Major General William J. Walker ’75, one of the highest ranklng and most decorated military leaders in Leo history, has been chosen as Leo High School Alumni Association Man of the Year for 2019, Alumni Association President Dan Stecich ’75 has announced.
Nominated by Leo Principal Shaka Rawls ’93, Gen. Walker was elected by the Alumni Association officers and Board of Directors at their January meeting. He will be recognized at the annual Leo Alumni Banquet at Chateau Del Mar in Hickory Hills on Friday, April 26.
General Walker currently serves as commanding officer of the District of Columbia National Guard. With 2,700 soldiers and airmen under his command, he is responsible for the safety of the nation’s capital.
In addition to Gen. Walker, this year’s other honorees are Bill Figel ’72, recipient of the Doc Driscoll Award for outstanding contributions to Leo, and Gene Earner ’50, who will receive the Association’s Community Service Award. This latest honor represents a career grand slam for Gene Earner, a longtime Alumni Association stalwart who was Man of the Year in 1995 and the Driscoll Award recipient in 2012.
The six-member 2019 Hall of Fame class includes Jim Carollo ’67, Brian Earner ’93, Jack Hopkins ’69, Tom O’Malley Jr. ’84, Dr. Robert Robinson ’93 and Tracy Robinson ’04. Bill Waddell, a 1960 Brother Rice grad and a Leo Advisory Board member, will receive Special Recognition for his many contributions to Leo.
A graduate of St. Sabina Grammar School, Gen. Walker attended the University of Illinois-Chicago after graduating from Leo and joined Army ROTC while studying for his degree in liberal arts and sciences. Upon graduation he was commissioned an officer in the Army Reserve and also hired as a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, rising to a top management position during a 30-year career that saw him involved in interdictions worth millions of dollars all over the world.
Upon reaching the DEA’s mandatory retirement age, Gen. Walker went on active duty with the Army and commanded a combat unit in Afghanistan while rising through the ranks, promoted to Brigadier General in March 2016 and to Major General in June 2018. He has been commanding officer of the D.C. National Guard since January 2018.
Gen. Walker holds Master’s degree in criminal justice, strategic intelligence and international relations and is completing a doctorate in leadership development. In addition, he is the recipient of nearly two dozen military commendations, including the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star and a Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
The Leo student body was in awe of Gen. Walker as he shared his personal story and discussed goal-setting during a visit to the school in October 2017.
“If I can do it,” he insisted, “anybody in this room can.”
Since his visit, at least a half-dozen Leo students have inquired about joining the military after graduation.