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An Enduring Legacy

An Enduring Legacy

Do Your Own Thing

Alumnus forged uncommon path: left largest gift in history of Texas Tech Law

In 1972, a poster hanging in the student publications office of Robert Don "Bob" Collier '73 featured an expression in a foreign tongue that seemed to guide his life. Then editor-in-chief of the Texas Tech Law Review, he translated the poster for peers and others who inquired.

It means, "Do your own thing," a tall, trim Bob sporting shoulder-length hair would tell visitors, as fellow classmate and alumnus Tom Duren '72 recalls, adding, "That was Bob. He did his own thing and was a remarkable student and remarkable person."

Bob's intellectual life as a student at Texas Tech University School of Law contrasted with the laborious work he did growing up in Friona, a small farming community in the Texas Panhandle, where young men typically pursued careers in agribusiness. No one in his family had been to college, much less law school. In fact, when he applied to law school, he had never even met a lawyer.

But Bob blazed boldly forward. He worked hard and was number one in his graduating class, Order of the Coif, and editor-in-chief of the Law Review.

Inspired by his tax courses with professors David Cummins and Reed Quilliam, Bob went on to earn his LL.M. in New York University School of Law's renowned tax law program. While at NYU, he served as the graduate editor of the NYU Tax Law Review.

Bob spent most of his practice years in Dallas and became one of the most successful federal tax law and litigation attorneys in the country. He co-founded the elite tax law firm in Dallas known today as Meadows, Collier, Reed, Cousins, Crouch & Ungerman, L.L.P.

Though Bob routinely rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful, he conveyed a spirit and style uniquely his own.

"Bob was a brilliant tax lawyer but came across as a really humble, down-to-earth, regular guy," says Jack Wade Nowlin, dean of the Law School. "I think everybody appreciated that about him. He was such a good and genuine person, and so dedicated to the Law School."

Bob's professional credits were numerous. He was named to Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Litigation and Controversy and Tax Law from 2016-2020 and was named the "Lawyer of the Year" in Tax for Dallas in 2014. Bob was also named to the Texas Super Lawyers list from 2003-2020 in the area of Tax Practice.

Using his expertise in federal tax law and litigation, Bob represented Texas Tech University in the highly unusual situation of the University being an intervenor in the federal case of Estate of Proctor. The U.S. Tax Court decision in the case established that the University was the owner of a 60,000-acre Texas Panhandle ranch under a contested charitable devise. The eventual sale of the property and subsequent matching funds established a trust that provided funding for eight of the University's colleges, including the Law School.

He was Board Certified in Tax Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and was a member of the tax sections of the American Bar Association, State Bar of Texas and Dallas Bar Associations. He served as the Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Tax Section in 1996. He was also a member of the Fifth Circuit Bar Association, a Life Fellow of the American and Texas Bar Foundations and a Founding Life Fellow of the Dallas Bar Foundation.

In recognition of his outstanding career, Bob was named a 2014 Texas Tech University School of Law Distinguished Alumnus. He gave generously of his time in serving on the Texas Tech Law School Foundation Board, where he was respected as a leader by his fellow alumni. Bob also donated considerable sums of money to endow scholarships, including: one for active members of the Law Review; one for graduates of Texas Panhandle high schools; and another created in his name by his law firm for students interested in estate planning and tax law, other areas of business law, and white-collar criminal law.

This past spring, Bob died unexpectedly at the age of 73, leaving Texas Tech Law a multi-million-dollar gift that is the largest it has ever received.

"Bob's gift speaks volumes about his belief in the Law School and our students and will be crucial to ensuring the Law School's future success," says Dean Nowlin. "Endowments are a kind of promise ― a promise to future generations that Texas Tech Law will have the resources to continue its mission to educate our students far into the future. As one of the youngest law schools in Texas, we have to work harder to build on that promise and move the school forward. Bob's faith in us will take us much farther down that path."

Bob credited the Law School for his professional success and rise in prominence.

"It totally changed almost every aspect of my life," he said in a video interview not long before his death.

