Alfred B. Rollins Jr.
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Norfolk - Dr. Alfred Brooks Rollins Jr., born May 28, 1921 in Presque Isle, Maine to Clarissa (Jack) and Alfred B. Rollins Sr. died February 20 in Norfolk, Va. at the age of 91. He was a cherished husband to Helen Jones since 1981. He was father of three wonderful children: John D. Rollins of Cheshire, Connecticut, (Debbie), James S. Rollins of
Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Cynthia Van Zandt) and Nancy J. Rowell of Highgate, Vermont (Willard). Grandsons Daniel Rollins (Allison Burr), Andrew Rollins (Lauren) and Scott Rollins (Caitlin) and two granddaughters Hannah Van Zandt Rollins, and Elizabeth Rowell (Andrew Porwitzky) and a great-grandchild, Xavier. His sister, Marjorie Myer (Robert) resides in Florence, Ky. He was pre-deceased by his first wife, Ernestine McMullen in 1972 and his second wife, Faith Kenyon Prior in 1979.
Al grew up in Hartford, Connecticut and graduated with honors from Hartford High. He college career was launched at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., only because his academic accomplishments enabled him to be an early recipient of a scholarship from the Fox Foundation. Upon graduation in 1942, Al enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private and served in the 450th Bomb Group, 720th Bomb Squadron in Manduria, Italy. He left the service as First Lieutenant after 50 successful missions. Our country's first black army pilots flew cover for these missions, and
Al appreciated just how well they did their job. For his valor, Al received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with four clusters.
He returned to Wesleyan after the war and received an M.A. in History, 1946. His thesis was "Civil Liberties in Wartime". On the G.I. Bill, he continued his graduate education at Harvard University and received a PhD in 1948. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Chi Psi.
Al began his lifetime of teaching as an Instructor at New Paltz State Teachers College in 1948, and was a full professor when he left in 1963. During that busy time, he and his first wife, Ernestine, built a home (with their own hands) for themselves and their growing family, and Al wrote several books including the seminal work, Roosevelt and Howe.
In 1963, he moved as a Professor to the State University of New York at Binghamton, and moved his New Paltz house a mile down the road when threatened by eminent domain. He became Chair of the History Department and continued to publish articles, and the book, Woodrow Wilson and the New America. In 1967, he moved to the University of Vermont as a Professor and soon became Dean of Arts and Sciences then Vice President for Academic Affairs.
In 1976 he arrived at Old Dominion University as Professor of History and University President and led the university until 1985. He was proud of expanding graduate programs, fostering integration, and most of all expanding women's sports and starting a "writing exam," which students had to pass to get their diplomas. He left the Presidency in 1985 and returned to teaching history at ODU until he retired in 1991.
Al began writing fiction and had a not uncommon love/hate relationship with the craft. He was pleased being a student again, as he learned the trials and joys of the written word as fiction. He had the greatest of pleasure receiving an Honorable Mention in the Irene Leache Literary Competition in 1996, and being a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
In the 1980s, he was recruited to join a group similar to those women began in the 1960s- A Men's Group. These men shared their thoughts, discussed issues important to them, and then repaired to a restaurant for a meal and more camaraderie. They met every week for 22 years. There, Al died last Wednesday in the good company of friends.
Our family wishes to give thanks to the caring people from Jewish Family Services who helped Al enjoy his life at home this past year: Vincent Bergan, Tanishe Davis, Star Dow, Geneva Elliott, Pam Owens and Gail Peck. Sentara's Hospice team of Terry Coleman and Gwen Richardson also provided their tender care and concern every week.
A Memorial Service is being planned. In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to a
or the ODU Alfred B. Rollins Jr. Scholarship Fund for Minority Students. Online Condolences may be sent to the family at hdoliver.com
Published in The Virginian Pilot on Feb. 24, 2013