This year Leo High School corrected a wrong.
17 year old Jim Wilkins ( Leo '44) ditched school during his Junior year at Leo High School ( an act of bravery in itself, given the watchful eyes of the Irish Christian Brothers at that time) and enlisted in the United States Navy.
From 1943 until the end of WW II, Jim Wilkins served on many combat patrols aboard submarines.
Jim returned from the war and was denied his diploma . . .he did not have enough academic credits.
Then, in a few years, Wilkins went back into the service to fight in the Korean War.
He still did not have enough academic credits to merit a diploma.
Seventy one years later, Leo Alumni President Emeritus Rich Furlong and his heroic brother Jim Furlong who saved his company commander, his squad and his mission by leaping in front of a North Vietnamese hand grenade, sacrificing his left leg in that bloody bargain, heard that Jim Wilkins had been wronged by educators.
The best people who work in schools, really use that term 'educator,' because they are teachers.
There is a huge difference. In my forty years plus of teaching in Catholic high schools, 'educators' are the persons who can not discipline a class, lead kids to learn, or merit the respect of people who do; they become educators.
Teachers teach no matter what their 'academic' job description tags them to be and try to make every experience a learning one.
Yesterday, Leo High School taught Chicago a great lesson. Credentials mean little. Capacity means everything. James Wilkins has capacity a plenty.
Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Jack Schaller ( Leo '43) an Army Purple Heart veteran of New Guinea and the Philippines laid the wreathes at the Leo War Memorial to taps played by Mr. Jim Gould of Bugles Across America.
More than three hundred people including Jim Wilkins family, four serving combat veterans of Chicago's Own 2/24 Marines, Tinley Park VFW members, eleven combat decorated veterans of Vietnam from the Leo High School Class of 1965, scores of Leo High School veterans of WWII, Korea, Lebanon 1959, Berlin Occupation, Cuban Missile Crisis, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon 1980's, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan and the entire student body of Leo High School witnessed Jim Watkins accept his diploma.
I would like to thank the Chicago Tribune Suburban Branch, ABC 7 Chicago's Ravi Biachwal, 2/24 Marines, Bugles Across America, Windy City Veterans, Tinley Park VFW Post, Steuber Florists, Pat Roberto of Calabria Imports, Miss Mary T. Burke, Bill Figel '73, the Leo Alumni Association and the Officers of Chicago Police District