Leo High School is proud to announce Michael Holmes ’76 as recipient of the fifth Leo Lions Legacy Award, which recognizes exceptional service to Leo High School and the greater Chicago community. Coach Holmes will be honored at the fifth annual Leo Scholarship Benefit on Wednesday, Dec. 2.
The Scholarship Benefit is customarily held at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. This year, due to COVID restrictions on large gatherings, it will be a virtual event live-streamed on-line. But it will still be a suitably memorable evening for a man whose selfless, wide-ranging service to Leo spans nearly 30 years.
“Coach Holmes has been an influential figure in my life since I played football for him back in the early ’90s,” said Shaka Rawls ’93, Leo’s fifth-year principal. “He’s one of the main reasons why I’m working at Leo. I’m not sure I’d be here if Coach hadn’t been so involved in bringing me in.”
Holmes follows Andy McKenna ’47, Bill Conlon ’63, the late Tom Owens ’54 and Bob Sheehy ’71 as Leo Lions Legacy honorees.
“Coach is joining some pretty exclusive company, but there’s no question he belongs in that company,” Leo President Dan McGrath ’68 said. “All of us who have worked with Mike are aware of the tremendous impact he’s had on our school and our kids. We’re proud of him, and it’s an honor for us to see his service recognized.”
Holmes is one of the most decorated athletes in Leo history, a high school All-American in football, an All-Catholic League performer in baseball and a varsity participant in basketball. He won the Tony Lawless Award as Chicago Catholic League Player of the Year for football in 1975, an honor his son Aamir would duplicate 41 years later.
After beginning his college career at the University of Colorado, Holmes transferred to the University of Illinois, where he led the Illini in rushing for two seasons and achieved All-Big Ten recognition as a running back. His pro prospects dimmed by a chronic knee injury, he earned a master’s degree in urban planning and public policy and went to work for the City of Chicago’s Planning Department, only to be drawn back to Leo, where he spent nearly 30 years as a highly regarded teacher, coach and administrator.
A member of the Leo Hall of Fame, the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, Holmes was named Leo Alumni Association Man of the Year in 2017. He’s also a two-time winner of the Lawless Award as Catholic League Coach of the Year. Holmes remains the Lions’ head football coach and serves as a consultant to the Leo administration, most recently overseeing renovation projects involving the school’s gym, auditorium and courtyard. He also works as Vice President of Administrative Services at Chicago State University.
But Coach Holmes’ greatest impact has come as a father figure—he is known for his stubborn refusal to give up on a kid. In addition to helping dozens of his athletes earn college scholarships, he has selflessly assisted hundreds of young Leo Men with their development into responsible, productive, caring citizens.
“I’m one of them,” Principal Rawls said. “Coach has been an important figure in my life since I was a Leo student.”
Mike’s wife Patricia Brown Holmes is one of the most influential leaders in Chicago’s legal community, a former Cook County Circuit Court judge who is now managing partner of the Riley Safer Holmes Cancilla law firm. Pat and Mike met at the University of Illinois, and they have been married 36 years. They have dipped into their own pockets countless times to assist young Leo Men in time of need.
Daughter Aasha, a graduate of the George Washington University, is an event coordinator for Suntory Beam distributors here in Chicago. Aamir Holmes ’17 is a junior defensive back at the University of Kentucky.
“When I see the names on the list of previous winners, I understand that the Leo Lions Legacy Award is quite an honor, and I’m grateful for it,” Coach Holmes said. “But this has never been about recognition. It’s about helping kids, and I’m blessed to be able to do that at Leo.”
Coach Holmes embodies the Leo motto: Facta non Verba. His life is one of deeds and accomplishments, not words.