Editor’s note: The Edmond Sun pays tribute to longtime columnist and historian Reba Collins by including a column this week written by her youngest granddaughter Jennifer Collins.

In my grandmother’s last column, she told us that she was “turning over a new leaf,” she wanted to talk about the “good stuff.” She asked, “Anybody want to be first with the ‘good stuff?’”

She passed away Monday, and I would like to answer her question by telling her readers about her “good stuff.”

Reba Collins, a native of Shawnee, was born in August 1925. Her life’s journey has always been in the direction of her choice. Facing societal expectations to stay in the home and raise her three children, she chose to return to school as a middle-aged woman with a family and a job.

Even through these tremendous challenges she reached heights in her career she had never dreamed of when she went back to school. From a high-school dropout to a professor emeritus at the University of Central Oklahoma, she has had a most interesting life.

In 1955 Reba began classes at Central State College, and before she graduated in 1957 with a journalism degree, she had been editor of school newspaper The Vista and had been awarded Outstanding Future Teacher from Delta Kappa Gamma. Beginning in 1958 while working as an instructor at CSC, she went on to receive her master’s and her doctorate in journalism from Oklahoma State University.

Her master thesis was the history of The Vista and her doctoral dissertation was about Will Rogers, a writer and journalist. After working with the local newspapers she was named head of public relations for then-Central State College.

She was one of only eight women to head up public relations at colleges in the United States. During this time, she lobbied the Oklahoma State Legislature to have Central State College changed to Central State University, which would give the school more prestige.

In 1975, she was invited to become the director for the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore. This was an opportunity that she did not pass up. With her expertise being the life of Will Rogers, she was compelled to take this position and do all she could for his memory and his family. While there she wrote eight books on Will Rogers, received many awards, and even served as an adviser for the Broadway play “Will Rogers Follies.”

In 1990, Collins retired at the age of 65. Even in retirement she worked tirelessly writing a column for The Edmond Sun and the Bethany Tribune called “Molly and Me,” and she also reviewed books for The Daily Oklahoman. She holds the titles of professor emeritus at UCO and director emeritus of the Will Rogers Memorial.

In 1998, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, and in 2005, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Historical Society Hall of Fame.

Collins is survived by two daughters Rebecca Lee Janes and Wendy Johnson, both of Edmond, and son Dennis Collins of Phoenix; eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Growing up I knew that my grandmother was an important person, but I never appreciated everything she was able to do until I started attending UCO in spring 2002. I cannot even dream of being able to influence people’s lives as she did in all of her activities, but I can work hard for the things that I want by using her life as an example. Grandma was a woman of diverse accomplishment and great achievement.

I am blessed to have had her in my life.

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