Marva Collins

Death of Marva Collins

August 31, 1936 - June 24, 2015
Chicago, Illinois | Age 78

Innovative Chicago educator has died at 78


Marva Collins, the Chicago education pioneer who won praise for her innovative teaching approach at the West Side school she launched in 1975, died Wednesday of natural causes. She was 78.

Her son Patrick Collins announced the death. He said she had been a patient in hospice care in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Marva Collins started up the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago's impoverished Garfield Park neighborhood. She used the Socratic method of instruction, asking questions and encouraging the students to discuss them at length in a lively but disciplined manner. The school succeeded educationally and commercially. She received the National Humanities Medial in 2004.

Collins also wrote manuals and books detailing her teaching methods.

Cicely Tyson portrayed Collins' life in a 1981 television biopic titled, "The Marva Collins Story," which also starred Morgan Freeman.

The former Chicago Public Schools teacher was born in Monroeville, Alabama, and graduated from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia. The college has since been named Clark Atlanta University.

Collins is also survived by another son, Eric; a sister, Cynthia Sutton; and her mother, Bessie Mae Johnson.

Her husband of 26 years, Clarence, preceded her in death in 1995. She also was preceded in death by her daughter, Cynthia Collins.