. John’s community, I thank Bill Collins for his willingness to assume this very important leadership role as the new Chair of the Board of Trustees. I look forward to working with him in support of our mission as a premier Catholic and Vincentian university.”