By Dan McGrath

A list of “MVP’s” who have contributed to Leo High School’s transformative  success in recent years would be a lengthy one.

Jim Earner, Vice President for Business Operations, would be near the top.

And he didn’t even go to Leo.

That’s not to say he isn’t a Leo Man as a product of a truly distinguished Leo Family.

Jim’s dad is Gene Earner ’50, known to many as “Mr. Leo” as a Hall of Famer, Man of the Year and recipient of both the Doc Driscoll and Community Service awards.

Six of Jim’s brothers are Leo grads, including Hall of Famers Dan ’82 and Brian ’93.

Jim went to Brother Rice. Hold your hisses: It was within walking distance of the family home in St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish. He was a competitive wrestler at Rice and remains involved with the sport as an official, having worked the IHSA state finals at the University of Illinois this year. He also helps oversee the Leo wrestling program. 

Jim earned an accounting degree from Northern Illinois and an MBA from St. Xavier. He and wife Cathy have three grown children and three grandchildren. 

After a long career with Pepsi, Jim hired on at the Archdiocese of Chicago, and it was our good fortune that he was assigned to help out at Leo after bookkeeper Tanya Townsend retired.

“Helping out” gradually evolved into a total overhaul of Leo’s business operations, which run so smoothly and efficiently these days that the ever-vigilant Archdiocese trusts us enough to leave us alone. 

In his rare “non-Leo time” Jim performs similar magic for Our Lady of Tepeyac High School and a number of Big Shoulders-affiliated grammar schools, including St. Sabina.

“Jim Earner … I’d be lost without him,” Leo President Dan McGrath said of a 12-year partnership. “In my newspaper days, I never met a budget I couldn’t shatter. But Jim has a way of making sure we live within our means, while at the same time providing us with the resources we need to operate a first-rate school.

“And he does it all with a pleasant, engaging, down-to-earth manner… He’s the antithesis of the cold-hearted, bottom-line-driven accountant. He’s a genuinely good guy. His contributions are immeasurable.”

And Hall of Fame-worthy.

Congratulations, Jim. And from your Leo Family, thanks for everything.