Campus Mourns Loss of Mathematics Professor

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Deirdre Collins, a tenured math professor, passed away on Aug. 17 due to complications that arose after having a heart attack while she was on campus April 4.

She leaves behind her husband of eight years, Sterrett.
Collins had been a faculty member here since September 2001 and began her tenure September 2005. She was working her way through the math sequence to teach all the higher level mathematics according to Peter Stathis, the Division Chair of the math department.

Math instructor, Kathleen Holmes said that “[on April 4] after leaving her class she was going down the stairs and she felt faint. She thought that if she went to her office and kind of just rested a little bit that it would pass. And it didn’t, so she called the nurse and by her describing her symptoms to the nurse, the nurse called paramedics. She was taken by ambulance from [GCC].”

According to Holmes the hospital decided to perform an angiogram on Collins and depending on their findings they might also perform surgery. They ended up doing a triple bypass surgery soon after the angiogram.

Holmes said that the last she had heard that night was that the surgery had gone fine and that the doctors would be reviving Collins in the morning. The next morning however, they could not wake her.

Collins, prior to the angiogram, appeared fine for someone who had just had a heart attack said Holmes. Both she and Stathis went to the emergency room to see her.

In the emergency room she was talking to Holmes and asking her to make sure her classes got cancelled.

Stathis said that when he was waiting with her in the emergency room Collins dozed off for awhile. He happened to have a book with him so she awoke to find Stathis reading. She asked him about the book and after describing it to her she asked for her purse to write down the title because she said it sounded interesting.

“She was an intellectual,” said Stathis. “That’s how I see her, in the best sense of the word, someone who’s really interested in knowledge and different people and their peccadilloes.”
Many from the math department and her church visited Collins and they even started a journal. They would write down who went to see her, on what day, at what time and a brief description of what happened during their stay said Holmes.

This was mainly for her husband but also for her other visitors so they knew that other people had been there with her and if there had been any changes.

Collins never regained consciousness after the surgery. She remained in an intensive care unit at Adventist Hospital for three months because of infections and was then moved to a long term hospital care facility in West Covina. She was only there for a few weeks before she passed away, according to Holmes.
Collins was very active both at school and in her social life.
Holmes said that the math department is a very close group. Many from the math department go to lunch every Friday and Collins usually came along.

She had been working with Holmes on The Math Collaborative for the past three years; the Collaborative was originally started five years ago by Holmes and David Hassett, another math teacher at GCC, who worked on it together for the first two years.

“[The Collaborative] is with the local high schools,” said Holmes. “And we work with them to brainstorm any kind of strategy we can use to try and improve students preparing more in high school. So when they get here their math placement scores are as high as possible and they can start at the highest math class possible.”

“I was always amazed at how much energy she had,” said Holmes. “She was just incredible.”

Collins was governor-at-large and treasurer of the Faculty Association of California Community College, a member of the Glendale Quilt Guild, a member of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, she was very interested in learning disabilities and helping disabled students, as well as being very active in her church, according to Holmes. She was also involved with many different committees at GCC.

“She had a fresh eye on everything,” said Lynn Pomeroy, math professor.

Holmes and Stathis expressed their admiration at the extra work she took on for her students. Collins gave a quiz every week and students would have to go to the learning center and get signed off that they went over the problems they had trouble with. If, on a test, 80 percent of her students got a problem wrong she would put it on as many quizzes as it took until 80 percent got it right.
Stathis said that at her memorial service on Sept. 9 he talked about this unique teaching method.

“None of us would do that much work. We usually do five tests or something. It was hours more of extra grading that she didn’t have to do, but she believed in it and she found it successful.”
A memorial scholarship has been set up in Collins’ name. A large envelope is located outside Pomeroy’s office, SG 364, with small envelopes in it to donate to the scholarship.