They say you only get what you give. Looking at what Greg Collins has given, it would seem he’s owed quite a bit.
He gave, as a steadfast supporter of FTA, a methodical and measured approach to its governing boards, and laid the groundwork for consistency and repeatability in its operations. He gave, as a capital “F” Flexographer, a love for the process while maintaining an insatiable curiosity for its nittiest and grittiest details. He gave, as an industry proponent, any knowledge he had acquired, to anyone who wanted to learn.
And in return, what did he get?
“Greg would say he got more out of it than anyone else, that he did all these things because he felt he got something meaningful out of each interaction,” explains his colleague and close friend Mark Mazur. “People who volunteer—whether it’s at a place like the Red Cross, or a shelter, or in some other capacity—they’ll tell you, you get more out of it than you give. That’s how Greg feels.”
Now, it’s time to give something back. In recognition for all he has done—for all he has given—Greg Collins is the 58th inductee into the FTA Hall of Fame.
Giving, getting more in return—That is Greg’s personality, according to his wife, Debbi. “If you ask him to help, for him, it’s not about getting something from it,” she says of her husband of 34 years. “He would do anything for anybody.”
The two have known each other since they were 12, and attended middle school and high school together in West Hartford, CT. In college, they went their separate ways. At The University of Connecticut, Greg earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, followed two years later in 1982 with a master’s from University of Delaware.
After college, he and Debbi reconnected while hanging out with mutual friends one Thanksgiving night, and a few years later, on Dec. 28, 1985, they were married. In 1989 they had their daughter Elizabeth and four years after that, their other child, Lauren, was born.
“They are such a good team,” Lauren says of her parents. “My dad is so loving to my mom, I can’t remember ever seeing them argue or yell at each other. They want to do everything together, and that’s something my sister and I looked up to.”
In 1991, Greg and Debbi moved from California to Lancaster, PA, a 40-minute drive from his job at C-P Flexible Packaging in York. It was there they raised Elizabeth and Lauren, who both saw Greg’s engineering background mix with his intense attention to detail and fatherly devotion. The results?
- As children: Constructing a playhouse with sliding doors and windows, working lights and fan, and custom-sized chairs; a three-story fort and swingset; and sand castles that would earn OSHA’s approval
- As teenagers: Attending and photographing every one of Lauren’s tennis matches, and making slideshows so good the team asked him to continue after she graduated; building a spreadsheet for Debbi when she volunteered to handle the food at Elizabeth’s prom; putting together emergency kits of roadside essentials for both daughters when they got their first cars
- As adults: Making the arbor for Elizabeth’s wedding with his then-soon-to-be son-in-law; teaching Lauren’s fiancé (a chef) how to cook a Thai dish called phanaeng; building a wine cellar in his basement, complete with a binder detailing the vintage, rating and price of each (“We would go and take the $10 bottles, and leave the $98 bottles,” Lauren clarifies)
And then, there are the itineraries. “People need to pay him!” Lauren says emphatically. For their family vacations—to cities and states in the Northeast, including an annual week-long stay in the beach town of Avalon, NJ—Greg prepared detailed to-dos of the must-see sights and can’t-miss restaurants. “Now, anytime someone goes anywhere on vacation, they ask him for restaurant recommendations or places to visit,” Debbi adds.
Despite an increasingly demanding schedule at work, Greg did not miss a single tennis match or take business calls while on family vacations. “I always joke that we had a Leave It to Beaver family—dad home for dinner, talked about his day, helped with homework,” Elizabeth says.
Photos courtesy of the Collins family
To take a break from his fatherly duties, Greg would retire to his basement “oasis.” There’s a comprehensive collection of woodworking equipment and tools, and a gem tumbler from when he and Lauren would go rock hunting. Perched on a shelf above his desk and computer sits a Mr. Incredible action figure, from The Incredibles. It was also the site of his preparation for anything FTA related: poring over reports and preparing notes ahead of quarterly board meetings, rehearsing presentations and staying immersed in the Association’s goings-on. “Living at home, I’d always see him go into the basement and practice, and get his things organized,” Lauren remembers. “He took FTA very seriously.”
Asked for an anecdote that captures Greg as a father, Debbi, Elizabeth and Lauren—in separate conversations—immediately jump to the same story. Two days before the start of her freshman year at Virginia Tech, Elizabeth’s laptop completely stopped working. She remembers calling her father from campus “freaking out.” A six-hour drive later, Greg was performing in-person tech support. He spent, over those two days, eight hours fixing the laptop, at which point he got back in his car and drove 364 miles home to Lancaster.
In moments like those, unfortunate and innocent, Elizabeth says her father was a hero. In others, inevitable and filled with culpability, he was a teacher.
“My sister and I came out pretty good—we got good grades, we socialized—but there were times that we did things that he got mad about,” she acknowledges. “But he was always so reasonable and he would talk things through clearly. He was angry, but was clear-minded, so I understood what I did wrong. He approached it in a way where you could learn something.”