Robert B. Collins (Harvard Business School MBA 1976)




After graduating from a predominately African American inner-city high school (Soldan HS) in St. louis, MO, I attended an experimental educational program at Yale University. The program was sponsored by the Yale admissions office and called Transitional Year Program. This was at a time {1966} when Ivy League schools admitted very few black students directly. The purpose was to educate some 41 minority students from all over the nation in an Ivy League setting to see if we could perform at that level. This educational program ran much like a high-level preparatory school of the time. {Choate or Exeter, Andover, etc.} The program lasted an entire academic year and we applied to the colleges of our choice afterwards.

I applied to Princeton University and got accepted to the Class of 1971, so I matriculated. I was 1 of 14 black students accepted out of an entire class of 800 students. There were no women admitted in that class; the first women were admitted to Princeton two years later in September of 1969. I was interested in electrical engineering at the time. Princeton had a great engineering school and it seemed like a good fit. While at Princeton I never lost my interest in engineering and the sciences, however those years were very turbulent in terms of overall societal changes (i.e., the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war, the Black pride /Black Power movement). My course major subjects simply did not address any of these issues. As a young black student, I wanted to know more about these societal changes and began to concentrate on Political Science and Afro American studies. I graduated from Princeton with a BA in Political Science and a minor in electrical engineering.

During my years at Princeton, I began considering education on a graduate school level. (something I had no plans for upon beginning my college undergraduate years)

I looked at my interests in math, science and technology and thought business school might be the best fit for my interests and talents. I was not interested in medicine, law, nor journalism, but business seemed interesting. Even though I had chosen a general direction for my career in business, I was pretty tired of school at the time and wanted a normal life for a while. So, I went to work for a large company to get some real-life work experience at the Pillsbury Company in Minneapolis, MN. I worked there for two years and then chose a business school to attend.

I applied and got accepted into Harvard Business School Class of 1976. I majored in Marketing and Finance. After two years there, I received my Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

With that preparation as my foundation, I started my career in business (mostly high-tech firms IBM and AT&T). I feel my college choices and majors pursued equipped me well for the career choices I made later in life.

As my way of giving back, I became active in the alumni organizations of both Princeton and Harvard Business School. One of my greatest accomplishments was the creation of a one-week program for the then underserved African American community. This program is SVMP (Summer Venture in Management Program) … a survey course at Harvard Business School for college juniors/seniors who may be considering a career in management but have few mentors and/or associates to advise about what to expect. I am proud to say this program has been maintained by the Harvard Business School faculty since 1983 and has matriculated some 3,000+ students over the 38 years in operation.

My corporate career began with the IBM company in NYC where I spent four years in marketing, selling mainframe computers to clients in the New York City area. Later I joined AT&T in New Jersey in an Operations assignment when AT&T was still a regulated monopoly. In the early 1980’s AT&T was separated into major companies, and I joined the Marketing arm of the enterprise (Large Systems Group). Over some 20 years I held positions in product development, marketing and eventually finance. My last few years as a corporate employee was spent with AT&T Capital Corporation.

There I held two major positions Senior Marketing Manager in the Central Asset Management Group and finally Director of Corporate Business Planning. I left the corporate world, as an employee, in the year 2000 and began my career as a consultant.

About that time, I joined Robert Half International where I served for three years as a Lead Financial Consultant in the greater New York City area.

Later, I spent ten years as Managing Director of the independent consulting firm, Capitol Management Group. As such I delivered executive level advice to senior managers at a variety of firms in the New York City metro area; NBC Universal Television Group, PSE&G (the electrical utility for the State of New Jersey), Bank of Canada, BellSouth Wireless Data (later Cingular Wireless). By 2013 I retired from the corporate world and returned to St. Louis.
I recently retired from my latest assignment where I served as Senior Advisor at the Olin Business School at Washington University. My course was the Small Business Initiative (SBI)  within the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL), an organization dedicated to supporting the general business climate in St. Louis with special emphasis on entrepreneurial ventures. Prior to that, I spent 18 months at the Olin Business School at Washington University as an adjunct Instructor and Program Director for The Metrics Clinic (Financial Metrics for Startups). The Metrics Clinic is part of the university’s Center for Experiential Learning, again, supporting the growth of small businesses in the St. Louis area.

I have been an active member of the Harvard Club of St. Louis for the past seven years. During that time, I have been heavily involved in two major issues:

First, EEG (Educational Equities Group) a committee that attempts to address the glaring disparities in educational opportunities here in the St. Louis school systems. Second, the All-Ivy League Group of St. Louis … a group of St. Louis clubs that represent alumni/ae from all eight of the schools that make up the Ivy League.