Mr. Collins: An Everlasting Figure at WHS

Drew Gray '23 and Shawn Levine '23

Mr. Collins’ journey at WHS started 46 years ago as a student here. He earned four different varsity letters, one of which was basketball on a team coached by the late Coach LaDuke. After graduating third in his class in 1980, he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he earned an engineering degree. He also played four years of basketball at RPI at the NCAA Division III level.

Following his collegiate tenure, Mr. Collins moved into his work life. He began his working career for Morgan Stanley, an investment bank in New York City for three years. Soon after, he moved to Hartford, Connecticut to work for an insurance company. He shared that he went from a “super high-tech” and “cutting edge company” to one of the most “red tape” or traditional types of organizations there are. In doing this, he realized that the job was a bit too slow for him, so he decided to find a new profession for a third time.

He then became an employee at a manufacturing company in Newton, where he worked for 11 years. When Mr. Collins started there, he worked on computers, and soon worked his way up to management of computers for the corporate office in Newton, and subsequently the entire company. Then, he switched gears and took over the manufacturing plant, and eventually the manufacturing plants for the entire corporation. Unfortunately, at a certain point the company decided to go public and he was asked to lay off two-thirds of the employees he had been working with, so he left the company.

His next venture was for a company based in Redmond, Washington. This northwest-based startup purchased other tech companies and was in need of someone with experience in computers. They foresaw a crash in the stock market, so they went public and made a lot of money for about six months. Mr. Collins worked there for about a year and a half longer, commuting by spending a week in Washington working at the office and a week working remotely from home in Massachusetts. 

Finally, he worked for about a year at a startup that had some good ideas about technology, but simply wasn’t marketable. So, he decided to become a teacher. 

Mr. Collins commented, “Crazy circumstances led to me being hired.” 

These circumstances were that a teacher could no longer teach within a few weeks of school starting. Nonetheless, Mr. Collins was hired and has been a math teacher at WHS for 19 years and counting.

Outside of his work life, Mr. Collins and his wife are heavily involved in foster care. In 2001, they traveled to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. When they came back, they said, “We have so much, and we believe we are good at being parents, so we should do something.” 

So, since 2001 up until now, they have had just over 80 kids stay with them for at least a couple weeks to more than three years. At one point they had four foster siblings in addition to their three biological children. 

At this point in their lives, Mr. and Mrs. Collins focus solely on hotline foster care, meaning the children stay with them for only a night or over the weekend. But, in all their time doing foster care, they have had over 200 kids stay in their home. Mr. Collins attributes both his experiences with these children in need and his overall experiences in life to his direct appreciation of his students at WHS.

In terms of being a teacher, Mr. Collins loves the relationships he has built with students and learning more about their lives outside of the classroom. He also enjoys seeing his students succeed, especially with topics or ideas that they didn’t realize they could do because he believes it is huge in their development.

Lastly, as many students know, Mr. Collins retired last year after 19 years of teaching math at the high school level. However, because WHS was in need of a long term substitute teacher for the math department, Mr. Collins knew he was more than likely going to be back for a little while. 

He explained, “I kind of knew in advance that there was a reasonable likelihood that I would get called in. We got to two weeks before school started and foolishly in my head I’m going, ‘Wow, I think I actually skirted this,’ and then I got a text the next day.” 

When asked if this would be his last year teaching, he said, “I absolutely do, but I’ve said a lot of things like that before.” 

His senior quote in his yearbook said that he wasn’t going to be a teacher, and yet here he is. Needless to say, Mr. Collins has been a lasting figure at Westborough High School, and even if this is his final year here, his influence speaks for itself.