Though each has a distinctly different personality, Denton and Allison Collins and their daughter, Corey Collins, share a striking list of commonalities.
For one, they were all students at Texas Tech University at some point in their lives, and they have all taught accounting at the university's Jerry S. Rawls College of Business. Allison retired recently after serving as an associate professor of practice, Denton continues to serve as a full professor, and Corey began teaching accounting in January as an assistant professor of practice. Most notably, they are all lighthearted, down-to-earth people with a passion for helping students.
"Like a lot of the faculty here at Tech, we really care about our students' success," Corey said. "We care about helping people who learn in different ways and helping them be successful in the program. That's something we've all taken very seriously. We understand that not everybody learns in exactly the same way and not everybody learns at exactly the same pace. But we try to work with our students to help make sure that everybody is able to get through as long as they're willing to work."
Finally, each of the three Collins professors struggled during their own college years to find their footing, enabling them to empathize more with their students today.
"None of us had an easy breezy education," Corey said.
Denton came to Texas Tech in 1970 on a football scholarship, but he lost it due to poor grades and dropped out of school. Allison was put on academic probation at two colleges she attended. And Corey started at Texas Tech in the architecture program but ended up dropping out.
"I struggled during my undergraduate program to get my feet back under me," Corey said, "and I think that each of us having that kind of background helps us relate better to our students."
Around the Country and Back
Denton and Allison met each other when they were 12-year-olds living in Houston. They dated a bit in high school, then went separate ways for college. They had lost touch, but both had difficulties in school and happened to return home to Houston about the same time, which they soon realized after Denton spotted Allison's Firebird on a Houston freeway one day. He pulled up next to her on his motorcycle and waved at her to pull over.
"We both came back home, which was good because we happened to start dating again," Allison said. "If we hadn't both flunked out of school, we would probably not exist as husband and wife, and Corey would not exist either."
They ended up finishing school at the University of Houston and getting married a week after graduating with their bachelor's degrees. Then it was off to Lubbock for graduate school.
"That's where I spent my honeymoon," Allison said, laughing, "... and I was not impressed; let me put it that way."
It was then 1976, and she was beginning in the Master of Science in Accounting Program at Rawls College, known then as the College of Business Administration, and Denton was working on a master's degree in biology.
"The problem was neither one of us was ready for it," Allison said.
Within a year, the couple left Texas Tech and returned again to Houston, where Allison earned her MBA and doctoral degree in accounting and where Corey was born. After moving to Wyoming and later to Colorado, Allison began work as an academic while Denton began and completed his doctorate in accounting. After 12 years in the Rocky Mountains, the three of them returned to Houston, with Allison and Denton joining the faculty at the University of Houston. The family later moved to Tennessee, where Allison and Denton taught accounting at The University of Memphis.
They had been in Memphis for four years when the couple received a phone call from friends back in Texas, including Rawls College Professor of Accounting William Pasewark, encouraging them to apply for positions at Texas Tech.
"When we came back to Lubbock, it was gorgeous," Allison recalled. "When we had interviews, it was beautiful fall weather, and I just loved being here, much more than my first time around, and was really ready for it after being in Colorado and Wyoming and all these other places."
Corey's Plunge into Accounting
Allison was working on her doctoral dissertation during the first three years of her daughter's life, resulting in Corey's early introduction to academics.
"I walked into her room one day, and she was tearing apart a coloring book, and I said, 'What are you doing?' And Corey said, 'I'm working on my dish-er-tation," Allison recalled with a chuckle. "Of course she was, because that's what momma was doing."
Allison chided Corey last year when she was finishing her actual doctoral dissertation at Rawls College: "I asked her, 'Are you working on your dish-er-tation?'"
Indeed, Corey has been reminded many times of the "doctoral work" she did at age 3.
"I had no idea what it was. I just knew my mom played with a lot of papers," Corey joked.
However, her infatuation with her mother's professional activities faded as Corey grew older.
"I had told my parents my entire life I would never be an accountant. I had no desire to go into that field," Corey said. "I rebelled against everything that had anything to do with accounting."
After later giving architecture a try and dropping out of that program, however, she moved with her parents to Memphis, Tennessee, and began thinking more about the merits of accounting.
"I realized that I had two parents teaching at The University of Memphis, and that meant I could get free textbooks and have built-in tutors, so I thought maybe I'd just go with accounting. So I just kind of fell backwards into it," she said. "They didn't pressure me into it or anything. ... But it honestly was not until I got my master's degree that I really fell in love with accounting and realized how perfect it was for me."
She earned both her master's and doctoral degrees in accounting at Rawls College, and she finished the latter this winter.
"The joke is that I'm the first one to get a Texas Tech degree," said Corey, who joined the accounting faculty at Rawls College in January.
Already, some Rawls College students have had the opportunity to learn from all three of the Collins professors. For example, Mallory Langseth is a graduate accounting student in the Master of Science in Accounting Program who studied under Allison and Denton last semester and is now taking an accounting systems course with Corey.
"I feel really lucky that I was able to get to have all of them, especially in such a short amount of time," Langseth said. "Within a matter of a year, I am getting to have three of what I feel are top class professors."
She noted the resemblances and differences between the Collins professors.
"I see a mix of Allison and Denton in Corey, and that is so cool," Langseth said, noting the similarities in their mannerisms.
However, Corey is her own person, Langseth said, noting, "She does have her own style. She's not a carbon copy of either of them. But she really has taken the best characteristics from each of them and morphed into this amazing professor."
Corey said she hears from students all the time how much they have enjoyed learning from her parents.
"I know students love both of them," Corey said, "and if I can grow up to be just half as good as them, then I will have had a very successful career."