Emmanuel G. COLLINS, Jr., Ph.D. '74
Posted 07/31/2014 04:55PM

The Rumson Country Day School’s “alumni reconnection” project is producing far more than just names and addresses. Our sleuthing process is also capturing some fascinating stories about the personal lives and careers our alumni have enjoyed since leaving RCDS.

One very interesting reconnection has been with Dr. Emmanuel G. Collins, Jr. ’74, who spent just three years at RCDS.  We’d had no contact with him in the intervening 41 years, so it was a pleasure to discover that the boy we’d known has become one of our nation’s leaders in engineering and robotics.

“I remember RCDS clearly,” Emmanuel told us.  “It was challenging.  I was a good student but not totally consistent, and for the first time, I actually had to study to do well.”   

“I had a good time, but left after eighth grade,” he continued, “and attended ninth grade at Asbury Park High School.  Our family moved to Nashville the following year and I was recruited into a summer program called ‘MITE’ (Minority Introduction to Engineering) at Morehouse College in Atlanta.  Two years later, I was awarded a full scholarship to the five-year, Dual-Degree Program between Morehouse and Georgia Tech.” 

Graduating in 1981 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Science from Morehouse, Emmanuel was named “Most Outstanding Engineering Student” in the Dual Degree Program, Valedictorian at Morehouse, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa!  In 1981, his employer, Bell Labs, sent him to Purdue to do a “one-year-on-campus” M.S. in Engineering.  His M.S. advisor at Purdue encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D., specializing in Robot Control.  However, this advisor left Purdue one year into Emmanuel ‘s Ph.D. program.  Hence, he ended up transferring to Aeronautics and Astronautics and specializing in the control of flexible space structures, which was also a hot topic at the time.  Remaining at Purdue until 1987 to complete the Ph.D., Emmanuel then spent seven successful years at Harris Corporation in their Aerospace Systems Division, receiving an Honorary Superior Accomplishment Award from NASA in 1991. 

”In 1994,” he said, “I decided to look for a faculty position and found a joint associate professorship at Florida State University and Florida A&M University.  I have worked my way up the academic ladder, becoming the Director of CISCOR (Center for Intelligent Systems, Control, and Robotics) in 2003 and Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department in 2011.  I teach both undergraduate and graduate courses and conduct research in Robotics and Control.”    

Today, this soft-spoken and brilliant engineer’s reputation stretches far beyond the U.S.  In fact, his first response to our outreach was a friendly email from China, where he has enjoyed a guest professorship at the Anhui University of Technology in Ma’ansan.  His interests also extend far beyond engineering.  “You may be surprised to learn that I am an ordained minister,” he told us.  “I teach and preach at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church here in Tallahassee.”

It has been a pleasure to reconnect with Emmanuel Collins and we look forward to hearing about his accomplishments going forward. To learn more about one of his current research projects, click here: http://www.eng.fsu.edu/ciscor/.

We will keep sleuthing for untold alumni stories and hope you will contribute ideas for those you would like us to tell in the future.