In Memory of Maribeth Collins

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On October 4, 2017 our beloved friend and patron Maribeth Collins passed away quietly and peacefully at her Portland home. Maribeth was just three weeks shy of her 99th birthday and lived a long and purpose-filled life. She was a member of one of Willamette’s largest, oldest, and most distinguished families. Her father-in-law was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1912 and her husband and four children were Willamette graduates. Although Maribeth was a graduate of the University of Oregon, she loved Willamette deeply and especially, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art.

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Maribeth Collins was the most remarkable donor I ever met. Through her quiet philanthropy, she transformed the Hallie Ford Museum of Art from a small college museum of art into a major regional institution that reaches beyond Salem and the mid-Willamette Valley to the nation and the world. Over the years, she provided support for art acquisitions, including Dick Elliott’s reflector panels that grace the second floor of our building; regional art exhibitions and books; and capital improvement projects. In the early 2000s, for example, she provided a major gift to transform our basement into a “state-of-the-art” support space for collections and exhibitions.

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In addition, Maribeth endowed three professional staff positions at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art—my position, the education curator position, and the collection curator position—and provided the ongoing funds to support our membership and public relations manager position in order to increase our membership and raise our visibility on a local, regional, and national level. Moreover, she created numerous professional development opportunities for my staff and me to attend conferences and to travel.

Maribeth was a visionary philanthropist. In my nearly 20 years as director, I never once asked her for financial support. She always approached me with a simple question: “John, what is your biggest need?”  As I’ve said many times before and will continue to say for the rest of my life, no director could have asked for a better colleague, patron, second mother, confidant, advisor, champion, or friend than Maribeth was to me, and the wonderful institution that we built together will always bear her stamp of love, generosity, and commitment to the arts. 

Maribeth Collins was a warm, kind, loving, and caring woman who walked through life with joy, happiness, and grace. She was a woman of deep and unwavering faith and I will love her, honor her, and miss her to the end of my days. Although Maribeth may be gone from our midst, she lives on in the wonderful institution she helped to create and in the countless lives she touched.  May her memory be eternal!


John Olbrantz
The Maribeth Collins Director

Additional Information

Remembering Maribeth Collins
by University Communications, 

Maribeth Wilson Collins (1918 - 2017) Obituary
Published in The Oregonian from Oct. 17 to Oct. 22, 2017

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