"Bob was a true visionary. He was a leader on the Texas Tech Law School Foundation Board, and he always spoke passionately about the importance of growing the Law School's scholarship endowment," says Lisa Green, chief operating officer of the Texas Tech Law School Foundation. "He was also a man of action. He knew that including the Law School in his estate meant he could have an impact on the lives of our students for years to come. With his gift of over $10 million dollars, Bob made an enormous difference for the future of this Law School and generations of Texas Tech law students."

FROM THE PANHANDLE PLAINS TO THE LIBRARIES OF LAW

Born in 1947 in Clovis, New Mexico, Bob moved as a young child with his family to Friona, where he started and finished school. His mother worked as a homemaker, and his father was a cook in the U.S. Navy before becoming a farmer, according to Brian Scott, a close friend of Bob's and brother of Bob's longtime girlfriend.

As a teenager, Bob worked on the family's cotton farm near Friona and at one of the mills in town, according to Chuck Meadows, who co-founded Bob's firm.

The first in his family to attend college, Bob earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences from Texas Tech University in 1969. He might have continued in that direction if not for a professor who encouraged him to go to law school, Brian says.

In the interim between college and law school, Bob did highway construction work for a year, which influenced his career decision, Tom Duren learned in law school. "He told me he figured out pretty quickly there was something bigger for him to do."

Bob seemed to understand that his strong drive and independent spirit would thrive best if self-governed. As he explained in recent years, "The Law School is really special to me because, when I decided to attend law school, I was looking for something I could do other than work for someone."

Tom Duren and Bob entered law school in the fall of 1970 and got better acquainted in subsequent years as part of the Law Review editorial staff.

"We had a lot of small-town roots in common, and we got along real well because of that. Of course, Bob, he was kind of a do-your-own-thing kind of guy. He had kind of long hair, and that was back when long hair may not have been quite as popular as it is today."

Bob was well liked by peers and had a reputation for being studious and brilliant.

"Bob was the smartest person I ever knew, quite frankly," Tom Duren says. "… I can certainly see how he became a very successful tax lawyer. His study habits and brilliant mind ― they were just out of this world."

THE 37TH FLOOR

Instead of long days in the West Texas sun, Bob ascended each day up an elevator to the 37th floor of a downtown Dallas building, where he presided over a renowned tax law firm.

"Bob was a West Texas kid who got an opportunity to get off the farm to get an education, and it took him to the tallest buildings in Dallas in terms of doing high-level tax work, and that's a long journey," says Tom Hall '81, president of the Texas Tech Law Foundation Board.

Bob never took for granted the privilege of being a lawyer. He approached each case with tenacity and great care, resulting in his becoming a widely respected and admired specialist in federal tax law, litigation, and estate planning.

Bob and his law partner, Chuck, met in 1975 just a couple of years out of law school when working at a law firm in Dallas called Durant Mankoff. Chuck remembers Bob being quiet and reserved at the time but friendly and open with those he knew. They became friends and decided in their 30s, along with a few other attorneys there, to pass up offers from large Dallas firms and instead break off in 1983 to form their own firm, Davis, Meadows, Owens, Collier and Reed.

Chuck knew Bob was an honest, hardworking man who would make a great business partner: "He was very bright and paid close attention to details. He had genuinely good judgment. He was very careful in what he did and had high ethics. That's what gave me confidence."

Bob did not like to speculate about answers or assume anything "and didn't like for others to assume anything either," Chuck says.

People close to Bob describe him as organized, cautious, frugal, and politically conservative.

"Collier was a guy who was very careful with his financial affairs," Chuck says.

Though not usually a risk-taker, Bob courageously took the plunge of starting a new firm because he did not want to work for someone else, Chuck says.

Their investment proved fruitful.

"We ended up the next year making more money than we had ever made practicing law," Chuck says.

Because he was well respected, Bob served as the firm's managing partner from the beginning until he went into semi-retirement some 32 years later, Chuck says.

Alan Davis '88, who later became a partner at the firm, remembers being a young lawyer in awe of the firm's founders when he came to work there in 1990, and viewing Bob as "larger than life."

