Leo High School opened the school year a week ago. The school welcomed the freshman class and their families and greeted the returning Lions and their folks.
Absent from the returns was a young gent who earned the respect and affection of every soul in this eight-seven year old Catholic high school for males that has been the home to young guys from Chicago's south side. Many of those Leo Lions are now many of the most successful and generous leaders in every vocation. CEO's who were once poor kids who lived along the tracks that run through Auburn, Gresham, Englewood, Brainerd and Chatham received a Leo education that is fundamentally different from any public or charter school. The difference is that God's law is the foundation of all studies and activities.
For 87 years, poor kids, as well as the sons of blue-collar parents learned that a Leo High School education is earned and owned jointly with the generations that have gone before them. A Leo Education still means what it did to the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, the Irish, the Italians, the Lithuanians, the Poles, the Swedes, the Germans, the Mexicans and the African Americans who walked through these portals on 79th Street.
Most of our students receive some financial aid, just as many had in the Great Depression, but no one gets everything. There are no free rides. Families and students invest time, treasure and talent to earn a Leo diploma.
One guy who is not a particularly bookish student, or a hot athlete, or a magnificent singer, or the reincarnation of St. Francis family could not afford the most modest stab at meeting tuition. He was going to a public school. That left a huge hole in the heart of the Lion.
President Dan McGrath had men drive over to the kid's home and we took him out for lunch at Schaller's Pump ( owned by Leo Hall of Fame 1943 Alum Jackie Schaller) in order to negotiate an important man back to Leo High School.
The school had allocated financial aid to all of our registered students, but as is always the case, more is needed because financial situations change like Midwest weather. We told our guy " You worry about your studies; let us worry about how to pay for them. You are a Leo Man.'
We left it at that. Dan paid for lunch and we headed to the parking lot. An eighty-seven year old man was slowly working his way out of his car - it was none other than Louie Knox - Leo '42. Mr. Knox was a member of Darby's Rangers and had the honor of "liberating Rome" days before General Mark Clark and his Army. When the Rangers were wiped out Mr. Knox became one of America's pioneer Special Forces warriors fighting in Italy and Southern France with a mixed Canadian/American commando unit.
Lou Knox -Leo '42 throws out the first pitch at Comiskey Park.
Louie Knox met our guy patted in on his shoulders and admonished him 'to be a Leo Man.' We dropped the Leo Man off at home - now, how to find help.
One can go to the well much too often. No one knows that more than a person who is tasked with raising money. We have Go-to-guys in the hundreds( e.g.Sam Leno Class of 1963 spearheaded this summer's transportation campaign The Lion Express to Opportunity) but there are only so many dollars. Leo works 24/7 to widen the well and dig in new locations.
One of our Advisory board members and the only woman among a thick baker's dozen middle aged African American and Irish American males who look like the cast of Deadwood, is an exceptionally tall, athletic, smart, witty and beautiful Jewish woman - Tamara Holder. (See? Tamara is Just one of Guys!. . .Not.)
Tamara is a criminal defense attorney, as well as a national television figure.
Tamara is a guys-gal. She has not a drop of pretense coursing through her veins, despite being one of the sexiest women in America. She holds her own with the Brothers and Boyos who tend to be the polar opposites of NPR-types. Tamara delights and dazzles the Alumni with an occasional visit to Alumni meetings at Father Perez Knights of Columbus and treats inner city kids who have never ventured north of Chinatown to lunches at Harry Carray's.
I called Tamara in between her appearances on Neil Cavuto and Sean Hannity as a Fox Television Legal Analyst. I told Tamara about our guy, Like a Lou Knox, Ms. Holder took command.of the objective and reached out to public and private pals.
The hole in the Lion's heart is filled by a leggy girl who leads with her heart.
Tamara Holder, like WII hero Lou Knox, lives the Leo motto Facta Non Verba - Deeds Not Words - every day.