ANDOVER — Richard “Dick” Collins — a champion of Andover High sports and education for more than five decades — is being remembered today as a tough, but caring man who dedicated himself to his community.
The athletics legend, teacher and longtime School Committee member died Wednesday night after a period of poor health. He was 82.
Best known throughout the region for his legacy as an Andover football and track coach, Collins first came to Andover High School in 1959 for a coaching job paired with a classroom assignment teaching history.
After 28 years in the classroom, he retired from teaching in 1987, but continued in various coaching capacities until the last year or so as his health began to decline.
Collins also followed his teaching career by serving five consecutive terms on the School Committee, starting in 1998 until last spring when he opted not to seek re-election.
Those who knew Collins said his passing represents the departure of an icon.
“The fact that he is not with us anymore is kind of, in my mind, like turning a page in the experience of all those people who were affected by him,” said Andover native Jerry Stabile, a former selectman who played football under Collins.
Andover High track coach Peter Comeau, hired to replace Collins in 1996, said his predecessor’s coaching style was molded in his youth after serving with the U.S. Marines.
That was most painfully obvious in his choice consequence for athletes in need of discipline — running sets up and down the large hill in front of Andover High, according to Comeau.
“He would always reference back to the Marines, running hills,” Comeau said. “He was very stern and very strict ... but it worked, because as much as you wanted to be frustrated with him, you loved him.”
But that wasn’t to say athletics were Collins’ main drive in Andover.