Lester R. Collins ’73

2002 Catharine Lealtad
Service to Society Award

View all Catharine Lealtad Service to Society Award recipients

"I have known from early childhood that the struggle for equality would be my life," says Lester Collins. It is a commitment inspired by his now 84-year-old mother’s practical work in the inner-city Philadelphia neighborhood where Collins grew up. As executive director of the State of Minnesota’s Council on Black Minnesotans, Lester Collins has a far-reaching means to pursue that struggle.

After earning a B.A. in sociology and history at Macalester, Collins earned his master’s in social work at the University of Minnesota. He left a manager’s position at Control Data to become the Council’s public policy research analyst and, later, its executive director.

The Council on Black Minnesotans was established in 1980 to provide everyone of African descent with equal access to state services and programs, and to relate their needs to the legislature. Under Collins’ leadership, the Council has championed legislation resulting in newborn-testing for sickle cell anemia, the Minority Family Preservation Act and alternatives to milk in schools because many children of color are lactose-intolerant.

Collins is chair of both the Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration and the board of directors for the African American Adoption and Permanency Planning Agency. Because the Council has broad responsibilities, Collins has been a part of more than 70 different committees and task forces. He is a member of many community organizations from the Midwest Regional Cancer Society to the African American Leadership Council.

A friend, Melvin Collins ’75, says: "Lester is a tireless advocate for justice, ever striving to level the playing field for African Americans in the state of Minnesota. He is passionate about what he does and generates action around that passion."

Collins lives in St. Paul with his wife, Demaris ’74.