William “Rock” Collins, CSI Aviation President and COO, has been awarded the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater, St. Olaf College.
Currently a Major General in the Marine Corps Reserve, Collins graduated from the Northfield, Minnesota-based college in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and religion. Collins went on to pursue a successful career in military and commercial aviation, having retired from United Airlines as a pilot and Captain in 2013.
He is also a highly decorated combat veteran, having served in the Persian Gulf War and in campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Collins has been passionate about aviation since childhood. At age 4, he decided he wanted to be a fighter pilot. His love of flight has never left him, and he is invigorated by the challenges of the job.
“I appreciate all the things that aviation does for us,” said Collins. From food and cargo to humanitarian aid, “there is so much good that is brought from the ability to deliver things quickly.”
In addition to his duties at CSI Aviation Collins serves as assistant to the Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs. In the event of an attack on North America, he would advise the Commander or Secretary of Defense or even the President.
“It’s an incredible responsibility,” he says. “I take it very, very seriously.”
Collins’ greatest source of pride is his family. He has two children, one of whom is now a junior at St. Olaf. He visits frequently, noting that not much has changed and that the St. Olaf community has held true to its core values. It was there that Collins learned the importance of building quality relationships and their importance to success in all aspects of life.
“The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to treat everyone with respect, regardless of who they are,” Collins says.
“Relationships are important, and if you establish the right ones, things can get done if you work together. It all starts out with respect.”
Collins is honored to have received this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater, which he credits with instilling in him a lifelong curiosity about the world and its people, and in providing him with a strong community that has lasted him his whole life.
To view the video of the award, visit https://www.stolaf.edu/multimedia/play/?p=382.