"Bob was an amazing attorney. His knowledge of tax law and his ability to represent clients was unparalleled. He was really a giant in tax law, tax planning, and tax litigation," Alan says.

During the course of his career, he was the senior briefing attorney on several precedent-setting, landmark cases in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, including United States v. Marshall,Keller v. United States, Kimbell v. United States, and Adams v. United States.

"He basically drafted the briefs that went to the Fifth Circuit that won the cases," Alan says, "so he was a tremendous analyst and writer."

Through work with a real estate client heavily involved in the timeshare industry, he became a major contributor of related legislation in multiple states, including the 2013 Texas Timeshare Owners' Association Act.

People who worked with Bob describe him as a perfectionist and a principled man.

"When he had you working on something, he expected brilliance and perfection," Alan says. "When Bob was on a case with you, you had a lot of hard work to do, but you knew you were going in the right direction."

But Bob was not all work and no play. As managing partner and one who loved the great outdoors, he organized annual retreats in the mountains of New Mexico for the partners.

"He'd take all these city-slicker tax lawyers out to the middle of the mountains to fly fish," Alan says.

Alan believes Bob was purposeful in the planning of those trips: "Getting out in an isolated place where all we really had to do was talk to each other and have dinners cooked by the campfire ― I think that was all very important to the building of camaraderie and closeness and just making sure we were all connecting with each other outside of the office."

A WOMAN NAMED MARY

Perhaps no relationship mattered more to Bob than the one he developed with Mary Scott. Prior to meeting her in 1981, he worked seven days a week and had a limited social life, Chuck says. She changed that.

Bob was about 34, and she 23 when they met at the firm, where she was a legal secretary.

"Mary loved animals, and Bob loved animals, and that was their connection," her brother, Brian, says. "Mary never saw an animal she didn't want to save, and Bob didn't either."

They both dressed well for work, and Bob paid particular attention to his hair, Brian says, recalling, "He always took good care of his hair. I used to tease him about it all the time."

When Bob and Mary began dating, she went to work for another Dallas law firm. Though they never married or had children, they lived together until she died in 2002.

"She was an extrovert and really brought Bob out a lot," Chuck says. "Mary generated their social life."

Of course, Bob's work also enhanced his social confidence. He gradually came out of his shell by working with clients and making public speaking appearances around the state.

"People saw how intelligent he was and how careful he was during those speaking engagements, and it really brought him out a lot," Chuck says.

BACK AT THE RANCH

In addition to Mary, Bob loved buying land and ranching. The hard manual labor of keeping up his ranches on weekends was an outgrowth of Bob's love of the outdoors and contrasted with his intellectual legal work during the week.

Over the course of his life, Bob acquired nearly 3,000 acres near Energy in Comanche County and 460 acres near Beebe, Arkansas, as well as some 600 cattle, mostly Charolais. Bob raised and sold quality registered cattle for people who used them for breeding and building big herds. The cattle business was not profitable for Bob, but he engaged in it for tax deductions that enhanced his investments in land, Brian says.

As an owner of prime deer-hunting land, Bob probably could have made more money leasing it for hunting than by raising cattle on it. But he was an animal lover who did not want hunters damaging his land, so he never let them hunt on his place, Brian says.

Bob also took a different approach than other landowners to caring for cattle. A lot of ranchers took their chances doing their own veterinary work on cattle to save money, whereas Bob paid to take his to a professional veterinarian.

"He didn't care how much it cost; he was going to take care of his animals," Brian says. "And in all the years he ranched — I don't know anybody like this — he never slaughtered one of his own cattle or had a cow sent to slaughter for meat. He just wouldn't do it."

Bob was not a vegetarian, Brian says, adding, "I just think he didn't want to eat his own beef. He was a big-time animal lover and probably couldn't do it."

There was, however, one incident that might have tested his affection for cows.

