Carnegie Mellon University

Alumnus Frank Collins with his artwork

Changing Lives Through Arts Education

Alumnus Francis Collins supports the power of art to unleash curiosity and creativity and transform lives.

Francis Collins (A 1967) gained more than an education at Carnegie Mellon. He also found his life’s passion and direction in the arts. To help other students do the same, he has established the Francis and Erin Collins Miller Institute of Contemporary Art Fund with a $100,000 gift, helping to bring contemporary art and ideas to audiences throughout the university and the Pittsburgh region. 

“I wanted to help because I had a very good time at Carnegie Mellon. I learned a lot, and I grew up a lot,” Collins says. “I was a wild boy, and I became a relatively reasonable young man when I left.”

Collins integrated his fine arts training with entrepreneurship after he graduated to become an award-winning builder and developer through his San Francisco-based construction company, Dream Builders.

“The art and the creativity that I learned had a giant effect on my work. I was able to make spaces more interesting and pleasant, and I was fortunate to be very successful,” he explains.

The Francis and Erin Collins Miller ICA Fund will provide resources for transformative art experiences to inspire students’ imaginations and encourage the public’s deeper understanding of contemporary life. Specifically, the fund will support a youth programming initiative for arts education for minority and underrepresented student populations in Pittsburgh area schools. Collins’ generosity will also fund free community programming and curated exhibitions of works created by locally, nationally and internationally recognized artists. Already, the fund has allowed the Miller ICA to pilot two free public programs which attracted 200 people. 

Collins says: “I want young people to learn everything they can. I trust Elizabeth Chodos [director of the Miller ICA], and I know she and those she works with will make the learning experience better.”

Semi-retired from Dream Builders, Collins devotes all of his free time to creating art, some of which is on display as the inaugural installation in the art series Emergence. A collaboration between the Accelerate Leadership Center, Tepper School of Business and Miller ICAEmergence will feature a rotating series of art exhibitions in the MBA Commons area of the Tepper Building that will help students learn leadership skills like cultural literacy, empathy, critical thinking and reflection by engaging with art in their daily environment. 

“We’re supposed to give back to other generations,” Collins says. “I’ve given this gift because I believe in a civil society, and we need to pitch in and help.”