John C. (Marse) Collier, Cumberland Presbyterian minister and college president, was born on May 18, 1834, in the Kershaw District of South Carolina to Benjamin and Sarah Collier. Shortly after his birth the family moved to southern Pickins County, Alabama. As he grew older, to fulfill his decision to become a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, Collier enrolled in classes at Cumberland College in Tennessee. By 1855 he was ordained, and within a short time he moved to Texas to begin his ministry in McLennan and Bosque counties. He became a member of McLennan County Masonic Lodge. By the end of 1854 he had started his teaching career at Bosque Academy, and around 1856 he become associated with the Waco Female Seminary. When these schools consolidated to form Bosque College and Seminary, Collier became president of the school. On August 26, 1858, he married Mary Ellen (Mollie) Fowler. In 1860 Collier, given the nickname "Marse" by his students, sold Bosque Male College to the trustees on the condition that Sunday services would continue to be held at the college. By 1861 Bosque College had an enrollment of more than 400 students; Collier taught classes and was president. The Civil War, however, brought a gradual end to the college. A company of 100 was organized from among the male students in 1861, and in 1863 Collier resigned to become a scout in Ross's Brigade. Though not a chaplain, he preached to his fellow soldiers. During this period his wife taught a community school.
After the war, in September 1866, Collier opened Oakland College; in November of that year the school received its charter. Inadequate boarding facilities, however, forced him to move the college to Alvarado, where he opened Alvarado College by January 1868. During 1868 Collier served as pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian churches in Alvarado and Mansfield. He was offered classroom and boarding facilities for his college, as well as a house for his family, on condition that the college move from Alvarado to Mansfield. The offer was accepted, and the move was begun in 1869. On July 9, 1870, Collier was one of thirteen Masons who organized Mansfield Lodge No. 331, and he was elected to serve as the first senior warden of the lodge. In 1871 Mansfield Male and Female College was chartered with Collier as president. During the first years of the college he also served as the first pastor of a Cumberland Presbyterian church in Fort Worth. In 1873 he began his first term (1873–75) as worshipful master of the Mansfield Masonic lodge, and in 1875 he dedicated the cornerstones of both the Mansfield lodge building and the new classroom facility for Mansfield Male and Female College. In 1879 he became the first superintendent of public schools and the first principal of a public secondary school in Fort Worth, but his college presidency and his performance of ministerial duties resulted in his dismissal by the end of his first year. In 1883–84 Collier again served as worshipful master of the Mansfield lodge. Around this time his oldest daughter, Allie Speer, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, became a teacher in Mansfield Male and Female College. Collier closed the college in 1887 and bought Marvin College in Waxahachie.
In September 1887 he reopened Marvin College as Waxahachie College, with his daughter Allie Speer in charge of the female department. The school was not successful and in 1889 was sold at public auction. Collier then moved to Dallas, where he pastored a church and also attempted to open a school for girls in Oak Cliff, but this venture ended in failure. He and his family then moved to Walnut Springs, where Collier taught for the next few years. In 1896 he became the president of Buffalo Gap College, which, in 1897, achieved its peak enrollment of 318 students, with twenty-two applying for degrees. On August 18, 1898, he agreed to organize and become the president of Baird College in Baird. Though this college failed within a few years, Collier stayed in Baird, where he had purchased a home. With the merger of the United States (Northern) Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1906, he became a member of the Abilene Presbytery of the United States Presbyterian Church. In 1909 his wife died. In 1914 a banquet was held in Waco to honor Collier, and he was presented with a purse containing eighty gold dollars to commemorate his eightieth birthday. In 1917 a banquet was held by former students in Dallas, and Collier received eighty-three gold dollars for his eighty-third birthday as a love offering from those who attended the banquet. On February 29, 1928, Collier died in Baird; he was buried in Dallas. See also PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.