"Bob told me a story not too long ago about this calf he had to bottle feed because its mother died during the delivery," recalls Cheryl Boehme, a legal assistant who worked with Bob for nearly four decades. "He said that calf would always run up to him after that and pull on his pant leg, etc., more like a pet. Time goes by and he was with his ranch hand taking care of some business when all of a sudden this same cow weighing hundreds of pounds jumped up from behind, put both front legs on his shoulders, throwing him hard to the ground, then, thankfully, leaped over him.

"I was so worried he had been hurt. He said if it hadn't been for the mud and all of the hay on the ground, that cow would have been sent straight to McDonald's!"

A SENSITIVE MAN

Bob was not known for showing much emotion other than occasional frustration. Whatever emotions he felt, "he would handle them inwardly and very carefully," Chuck says.

So when Mary and their dog Buster were tragically killed on the way to the ranch in a head-on collision near Hico, Bob handled it like other things, "mostly inwardly," Chuck says.

That fateful day in March 2002 was one of the most significant of Bob's life, and his drive from the ranch back to Dallas-Fort Worth was one of the hardest journeys Bob ever made, says Chuck, who visited him at his Dallas house that night.

Brian remembers Bob coming to Arkansas for the burial.

"I never saw him get emotional but one time in all the years I knew him, and that was at Mary's graveside memorial service, where he was crying," Brian says.

Bob's love of both Mary and animals shined through in how he took it upon himself to ensure that Buster, too, had a proper burial. Buster was a large, mixed-breed dog who had been dumped at the ranch a year or two earlier.

"Buster was Mary's dog, and Buster didn't like men. Buster would bite you in a second if you got close to Mary," Brian says.

At the site of the crash, a rancher who drove by knew the trooper working the accident and offered to take the dog's body and bury it.

"Bob went and found that rancher a few days later and had him take him to where he buried the dog. Bob dug up the dog and carried it to his and Mary's ranch and buried it," Brian says. "That blew my mind when I heard about that. I think Bob knew that Mary would want Buster buried at the ranch."

A NEW BOB

Mary's death dramatically changed Bob, Brian says. In addition to scrapping his plans to retire and throwing himself back into his work at the firm, he became friendlier and more compassionate.

Before her death, he was all business.

"I used to call, and when he'd answer the phone, I'd say, 'Hey Bob. How's it going?' Instead of responding, Bob would just say, 'Here's Mary.' He never would talk to me on the phone," Brian says.

When Bob came to Arkansas for Mary's memorial service, he stayed with her brother's family at their ranch.

"He really liked the land, and he started calling me every week and would always say, 'If that land ever comes for sale, let me know,'" says Brian, who has been a part-time rancher for years.

In 2015, some land near Brian's ranch finally came up for sale, and Bob bought it. Though Bob remained based in Dallas and continued to maintain his Comanche ranch, he spent an increasing amount of time in Arkansas with Brian's family.

"Bob would come up here for Christmas, and we would go to my in-laws, and there would be 20 to 30 little kids running around. We'd sit in the corner, and he'd just watch and be amazed. One day, he said, 'Doesn't anybody in this family know anything about birth control?'" Brian recalls, bursting into laughter. "There would be all these kids running around, but he enjoyed it. … I think he just enjoyed seeing the circus. I really do."

A few years after Bob bought land in Arkansas, he built his own home there. After that home was completed, he began coming to Arkansas once every month or two.

"During the week, of course, I was at work, but if I was home on weekends, we pretty much were together the whole time," says Brian, who retired last year from his job as captain over investigations for North Little Rock Police Department. "I introduced him to everybody as my brother-in-law. He was my best friend, but he was also family to us."

Bob and Brian would spend a typical day there doing ranch chores, such as fixing fences, working cattle, and whatever else needed to be done that day.

"Every once in a while, he'd want to go drive around the country and look at land for a couple or three hours," Brian says.

Indeed, Bob was always keeping an eye out for land to buy.

"There are a lot of things he taught me, not only about cattle but also about buying land," Brian says.

Likewise, being around Brian, whose life was family-centered, taught Bob some things.

"He enjoyed coming up here and eating family meals. He liked it up here," Brian says.

