Kirsten Craig with Charles and Patsy CollatKirsten Craig with Charles and Patsy CollatKristen Craig’s almost 30-year friendship with the Collat family can be best described with a meal.

“I love going to eat lunch with Charles Collat,” she said. “I love going to split a sandwich with him.”

Craig joined UAB in 1994 and soon came to what is now known as the UAB Collat School of Business, the first named school in UAB's history.

“Meeting Mr. Collat and working alongside him and learning from him and Dr. Jay Smith, I really can’t imagine my life without that experience,” she said. “Fast forward twenty-something years, it has been one of the greatest joys of my life.”

Craig works as the program manager and student advisor in the Industrial Distribution program, a program that is also named after family patriarch and matriarch, Charles and Patsy Collat. It’s a role that fits with the Collat family approach, she said.

“He expected us to be successful,” Craig said. “He expected the program to be a student-first program and for us to do what is best to prepare students for a career in an industry that offered such vibrant careers. Our job was to help prepare them for an amazing career trajectory and to understand the complexities of the industry and students and how to best connect students with a wonderful career path.

“The entire time that I’ve known him, he’s attributed all of his success to his family and to his associates at Mayer,” she said. “We’ve had this amazing structure, this amazing leadership that has guided us every step of the way.”

Charles Collat has been a force in the Birmingham business world long before his involvement at UAB. He joined Mayer Electric, a company started by Patsy’s father, in 1953 after serving in the Air Force and worked his way up to CEO in 1979. Over the years, Charles and Patsy have endowed chair positions, including the first non-medical academic chair in UAB history. The Collats have also given gifts that have benefitted UAB Athletics and several other departments.

Craig said that support from the Collat family and UAB has put the program and the school on the path to success.

“When he decides something is a priority, and there are many things that are important to him, he gives everything he has to it,” she continues. “He gives all of his personal talents, his energy, his enthusiasm, his commitment. Even greater than the financial support he’s given is all of the other forms of support.”

That support has come from the rest of the family, including Charles and Patsy’s four children, Nancy Goedecke, Caki Mendel, Susie Adams and Charles Collat Jr.

“I really don’t know how I would characterize my respect for the Collat family other than to say there are few individuals in your life who you can rely on so completely and trust so completely without fail,” she said. “And, that’s the Collat family.”

Charles Collat with studentsStudents presenting an award to Charles Collat in honor of the many contributions made to the Industrial Distribution program and its students by the Collat family. One manifestation of that constant dependability is the Collat Scholars Program. The school used funds from a $25 million gift from the family in 2013 to establish the program, which has awarded 91 full four-year scholarships for high-achieving, underrepresented students.

While in the program, the students form a cohort that interacts with the family while doing service-learning projects such as a day of service.

The program takes the Collat family motto of “do good and be better” to give back to the community.

Craig said that the Collats have been a part of her most memorable moments at UAB, even as late as December of 2021.

Seeing Charles complete his $25 million donation was a momentous occasion only to be followed a couple of weeks later by his 90th birthday party,” she said. “That was a full-circle moment that I felt so grateful to witness. I can’t explain the emotion to be able to witness that.”