Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

March 28, 2013

GOING THE DISTANCE

End zone reached for Collins, Andover football, track legend

In 1959, the school department hired Richard “Dick” Collins to teach history and coach the Punchard High School’s football and track teams. The man who would be named to state coaches halls of fame for both football and track ended his introductory season on the gridiron with a 0-7-2 record.

Forty-seven years later, the field house at Andover High School was named after the man, a legend in the facility’s hallways.

But even then, the town hadn’t heard the last of Collins. He returned to the School Committee for another two terms, the last of which ended this week.

On Tuesday, the seat once held by Collins — who did not seek re-election this year — was taken by Barbara L’Italien, who sought her first term on the committee after serving eight years as a state representative. Paula Colby-Clements, the committee’s current chairwoman, was also re-elected to a three-year post.

When asked how he felt about his time on the board ending last week, Collins simply said, “I wish it wasn’t.”

“I’d love to keep serving, but I don’t want to go through another election,” he said, laughing. “I don’t like the election part, standing out on the street with a sign.”

Collins, now 81, has been a familiar face to Andover academics for 54 years. After serving with the U.S. Marines until 1955, he came to the district from Rhode Island after hearing about an opening for two coaching positions at then-named Punchard High School.

But the school’s initial offer wasn’t the one he wanted.

“They said they’ll look around for a teaching position so I could coach, and I said, ‘no way,’” he said. “‘Make me a teaching offer and a coaching offer.’”

His coaching offer was then paired with teaching history. From there, the offer became “the best move I ever made in my life,” he said.

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