by Walter Fox
John Francis Collins, 75, formerly of Mt. Airy, a landscape architect and urban planner who founded the landscape architecture program at Temple University’s Ambler Campus, died from complications of Parkinson’s disease Aug. 5 at his home in Glenside.
Mr. Collins had been a principal in The Delta Group, a regional landscape architecture, planning and engineering firm, until his retirement in 2004. He had won many awards in his 40-year career and had directed a host of major design projects in the Delaware Valley and beyond.
Among his local projects were the Rittenhouse Square Master Plan, Schuylkill River Park, the Philadelphia-Valley Forge Trail, Market Street East and Chestnut Street Park. He was also involved in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Visual Engineering Program and the Conceptual Design/Master Plan for Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Mr. Collins co-founded the firm of Adleman, Collins & DuTot in Philadelphia in 1963. The firm later became Collins DuTot & Associates, and in 1971 joined with others to form The Delta Group.
He joined the Temple faculty in 1988 as the first chair of the new department of landscape architecture and horticulture. Under his leadership, the department obtained accreditation for its programs and won many prizes at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
He had also taught at the School of Architecture and Planning in New Delhi, India, and had served as a lecturer, professor and visiting studio critic for landscape architecture programs at many American universities. He developed programs to train prison inmates to be nurserymen and established community and teaching gardens in Philadelphia for public school children
Mr. Collins was born in Norristown and raised in Conshohocken, where he became interested in horticulture as a teenager and started a commercial nursery in his parents’ backyard. When he retired from Temple in 1998, he returned to his lifelong passion for horticulture, operating the Collins Nursery from his home in Glenside until his death. He and his wife, the former Sandra Snowdon, had previously lived in Mt. Airy for 34 years.
He received a bachelor of landscape architecture degree from the Pennsylvania State University and a master’s in landscape architecture from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Harvard also awarded him the Charles Eliot Traveling Fellowship, which resulted in an extended tour of Italy with his family.
In addition to his wife of 52 years, Mr. Collins is survived by a daughter, Kathleen Collins Hoffman, of Denver, Colo.; sons John R., of Philadelphia, and Christopher and Matthew, of Glenside; sisters Elizabeth Knighton, of Philadelphia, Margaret Kennedy, of Glenridge, N.J., and Alice Wager, of Havertown; brothers Peter M., of Limerick, Francis R., of Lansdale, and Joseph F., of Conshohocken, and three grandchildren. A brother, William F., preceded him in death.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 154 E. Mt. Airy Ave., in Mt. Airy.
Memorial donations may be made to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, Gift Processing Center, P.O. Box 5018, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5018.