Known as “The Sheriff” by colleagues, Harry Collins was a leader when it came to biotechnology and protecting innovation.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, the seed industry lost a great one, Dr. Harry Benjamin Collins III who passed away at his home in Scott, Mississippi. Born to Harry and Meredith Humphrey Collins Jan. 22, 1941, in Morristown, NJ, Collins earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Rutgers University, a master’s in agronomy and plant breeding from the University of Arizona, and his doctorate in genetics and plant breeding from North Carolina State University.
In 1974, Collins began working for Delta and Pine Land Company in Mississippi as a soybean breeder, where he participated in the release of many soybean varieties, most notably Deltapine 105, a widely grown variety in maturity group 5 for 10 years. From 1980-1985, he was director of soybean research and then became vice president of research from 1985 to 1998, where he oversaw the introduction of transgenic traits into the company’s germplasm.
In 1998, Collins became vice president of technology transfer for Delta and Pine Land Company, where he worked with the control of plant gene expression patents. Friends at the company and throughout the industry fondly called him “The Sheriff” for his dedication to intellectual property and active protection of proprietary seed.
Collins was extremely active in the seed industry. In 2002, he served on the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Plant Variety Protection Board. He also served on CropLife America’s Biotechnology Committee, as president of the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders from 1986-87 and on its board (1981-83).
Collins was an active member of the American Seed Trade Association, where he served as chair of the Biotechnology Committee and helped lead efforts of the Intellectual Property Committee. He also chaired the association from 2006-07.
Prior to Monsanto’s acquisition of Delta and Pine Land Company in 2007, Collins became a special projects leader. Upon retirement from Monsanto in 2009, he served as a consultant to Monsanto and represented the company and ASTA at various meetings of the International Seed Federation’s Intellectual Property Committee and Sustainable Agriculture Committee.
In 2011, ASTA recognized Collins with its Lifetime Honorary Member Award, the association’s highest award.
“Harry has been a longtime supporter of the seed industry and the association,” said John Nelsen, who served as ASTA chairman at the time (2011). “His efforts and participation have helped shape the industry and provided guidance on complex issues throughout the years.
“He has distinguished himself in many ways — through leadership, vision, service and most importantly, results.”
Collins loved the life he and his family built in Scott, serving as chief of the Bolivar County Fire Department from 1984-1992 and as an active member from 1975-2008. He also served as the president of the Scott Water and Sewer District from 1996 until his death.
Collins is survived by his wife of 42 years, Dottie Collins, his son Mosby Blanks and wife, Angela, his daughter Meghan Stewart and husband, Daniel and granddaughters, Elizabeth and Faith Stewart.