SRU mourns passing of Michelle McCollin, professor and Eyes4Africa founder

Professoer takes a selfi with students

Michelle McCollin, associate professor of special education at Slippery Rock University, takes a selfie with students at Hong Bang International University in Vietnam after a presentation as part of her Fulbright Scholar Program. McCollin passed away Aug. 12 while traveling in Greece. Photo courtesy of Hong Bang International University.

Aug. 13, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - In one of her last public messages, which Michelle McCollin posted to her Facebook page last month, she told friends and family to "be well, be blessed, be safe, be courageous, be brave" and to "live your best life always." McCollin, associate professor of special education at Slippery Rock University, lived her "best life always" as an educator, scholar, humanitarian and philanthropist, but she did so by always bringing out the best in others and helping them live their best lives.

McCollin, 54, passed away Aug. 12 while traveling in Greece. She was on sabbatical from SRU since last spring to complete a Fulbright Scholar Program in Vietnam, sharing self-efficacy strategies for teacher education. Her host institution for the Fulbright program was Hanoi National University in Hanoi, Vietnam, and she served as a keynote for seminars on inclusive education.

While speaking to a group of students last May at Hong Bang International University, McCollin shared a message of self-esteem, saying that "responding to others is a way of showing confidence; confidence comes through your words, your tone, every day."

McCollin was also a person of action. In 2012, she founded a humanitarian organization called Eyes4Africa, which provides vision resources, such as eyeglasses and educational supplies to people in Africa. As of last summer, McCollin had made five trips to Nigeria, donating more than 8,000 prescription eyeglasses with a goal of distributing 20,000 glasses by 2020.

"It's about being an advocate for change in whatever environment you find yourself in," McCollin said in 2016. "Eyes4Africa is my advocacy in an international level for people with vision disabilities or limitations. I teach my students the importance of paying it forward with whatever resources we have access to. It's a powerful lesson in humanity."

McCollin began teaching at SRU in 2004 as an assistant professor before earning promotion to associate professor in 2010. She previously worked as a principal in Brooklyn, New York, for the New York Department of Education. Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, McCollin moved to Brooklyn as a child and attended private school and the Bronx High School of Science, before earning her bachelor's degree in African-American studies and international relations at Syracuse University. She went on to complete two master's degrees in education before earning her doctorate degree from Southern University and A&M College.

A resident of New Castle, McCollin enjoyed traveling. She visited five of the seven continents, but she found a home as a professor at The Rock.

"Working at The Rock is an act of revolution, evolution and transformation," McCollin wrote in 2011 when featured in a "I am The Rock" promotion. "The study of special education is still quite young and as such, we still grapple with definitions, intervention, legislation and litigation. As an advocate and facilitator, I too am in a constant state of evolution, revolution and transformation as it pertains to my content and craft. I love my department and all of our University students because we have a unique opportunity to not only impart varied knowledge bases and skill sets, but more importantly, be transparent in our practice, praxis and paradigm."

McCollin's constant state of evolution, revolution and transformation was her way of living her best life always. But her unique opportunity was teaching and helping others. That's how Michelle McCollin will continue to live on through the lives she's touched.

No details regarding services for McCollin are available at this time. Information will be shared as it is finalized.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu