Legislation creating a scholarship to honor 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III was heard and approved by a Maryland Senate committee Wednesday.
The black 24-year-old Bowie State University student was killed last May, days before his graduation, at a bus stop on the College Park campus. His killing has sparked discussions of race and the campus environment for black students at the state’s flagship public university.
“This bill is really a first attempt to turn a negative situation into a positive situation,” Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, D-Prince George’s, the sponsor of the bill, told the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. “The thought was that we lost Lt. Collins and how do we memorialize him properly to ensure that there are future Lt. Collins that can lead our military as officers.”
The Richard W. Collins III Leadership With Honor Scholarship will provide $1 million annually to minority students at Maryland historically black colleges and universities who are members of the ROTC program. A quarter of the money each year will be designated for students at Bowie State University, and the other 75 percent will be split among Maryland’s remaining black colleges.
The money would be distributed by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Peters, a veteran of the Gulf War, represents the district where Bowie State is located. Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, D-Prince George’s and Calvert, represents Collins’ home district and is also a primary sponsor of the bill.
Lt. Col. Joel Thomas, leader of the ROTC program at Bowie State, said the scholarship would serve Collins’ legacy.
“Richard represented everything good about Bowie State University, the state of Maryland, our nation’s youth and those who choose to serve something greater than themselves,” he said. “His legacy is one of character, one of service, and now, creating opportunities for others like him.”
Collins was killed in the early hours of May 20 last year. Sean Urbanski, a white University of Maryland student, has been indicted on murder and hate crime charges for Collins’ death.
The murder was the highest profile of several racial incidents on the College Park campus over the past couple of years, including a noose found in a fraternity house and swastikas painted on trash cans.
Since Collins’ death, the University of Maryland has undertaken a number of diversity initiatives, including the creation of a Center of Diversity and Inclusion and the appointment of Roger Worthington as the university’s chief diversity officer, a position elevated to a cabinet level.
The university also awarded Collins a posthumous honorary degree at last winter’s commencement ceremonies.