2019 CBS Chicago Video
Leo Honored Bob Sheehy
Sheehy’s philanthropy inspired Leo High School to recognize him with its most prestigious honor. Sheehy, a 1971 Leo graduate, received the Leo Lions Legacy Award for lifetime achievement at Leo’s fourth annual scholarship benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel on December 3.
And, Sheehy was just another golfer on Wednesday, Aug. 7, when the Leo Alumni Association hosted its annual golf outing at Gleneagles Country Club in Lemont. Sheehy’s modesty masks the hard work he puts in behind the scenes at Leo and elsewhere.
A longtime member of the Leo Advisory Board and its current president, Sheehy played a pivotal role in devising and implementing the strategy that enabled Leo to keep going after the Christian Brothers of Ireland severed ties to the school in 1992. He has remained involved with school leadership ever since.
“Bob embodies ‘Facta non Verba,’” said Leo President Dan McGrath. “He has been a great help to me since the day I started working at Leo. Not many people have contributed as much to Leo over the years and in as many ways as Bob has. This award is a fitting acknowledgement of what he has meant to us.”
Sheehy is the fourth recipient of the Leo Lions Legacy Award, following Andy McKenna, Class of ’47, Bill Conlon ’63 and Tom Owens ’54. Alumni from the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are now represented.
A standout receiver for the Lions, Sheehy continued his football career on scholarship at Purdue University, graduating in 1975.
He and his brother, Jim Sheehy, Leo ’77, operate Robert J. Sheehy and Sons Funeral Homes in Burbank and Orland Park.
Sheehy’s philanthropy extends well beyond Leo. A conversation with like-minded friends provided inspiration for a group now known as The Mulliganeers, a non-profit dedicated to raising the trajectory of needy people’s lives throughout the Chicago area, especially when children are involved.
Rather than respond individually to those in the throes of misfortune, The Mulliganeers decided to pool their resources and find strength in numbers until many hands made for light work.
“We each recruited 10 guys and got more,” Sheehy said. “The amazing thing was so many guys knew each other. We knew we were on to something.”
With a mission to provide assistance for those in need, The Mulliganeers have raised $5.7 million and helped 392 families out of hardship since 1995.
“The Mulliganeers exemplify all of the great qualities that are Bob Sheehy,” said Ed Kearney, a 1973 Leo graduate and Mulliganeers board member. “In turn, Bob exemplifies all that is great and generous in the mission of The Mulliganeers.
“Where ever Bob Sheehy bring his talents, he does a masterful job of utilizing everyone’s talents and bringing people along and into the fold who can contribute to the mission.”
The First Day of School
All summer long, anticipation was building as a steady stream of prospective students—freshmen and transfers—visited Leo with their parents to inquire about enrolling.
Our December test numbers were encouraging, and our new Recruiting Coordinator, Ms. Tracy Crenshaw, has done an outstanding job tracking and communicating with any and all prospects who expressed interest.
On August 15, those efforts were rewarded. Leo’s largest freshman class in 15 years was on hand for the first full day of school, bringing the total enrollment to a 12-year high. Our goal of a 200-student population by the 2021-22 school year is well within reach.
In celebration, more than 60 alums showed up for a “back to school” welcoming ceremony, a fairly recent tradition we initiated two years ago to remind our young men that by enrolling at Leo, they are becoming part of something special.
“The Shaka Rawls Effect cannot be overstated,” Leo President Dan McGrath said, attributing the enrollment increase to Mr. Rawls taking over as principal in 2016. “Kids feel good about being here. Their parents feel good about having their kids here. We’re getting positive word-of-mouth in the community. The energy in the building is remarkable.”
Friends from the Big Shoulders Fund and the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools joined the alums in welcoming the students to Leo. Afterwards, the party moved into the cafeteria for a light breakfast and a rousing rendition of the Leo Fight Song.
Year No. 94 was under way at Leo. It promises to be another great one.
