KANKAKEE — For 43 years, Ira Collins served as the Shapiro Developmental Center director — his office located in the administration building on campus.
It is a fitting tribute on Wednesday that the same building, which housed his office, will be renamed Ira Collins Administration Building.
Collins, who retired in 2016, was the state’s longest-tenured director of the center. Collins was appointed director of Shapiro Developmental Center, formerly the Kankakee State Hospital, in 1974.
“He instilled a sense of pride in doing a good job,” said current director Lynn Gunn. “As director, I always ask myself, ‘What would Ira do?’ Even though you (Ira) are not here every day, you are still here in spirit and our thoughts.”
And Collins had the support of his family — his wife of 62 years, Gay, and their four sons, Rick, Randy, Ron and Roy, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Ron Collins, speaking on behalf of the Collins family, said, “Thank you for this prestigious honor. We want to thank all those who had a part in honoring his career and accomplishments. We also thank the Shapiro staff for their dedication to the residents.
“Shapiro Developmental Center is a special place for my father and our entire family,” Ron said. “He devoted his life ensuring residents were cared for in the best possible way.”
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson also thanked Collins for his years of service to the state and the residents of Shapiro.
“You are an advocate and champion for a whole lot of people,” Hutchinson said. “You served well.”
State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst added, “Your dedication to this community and the state speaks volumes.”
Hutchinson presented Collins with a U.S. flag flown over the state capitol on Illinois’ bicentennial anniversary and a framed copy of the State of Illinois proclamation.
Collins began his career as an entry-level hospital attendant in Nevada, Mo., and expanded his responsibilities to directing all programs and services for individuals who live at three Missouri state schools and hospitals for people with intellectual disabilities.
In addition, he served as director of the Special Olympics for the state of Missouri.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in human relations and psychology and a master’s in special education and administration and holds an Illinois Nursing Home Administrator license.
The Shapiro Developmental Center serves as a residential and training center for people who have an intellectual disability. The Shapiro Center has 32 residential living areas, four on-campus day training sites and off-campus day training sites.