By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — When asked how he felt as his time in Andover’s school system drew to a close, long-time teacher Dick Collins simply said, “I wish it wasn’t.”
81-year-old Richard “Dick” Collins — a teacher, coach and School Committee member for 54 years — took part in his final School Committee meeting Thursday.
On Tuesday, Andover residents will vote for two School Committee members, one of them taking Collins’ soon to be vacated seat. After serving for five straight terms, Collins didn’t run for re-election this year.
The meeting Thursday started with a half-hour reception outside of the meeting room, where Collins said he’d “love to keep serving, but I don’t want to go through another election.”
“I don’t like the election part, standing out on the street with a sign,” he said, laughing.
His time on the committee is hardly what he’s known for in town, however.
A teacher dating back to the ‘50s, Collins taught history and coached the high school’s track and football teams, which included titanic winning streaks for both teams and two straight state Superbowl wins for the football team in 1974 and 1975.
Former selectman Jerry Stabile recalled playing under Collins’ championship football teams, saying what he experienced felt much like scenes out of “Remember the Titans.”
“When we got to football games during a regular season game, we’d have a caravan of cars, we’d have two buses ... We’d pull in and have more people coming to the games than the home team,” Stabile said. “It really was a rallying point for the town, and it was all centered around his success on the field.”
School Committee member David Birnbach related to Collins in one of the ways he knew him: as a student.
“It doesn’t seem like that long ago, just shows how much time moves forward when we go from one stage to another,” Birnbach said, speaking directly to Collins. “Mr. Collins has really put a really big footprint and stamp on the history in Andover.”
Andover Education Association President Kerry Costello likened life to a marathon, using Collins as an example.
“You only win a marathon by dogged perseverance, by pacing yourself, by keeping your eye on your own personal goal,” she said. “Thinking that way, Dick, you were a distance runner, a marathoner.”
After Tuesday’s election, where Andover voters will elect Collins’ replacement in a field house named after him, Collins said he will still be around — albeit in the stands instead of on the field.
“I’m looking forward to coming to meetings and watching from the outside,” he said. “I still intend to keep working with the high school football team and the high school track team. I go to all the practices, all the games and meets, and I do the same for Phillips Academy in the fall. I intend to keep that all up.”