See Principal Rawls on his morning walk through Leo
Cocktails for Calculators
PARTY FOR A CAUSE! Katie Bailey, Matt Katzfey, Stephanie Stecz and Mary Burke are all special friends of Leo—Katie and Matt assist us through the Big Shoulders Fund, Stephanie is a grant-writer extraordinaire and Mary is an exceptionally talented graphic artist responsible for our marketing and promotional materials. In late July, they had an idea to put some fun in fundraising, and Leo’s math and science students are the beneficiaries.
Along with an expanded STEM presence, Calculus has been added to the Leo curriculum this year. Special graphing calculators are a requirement for the courses, and they retail at approximately $120 apiece. That’s a burden to our Leo families, so Katie, Matt, Stephanie and Mary decided to relieve them of it by throwing a “Cocktails for Calculators” party and solicit donations from their friends to buy the equipment. Estimated total cost: $7,000. The goal for the event was $3,500, because Big Shoulders agreed to match that amount.
The party was held at Stephanie and Ryan Stecz’s North Side home on July 25. The turnout was phenomenal—about 60 people attended—as were the results: more than $7,000 was raised, and the Big Shoulders match brought the total to more than $10,000. The surplus will go to our Scholarship Fund to assist deserving Leo students.
“What a great night for Leo,” school President Dan McGrath said. “We’re really grateful to Katie and Matt and Stephanie and Mary for allowing us to tell the Leo story to so many new friends.”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Latifi and Ms. Tabernacki are grateful that their students will have state of the art equipment for their classes.
2018 Scholarship Benefit
So many words were spoken that we are now out of them.
That’s one way of saying we are beyond-words grateful to all who attended, assisted with and/or supported Leo’s third annual Scholarship Benefit, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Mr. Tom Owens, a 1954 Leo graduate, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his extensive philanthropy, on behalf of Leo and most notably as founder of the Cara Program, a social-services agency that provides the training and resources necessary for Chicago’s most disadvantaged people to achieve a fresh start in life.
The Leo Choir—the world-renowned Leo Choir—performed with typical excellence, while students Schron Brown, Marco Gonzalez and Tobias Sample provided an illuminating look at the life of today’s Leo student during a panel discussion with Principal Shaka Rawls and Admissions/Athletic Director Mike Holmes.
And Father Tom Hurley, a friend of Tom Owens and a friend to Leo, nearly stole the show with an invocation that included enough witty lines to keep a stand-up comedian in laughs.
But the evening’s real winner was the Leo Scholarship Fund. Thanks to the generosity of so many supporters, it has never been healthier. And that’s good, because it means more money to fund our recent enrollment increases, which we fully expect to continue as a direct result of all the good things happening at Leo.
“Thank you” seems an inadequate response to your generosity. Please know it’s from the heart, from all of us here at Leo.
Dan McGrath, President
Shaka Rawls, Principal
Leo High School
First Day of School 2018
No sooner had Leo’s Class of 2018 graduated on Mother’s Day than we were welcoming the Class of 2022 to Leo on Wednesday, Aug. 14. It is, by the way, the largest freshman class we’ve had in 10 years. One day after their arrival, the entire student body was on hand as school resumed with a triumphant march through our renovated courtyard.
In what has become a joyful tradition, more than 40 alums turned out to welcome the students back to Leo for the 2018-19 school year. Their underlying message, especially to the freshmen: By enrolling at Leo, you are becoming part of something special … and remarkably loyal alumni support is part of what makes it special.
The public unveiling of the courtyard provided an extra layer of special. Mike Holmes ’76 added “General Contractor” to his lengthy list of titles and oversaw a process that over the course of one summer transformed an eyesore into a gleaming attraction.
The cracked, crumbling sidewalks have been replaced with pristine new ones. The landscaping is fresh and modern, reminiscent of a high-end garden. A monument expressing “eternal appreciation for public servants and other professionals who give … to our community” has been installed next to the War Memorial, the two statues separated by an eternal flame. An enclosed “quiet area” in the southeast corner gives students a place to go after school to get started on their homework or wait for their rides. New wrought-iron fencing and gates are an attractive and effective security measure.
