Richard Collins III posthumously promoted to 1st lieutenant, scholarship recipients recognized
By RACHAEL PACELLA | The Capital | Published: September 16, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Bowie State University held a ceremony on its football field Tuesday, with social distancing and a plexiglass-guarded podium, to celebrate the posthumous promotion of Richard W. Collins III, as well as to recognize the 34 ROTC cadets receiving a scholarship in his honor.
Collins was slain at the University of Maryland on May 20, 2017, days before he would have graduated from Bowie State University with a degree in business administration. Collins had commissioned days earlier and was preparing to start a career with the U.S. Army.
Upon commissioning he had the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. On the authority of the Secretary of the Army, he was promoted posthumously to 1st lieutenant. The order was read during the ceremony Tuesday.
Lt. General Leslie Smith, Inspector General in the Office of the Secretary of the Army, spoke to scholarship recipients during the ceremony about Collins' legacy and the importance of life-long learning.
“Every single day Lt. Collins exemplified all the traits necessary to become a top-notch impactful leader of American soldiers. We fight for Lt. Collins,” he said. “He strove to be the best in all aspects of his life, regularly excelling in military training, academics, athletics, leadership and mentoring others. We fight for Lt. Collins.”
Smith has served for 37 years, he said.
“I still learn something new every day about our Army, our people, our nation and how we do things, and even myself on a daily basis,” he said.
The Maryland General Assembly approved legislation establishing the 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III Leadership with Honor Scholarship in 2018. Each year $1 million will be put aside for Maryland residents from historically underrepresented groups participating in ROTC programs at the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities.
Tuesday’s recipients will receive at least $5,000 toward tuition, according to a media release from the university. Collins' father, Richard Collins Jr., said they hope to have a lifelong relationship with each recipient through the Richard Collins Foundation.
“Each of you are the jewels in the crown of democracy. Each of you represent the greatness of this great republic,” his father Richard Collins Jr. told scholarship recipients Tuesday. “And don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.”
Sen. Ben Cardin said Collins was a standout at Bowie State, and commended the ROTC students on their commitment to serve.
“Your future success is also success for Lt. Collins. His life and incredible potential may have been cut short, but it now lives with you,” Cardin said.
State Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters and Sen. Thomas V. “Mike” Miller created the legislation for the scholarship to honor Collins, who loved his family and his community, Peters said.
Peters said they will need to return to Annapolis and amend the scholarship legislation because they were unable to distribute the full $1 million this year because they didn’t have enough applicants at some HBCUs.
“We want to make sure we spend $1 million on our young people who want to go into the military and protect our country,” he said.
Each recipient also got a signed copy of “How Ike Led,” a book on leadership written by Susan Eisenhower, the president’s granddaughter.
Bowie State University President Aminta Breaux reflected on a statement from Eisenhower, that the purpose of education is to prepare men and women for effective citizenship in a free forum of government.
“As Maryland’s first historically Black college and university founded in 1865 to prepare newly freed slaves to become teachers, and now, as a comprehensive public university, we know that freedom is not free," she said. “We believe it is in our mission and indeed our duty to live up to the true purpose President Eisenhower described, and to continue to provide access and affordability to a quality educational experience, and to carry on for those who fought for us to have the rights we enjoy as citizens of this country.”
The man convicted of stabbing Collins to death had racist images on his cell phone, but Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. dropped a hate crime charge before trial, saying there wasn’t enough to prove Collins was targeted based solely on race.
His parents Richard Collins Jr. and Dawn Collins successfully lobbied this spring to change the state law so crimes motivated “in whole or in part” by hate can be prosecuted as hate crimes.