Upper Iowa University (UIU) will host author Jan (Bennington) Van Buren at Fayette Campus Monday, September 20. As part of her visit, Van Buren will present a copy of her recently completed book, “Susan Angeline Collins: With a Hallelujah Heart” to UIU and President William R. Duffy II at 1 p.m. at Alexander Dickman Hall. Van Buren will also provide a community conversation at 2 p.m. Tuesday, September 21, at the Fayette Community Library.
“I felt it important to tell Collins’ story because her life demonstrates what courage, perseverance, faith, grace, gumption, and grit can accomplish in enhancing the lives of others and creating hope for those who are downtrodden,” Van Buren said. “Simply, I wanted to share what I found to be Susan’s amazing life.”
Enrolling as the first black student at UIU, Collins became an entrepreneur in the Dakota Territory. She became one of two African Americans attending the Chicago Training School for City, Home and Foreign Missions, and served as the first African American female to serve at a Methodist Episcopal Church mission in Angola. She later fought for educational opportunities for African girls and opened a school in north central Angola enabling some of them to find employment as teachers.
“I love to return to Fayette at every opportunity that presents itself because I experience a sense of joy and exhilaration, and also pride that my family has deep roots there,” Van Buren said. “This is the community where my life started and where Susan Angeline Collins was nurtured in such a way that she was able to fulfill her aspiration of becoming missionary. When I return and stroll across the beautiful UIU Campus, I try to imagine what it was like for Susan when she enrolled as a student in 1876.”
Van Buren grew up in rural northeast Iowa. She has a doctorate from Iowa State University, was a tenured professor at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and lives in West Lafayette, Indiana.