The main attraction: New doors that now serve as the main entrance to the building. They’re modern, they’re made of glass, and they’re a big improvement over the previous penal-institution model that gave off such a foreboding vibe. Coach Holmes didn’t tell anyone he was buying two Lion sculptures to guard the new doors, but now that they’re in place, the lions fit in handsomely as symbols of Leo pride. And, with the Lion sculptures added to the hand-painted “Leo High School” signs now decorating both school parking lots, there is no doubting you’re in Leo Country as you drive down 79th Street.
Everyone from 17th Ward Alderman David Moore to 6th District Police Commander Phil Bradley to the Auburn Gresham Development Corp. has congratulated us and thanked us for undertaking a project that really brightens our modest little section of 79th Street. And there are more enhancements to come.
The retirements of Ed Adams (English) and Grafton Brown (Spanish) left two openings on the Leo faculty, and our expanding enrollment created a need for two additional hires, so four new teachers have joined the Leo faculty for the 2018-19 school year.
Mr. Carlos Guillen will assume Mr. Brown’s duties as head Spanish teacher. Ms. Iyabo Williams joins Mrs. Latifi’s math department. Ms. Ashley Tabernacki has been hired as a science teacher, with a specific mission to grow and expand Leo’s STEM curriculum. Ms. Sarah Johnson will teach English and assist Mr. Bill Figel with the Journalism/News Literacy program.
Ms. Tabernacki is the daughter of Mrs. Lydia Tabernacki, who came to Leo last year to teach Theology and serve as our Campus Minister. The Tabernacki menfolk went to Mt. Carmel, but the Tabernacki’s are becoming quite the Leo family.
Jack Fitz returns to Leo
Leo is proud to announce that, with the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, Jack Fitzgerald ’69 is returning to the Lions as a special assistant to the athletic department.
“This is a tremendous development for Leo,” school President Dan McGrath said. “I’ve known Jack since we played together at Leo. I’ve been trying to get him back in the building for a long time, and I’m delighted that he has agreed to join us.”
“Coach Fitz” will serve as a resource for Leo’s coaches and assist with administrative duties as he re-acquaints himself with the high school sports scene. He has spent the last 12 years as Midwest college scout for the NBA’s Miami Heat, a seasonal job he will retain. Before joining the Heat he was an assistant coach at St. Xavier University for six seasons, helping the Cougars reach the NAIA national tournament five times.
Coach Fitz was a two-sport standout at Leo, achieving All-Catholic League recognition in basketball and baseball. After graduating from Lewis University, he coached both sports at Leo and is the most successful basketball coach in school history, having won 317 games while averaging just under 19 wins a year in 17 years as the Lions’ head coach, with four Catholic League titles, six regional championships and two sectional crowns.
“No one is more respected in Catholic League circles than Jack Fitzgerald,” McGrath said.
After a year at Tinley Park, Coach Fitz moved on to Richards, where he won four more regional titles and another sectional crown, and helped Dwyane Wade develop into a high school All-American and future NBA star. In 24 years at the high school level, Coach Fitz compiled a record of 444-213 (.678), with 10 regional championships and six sectional titles. He is a member of the Leo High School Hall of Fame, the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
With the health-induced retirement of Catholic League Hall of Famer Ed Adams, Mike Holmes ’76 has assumed the role of athletic director. Holmes already serves as as admissions director, head football coach and facilities manager, so Coach Fitz’ presence will lighten his workload.
“I played for Jack, had him as a classroom teacher and watched his teams for many years,” Holmes said. “No one brings more to the table in terms of knowledge and integrity, and love for Leo.”
Principal Shaka Rawls ’93 also had Coach Fitz as a classroom teacher at Leo and is eager to welcome him back.
After spending more than a dozen years around college and professional athletes, Coach Fitz is eager to revisit his high school roots.
“Leaving Leo in 1993 was one of the most difficult decisions I ever made,” he said. “I am honored and proud to once again be able to contribute to such a great school with special people.”