Gene Collins, Traveling Teacher
By Dolores Eyler
For a man with a long history in finance, Gene Collins isn’t always good with numbers.
Take his anniversary. “Nancy and I have been married 42, no, 43 years,” he said of the woman he vowed to marry upon first sight almost 50 years ago. “It was some enchanted evening.”
“It’s 48 years,” said Nancy. “He has handled millions and billions of dollars but forgets these dates.”
Not to worry. Nancy, armed with a Ph.D. in Immunology, and the former laboratory director for bone marrow transplants at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is good at remembering their personal history.
And Gene is good at remembering and relaying his professional history.
Following a long career on Wall Street managing mortgage-backed securities and a fixed income portfolio manager, Collins applies that knowledge as a visiting instructor in the John B. and Lillian E. Neff Department of Finance in the College of Business and Innovation at the University of Toledo (UT), his alma mater.
After teaching for four years on the home campus, Collins and his wife took his show on the road, teaching finance classes in Coimbatore, India; Cairo, Egypt; and Hangzhou, China.
“In this country, we only see the best of the foreign students,” Collins said. “Overseas, I saw the broad spectrum, and guess what, they look like us – the smart ones sit up front, the average ones sit in the middle, terrified you are going to call on them, and the ones that are not prepared hide in the back.”
Collins teaches both undergraduate and MBA finance classes. He uses his life experiences and true stories from years in finance to emphasize textbook concepts. He worked for many firms (but never left a 10-block area), including Merrill Lynch, Becker Paribas, and Salomon Brothers. At Citigroup Asset Management he was a Managing Director of Salomon Brothers Asset Management and Travelers Asset Management International Company.
“At one point, long, long ago, five percent of the total mortgage debt of the country passed through my desk,” Collins noted.
He retired at age 60, when his division moved to Phoenix. “Nooooo,” he said. “It’s too hot and too dry.” And besides, he loves to sail.
It was then that UT came calling, asking him to be on the board of the UT Foundation as well as lecture in economics and finance at the College of Business and Innovation. Having been previously acquainted with the dean of the business school, he instead redesigned and taught the portfolio management course for senior and graduate business students, in which students must be interviewed to be accepted.
“They learn about asset management, portfolio structure, conflicts of interest, stock selection, operations, order flow, writing and tracking tickets, and how to prevent rogue trades. Of course, incompetent management causes rogue trades.”
The Collinses always kept their house in Rye, but for those first four years lived from August to May in their former hometown of Toledo. “It was kind of fun to be back in Ohio and UT,” he said. “I keep in touch with eight friends from elementary, junior high, and high school, and Nancy and I are the only ones with a ‘mixed marriage.’ She didn’t graduate from my high school.”
Decades earlier, Collins worked his way through UT as a meat cutter, winning an award for cutting up and traying a chicken in 27 seconds. “Back then, I think my union card as a member of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America was more valuable than my Bachelor’s degree in Economics.”
Naturally, Collins is the meat buyer in the family, and prefers Costco and Crisfield’s Market in Rye to all other merchants in the area. “I can tell when Costco has mistakenly underpriced something,” he said. “And I admire that Crisfield’s still cuts meat by hand.”
Upon graduation, he served in the US Navy in Europe for two years, part of his eight-year Reserve commitment.
“But I feel I have done more for America with teaching than my eight years in the military,” he said.
Now equipped with a master’s and credit towards a doctorate degree in economics, Collins teaches the overseas courses intensively in a matter of weeks, compared to months at U.S. universities. “They are willing to work harder,” he said.
In India, however, another instructor now teaches the course, explained Collins. “I threw two MBA students, one wealthy and one on scholarship, out of the class for plagiarism and cheating. The wealthy student had apparently hired the scholarship student to write the assigned paper. The two, identical internet-copied papers were turned in, including the same time stamp from the copy center at the bottom.” He added, “ I was very upset but what I did was deemed culturally unacceptable.”
Gene Collins and students in Hangzhou, China