Roberta R. Collard, 96, professor emerita of education, died March 19.
Born in Wheelock, Texas, she was raised by her sisters after her mother died of tuberculosis and the later the loss of her father, who traveled and worked across the state of Texas.
It was discovered very, very early, that she had gifts and remarkable intelligence to the extent that by age 15 she had graduated from high school and entered the world of higher education. The world of college and university life was very challenging and the senior librarian at the University of Chicago discovered that Collard, then a reference librarian technician, was acquiring outstanding grades in the most difficult courses.
She was accepted at the University of Chicago and completed her pre-med course work and began her studies in medicine, but due to her limited finances she had to withdraw from her program of study and earned her doctorate in biology and child development.
Collard taught at University of California at Davis, Oregon State University, was part of the Yale University department of human development and studies and finished her academic career in the School of Education, which she joined in 1968, and as an honorary research associate at Smith College. Her research and support for undergraduate and graduate students included studies and presentations around the globe including Russia, Japan and Europe.
Collard was responsible for establishing the Infant Study Center at UMass Amherst and Smith College, where she pursued her research interests in infancy. Over the years, she published a number of articles and worked on a variety of grants, including a collaborative effort with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant.
She retired from the university in 1986.
A tribute to her was featured in the July 2013 issue of the journal Young Children, the publication of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
“One of her greatest qualities has been her philanthropy which has included different national and international causes as well as her more personal support of numerous students through school, art and music programs, nursing and more,” said alumnus William H. Strader. “She had a wonderful gift of knowing who young children were, what they needed and how to bring out the best in their learning and play.”
She leaves her nieces, Nancy Hilliard, Roberta Jean Collard, Ann Collard Burke, Rosemary Eve and Roxanne King and her nephews Ben Collard, F.R. Collard and Roy King.
A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday, April 3 at 11 a.m. at the Douglass Funeral Service, 87 North Pleasant St. She will be interred May 22 at the Collard family burial location in Wheelock, Texas.
Memorial donations may be made to UNICEF.