Vernon Hills principal, Wauconda school board member dies at 53

A memorial service was held Friday for Robert Collins, principal at Hawthorn Middle School North in Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 and a member of the Wauconda Unit District 118 school board.

Collins, who was elected to his second board term in April, died peacefully Sept. 27 surrounded by loved ones, according to his obituary. He was 53.

Music was central to the Elk Grove Village native's life. He sang in church choirs, weddings and concert venues, and taught music and choir for many years before joining the District 73 administration as associate principal in 2008.

He served as principal at Hawthorn Elementary North from 2010 to 2012, before being named principal at Middle School North. Collins was named Lake County Principal of the Year in 2018.

“His dedication and passion for education touched countless lives within our community,” District 73 posted on Facebook. “As we mourn this loss, we also celebrate the legacy he leaves behind.”

Collins strongly believed that every student should receive a high-quality education in a safe and caring environment, District 118 Superintendent Dave Wilm said in a message to the community.

“The District 118 community has lost a dear friend, a great leader and a passionate educator,” he wrote.

Away from school, Collins was a long-time active member of the Chicago Chamber Choir, bass section leader and president of its board of directors.

Survivors include his wife, Kathy, and two daughters. Donations can be made to the college funds for his daughters, Mary and Kaitlyn, payable to Bright Directions with “Collins College Donations” in the memo to Kathy Collins, P.O. Box 87, Wauconda, 60084. A Go Fund Me page also has been created at

Collins was on leave of absence from District 73 at the time of his death. Jenna Stern is acting principal. A decision on a permanent replacement is pending.

District 118 is accepting applications to fill the vacancy on the school board seat until 4 p.m. Oct. 18. The appointee will serve until a newly elected board is sworn in and seated following the April 1, 2025 election.

Contact Lourdes Chapa, school board president, at or (847) 526-6611, Ext. 9000 for information on the application process.

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