Richard J. Collins Memorial Scholarship
Recognition for Kids that Deserve It
“It was the first day of eighth grade. I was scared. I walked down the dark halls of Calvin Coolidge Junior High School past clanging lockers and kids with crew cuts and bobby socks. And then I turned into the room at the end of that long dark scary hall. The room was full of light. And he was standing there, welcoming us in…” recalled Dr. Ann Boaden, a former student of Richard “Dick” J. Collins.
This memory of Dick, which was recounted at his funeral, is a memory shared by thousands of his students.
Dick served as an English teacher and a coach for the football and track teams in the Moline School District for more than 30 years. His wife Susan was also an educator and taught social studies at Moline High School for 8 years.
When Dick became ill with pancreatic cancer, Sue knew that the most fitting tribute to her husband would be to establish a scholarship in his name for Moline High School students. Dick passed away in January of 1992 and the first Richard J. Collins Memorial Scholarship was awarded that year. The scholarship was designed to honor well-rounded students, not just the ones at the top of the class. “The kids in the ‘middle’ sometimes don’t get recognized, and I feel they can benefit from some recognition,” explained Sue.
A Passion For Teaching and Writing
Dick’s brother, David R. Collins, a widely published children’s book author and founder of the Midwest Writing Center in Davenport, felt that the application for the scholarship needed an essay component requiring students to write on one of three topics: “Looking Back at My Life”, “Looking at My Life Today” or “Looking Ahead at My Life.”
An essay was certainly appropriate, as Dick was an illustrious writer. For years after Dick’s graduation from Augustana College, one of his English Professors, the late Dr. Dorothy J. Parkander, dazzled her students with stories of Dick’s “legendary achievement.” During the final exam in Parkander’s Renaissance Drama course, Dick completed the two-hour essay exam written entirely in rhymed iambic pentameter couplets.
Dick was also the first English major to receive an A+ from the then-head of the English Department, Dr. Henriette Naeseth.
Additionally, every year, Dick would write Christmas poems and send them to family and friends. In 2008 his Christmas poems were published by the Midwest Writing Center in the collection entitled, “Greater Joy, Shorter Sorrow, Thankful Prayer”. Dick and Sue’s son Ryan wrote the Foreword for the collection.
Dr. Parkander also served as a eulogist at his funeral and addressed the combination that made Dick an excellent teacher and mentor. “Intelligence and wit are not always, are not often, accompanied by humility and caring. In Dick, they were.” Parkander recalled that the English Department at Augustana tried to seduce him away from the public school system on three occasions. “But Dick steadily refused. He loved his work in the junior high, work he did so superbly. ‘I’m at home here,’ he said,” remarked Dr. Parkander during the eulogy.
A Coach for Life
Sue hopes that Dick is remembered as a kind, compassionate and empathic person. One scholarship recipient confirmed that these were undoubtedly qualities that he saw in Dick, “Mr. Collins was more than a teacher. He was a legend, known not only for this ability to teach but to work with and understand students…From his first words [in class], I sensed a warmth and personal concern for us.”
Another recipient of the scholarship award wrote in his essay that, “Coach Collins was more than a football coach. He was a coach for life.”
In addition to teaching English courses for honor students, Dick also taught remedial English. Sue commented that one of Dick’s former students told her that “we [students in the remedial course] were misfits, but he made us feel like geniuses.”
Dick continues to help students achieve academic success and make them feel “like geniuses” through the Richard J. Collins Memorial Scholarship. Sue plans to continue to carry out her and her husband’s legacy of compassion through a planned gift that will benefit three funds at the Community Foundation: Dick’s scholarship fund, the Midwest Writing Center Endowment and the Midwest Writing Center Endowment for Youth Writing Programs. She knows this gift will significantly increase the amount of the scholarship that can be awarded each year and that her legacy gift will also help to provide for an increased annual disbursement to the Midwest Writing Center for its operations and its youth programming. Sue wants to be remembered as a honest and caring person, a person who made people more important than things – someone who made the lives of others better along the way. She certainly has. And through her legacy gift, will continue to do so.