Trailblazing professor to discuss memoir

Barbara Collins has been teaching at CLU since 1963

A young Barbara Collins dangles her feet over a rock precipice in Colorado.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Oct. 8, 2012) Barbara Collins, a pioneering biology professor in her 50th year of teaching at California Lutheran University, will discuss her life and her new memoir from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, in the Lundring Events Center on campus.

Collins’ book “You Lead a Mean Trail: Life Adventures and Fifty Years of Teaching” was released in August by Lutheran University Press. The book’s title came from one of Collins’ students. Struggling to keep up with his professor during a strenuous field trip, he declared, “Dr. Collins, you sure do lead a mean trail.”

The 83-year-old Thousand Oaks resident has been a trailblazer in many ways, and the paths she carved out have been challenging ones, particularly for a woman of her era. The New Jersey native, who loved athletics and competition, received dolls for Christmas while coveting her brother’s erector and chemistry sets.

Collins earned a bachelor’s degree from Bates College and a master’s degree from Smith College. At a time when few women studied science, she became the first female to earn a doctorate in geology from the University of Illinois. After living in Germany for two years, she returned to the University of Illinois and discovered her love for botany. She went on to complete the requirements for a master’s degree and doctorate in the subject.

She found her calling as a college professor. She taught at San Fernando Valley State College, which later became California State University, Northridge, for three years before becoming one of the first faculty members at CLU in 1963. As a woman in a man’s profession, she worked full time while raising five children in the days before maternity leave. In 1964, the chair of the biology department told her she couldn’t teach while she was pregnant. She resisted and the university’s administration changed the policy so she could continue.

Collins, who has climbed Mt. Whitney several times, has been sharing her passion for nature with CLU students ever since, taking them on scientific field trips in California’s deserts, Hawaii, Australia, Fiji and New Zealand. Students named her Professor of the Year in 1996, and she received the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2007. Still teaching full time, she plans to retire in May.

She has worked to preserve local open space and written more than 10 books. At CLU, she identified more than 100 plants for the Barbara Collins Arboretum on campus and compiled an online directory of thousands of plants.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of Homecoming and Family Weekend activities. Refreshments will be served. Books will be available for purchase.

Lundring Events Center is located in the Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center on the north side of Olsen Road between Campus Drive and Mountclef Boulevard. For more information, contact Stephanie Hessemer in the Alumni & Parent Relations office at or 805-493-3161.