Bob had not been very fond of children most of his life, which is why he never had any, but over time, Bob's heart softened toward little ones, Brian says.

"Every time Bob would come to visit, he'd ask how the kids were doing, and he would actually hold my grandson, which would have been totally out of character for Bob 20 years before. He became more of a family person," Brian says. "About three months before he died, he mentioned to me that he kind of regretted not having kids."

Brian remembers another occasion involving Bob and children. Over the July 4, 2019, holiday, Bob was in Arkansas with the family as they prepared fireworks for the young ones. Brian and Bob were sitting on the porch watching family members set up the fireworks about 100 feet away when Bob said, "I don't like those fireworks. Hell, they're dangerous."

Brian reassured him they were safe the way his family did them. Famous last words.

"Of all things to happen, the one big rocket thing they bought turned over and shot those fireworks under the porch where Bob and I were by ourselves sitting. And Bob had sparks in his hair and tried to get the fire out of his hair. Bob just looked at me with a go-to-hell look and said, 'I told you those things are dangerous.' I was too busy laughing to tell him I was sorry," Brian recalls, still laughing today.

A LOYAL RED RAIDER

Bob also got a bang out of going to Texas Tech games and being active in the life of Texas Tech Law.

In serving as a Texas Tech Law Foundation board member from 2016 until the time of his death, Bob vice-chaired the development committee, was instrumental in the creation of the new Texas Tech Law Giving Societies and associated interactive digital Donor Honor Wall, and led his class of '73 fundraising effort for the school's 50th anniversary "Go for Gold" campaign.

Along the way, he enjoyed the many opportunities his involvement afforded him to reconnect with old classmates.

"He liked to try to get fellow alumni engaged, reconnected, and inspired," Dean Nowlin says.

Bob made phone calls to just about every member of his class to encourage them to participate in the class competition to endow a scholarship.

"Bob didn't always receive the charitable contributions he wanted, but he really enjoyed reconnecting and reminiscing about the school and being able to share how important it was to him to give back," says Karen Holden, director of development and donor relations.

One such classmate he contacted for fundraising help was Tom Duren, who obliged.

In fall 2018, the two men met in person for the first time since law school when Bob invited him to a fundraising social in Texas Tech Law's football stadium suite.

"He was serious about trying to raise money for the scholarship fund for our class," Tom Duren says.

As vice chair of the development committee, Bob also canvassed other law schools to study how they engaged with alumni and structured their giving societies. He then helped Texas Tech Law create policies and rules relating to its own giving society.

"Bob was an intense guy. He did not do anything halfway. Whatever the subject was, he was going to master it," Tom Hall says.

He remembers chatting with Bob at a Texas Tech Law scholarship gala in recent years and thanking him for all the hard work he did for the school. Bob looked away pensively and said slowly, "Everything I have in my life I owe to Texas Tech School of Law."

Likewise, one of the few times Alan ever saw Bob show emotion was when talking passionately about the opportunities that Texas Tech Law provides to help students get through law school.

"He always talked about how Texas Tech was dear to his heart," Alan says.

Bob had empathy for students needing financial assistance, as revealed in a video interview in which he spoke about letters he received from recipients of his scholarship fund who said they could not have made it through school without his help.

"Some of the letters I get, you almost get tears in your eyes when you read them, so it's extremely rewarding," Bob said.

THE PARADOX OF THE POSTER

Until the day he died, Bob lived a life of purpose doing his "own thing." He could have imitated others, but he chose instead to pursue his own unique path and passions and follow his own internal compass and conscience. Paradoxically, the priority he placed on his inner drive and individualism grew into a selfless outward preoccupation with the needs and dreams of others.

In his final years and passing, Bob honored Texas Tech Law and the students of tomorrow with his gifts of boundless energy and dedication, culminating his life's work with an unwavering commitment to ensure that deserving students could access the kind of quality legal education that had transformed his life.

"Bob has left a living legacy for people who come behind him, and that's thinking about others until you take your last breath. That's pretty profound," Tom Hall says. "That's the way he lived his life."


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