Tom Mitchell ’63
Tom Mitchell ’63 is exceptional in many ways, beginning with his birth in Ireland and continuing with his boyhood as one of 9 siblings on a farm in County Galway. Tom attended National School through 7th grade and “at age 13 went to work in a tavern in a small town called Kiltormer,” and at 16 also started working at Duffy’s, a general store in Portumna, his home town. When Tom’s Aunt Della came from Chicago to visit family, she was amazed to see a 15-year-old working in a tavern providing for himself instead of attending school. Aunt Della returned again to Ireland and made arrangements to be Tom’s sponsor in America, so on June 26, 1960 he, “arrived in America” and “never regretted” that decision.
Tom refers to his major influences as “mentors.” Tom credits his parents and older siblings for mentoring him and instilling in him their work ethic and the importance of accountability and responsibility in Ireland, and he credits Aunt Della’s family for mentoring him in Chicago, where within two weeks of arriving here, he was loading and unloading trucks for United Cold Storage, making more money ($2.18 an hour) than he could imagine. Tom thought he was a wealthy man after getting paid for working 12 hours his first day in America, and considering he arrived in Chicago with $10 in his pocket, doubling his net worth in one day, he was wealthy. He grabbed all the overtime hours available until two weeks later, he learned that his Aunt Della and cousin Joan had contacted Brother Rice without telling him. Against his protestations, they prevailed, and it was time for Tommy to go to school, starting at Brother Rice at age 18, graduating in three years at 21 as most likely the oldest graduate in the school’s history. Tom said, “One of my proudest moments in America was graduating and getting my diploma from Brother Rice!”
Tom still worked 20 hours at Kroger where two “more mentors,” his Aunt May and store manager Mike Hennelly, who came from County Mayo, gave him every available hour of work, provided he stayed in school. On Sundays stores were closed back then, and Tom washed and waxed floors so he could pay tuition and give his Aunt Della $25 a week for room and board. In the summer Tom worked at Kroger and at Schulze & Burch Biscuit Co., where a foreman named Joe Lynch mentored him.
Tom recalls that Brother O’Sullivan at Brother Rice was perhaps his greatest mentor. O’Sullivan was from Dublin, Ireland, and Tom remembers that he was “demanding but honest” with him, exhorting him to take care of his responsibilities. Tom regularly brought his report card to Brother Sullivan and felt he could not let him down. Other teachers who left lifelong impressions were Brother Tompkins, Brother Knowles, Brother Walsh, Brother Donnelly, Brother Crane, Mr. Brixie and Mr. Keadish, but Brother Sullivan was Tom’s “guiding light.”
Tom still appreciates Brother Rice’s commitment to teaching “accountability, responsibility, and morals,” while simultaneously “listening and mentoring,” and always having the “best interests for its students.”
Tom is also exceptional among his fellow Alumni Hall of Fame inductees, in that he is the only one who had four sons become alumni – Michael ’85, Keith ’88, Kevin ’90, and Tom’96. From these proud sons we also learned that Tom’s Brother Rice Career Day ranks with Christmas and Thanksgiving as a favorite day for their dad. They also said that as a 15-year old their dad dug deep holes for fuel tanks using a donkey and a cart, and he only kept half of his wages, with the rest going to the family. They said their dad and mom did not force them to go to Rice, but they deliberately chose to follow their father’s footsteps. They said dad told how he was amazed at the cars and the Black Hawks, and pleased with the energy in America, and that you could get a White Castle 24 hours a day. They said Brother Rice gave their dad the footing he needed to move forward.
“Brother Rice prepared me to not only respect people, but also try to understand that all people are different,” Tom said. “My teachers took a personal ownership in my well-being, which inspired me to become more responsible. I can never repay Brother Rice enough, but I will give what I can and try to convince other alumni to do the same, because the future of the school depends on us, and I see it as an investment in the future,” he added.
Since Tom retired, his devotion to Brother Rice has become exceptionally generous, volunteering his free time to raise funds and improve our events, while also making automatic monthly donations that he jokingly refers to as “spending my children’s inheritance,” establishing the Thomas Ignatius Mitchell Scholarship for students who work hard and need financial assistance.
It is because this Irish immigrant so appreciates his alma mater, that he invests as much energy as people 40 years younger, giving all he can back to Brother Rice, while inspiring others to follow his lead, that we are proud to honor Tom Mitchell ’63 as a 2018 Man of the Year and induct him into the Brother Rice Alumni Hall of Fame.
Don Liebentritt ’68
As a top donor and as the most recently selected Vice Chairman of the Brother Rice High School Board of Directors, Don Liebentritt’s ’68 leadership as an alumnus has been momentously exceptional. Don first placed Brother Rice on his list of worthy charities 30 years ago, and then his support increased dramatically in the 00’s and even more dramatically in this decade. Hence, “momentously exceptional.” Don also generously provided Brother Rice excellent legal services at a modest cost against claims from decades ago. He just began his second three-year term on the Board.
In response to questions wondering how an alumnus can become so generous, his “first things first” answer points to his happy marriage with Terri, also a Southsider (Mother Seton High School), for 34 years. Don and Terri raised four children and have nine grandchildren, and he views the experience of watching them grow as “amazing in many ways.”
An Auburn/Gresham boy who attended St. Carthage and then St. Ethelreda at 87th and Paulina, Don became interested in Brother Rice thanks to his oldest brother Ken, who led the way to 99th and Pulaski for the Liebentritt brothers, including Frank ’65, Don ’68, and Dave ’70.
Tragically, Ken Liebentritt passed away January 8, 1962, during his junior year, but not before leaving a lifetime impression on his younger brothers and on Brother Rice High School, as the Liebentritt Computer Center remains as a family tribute to Ken, provided by the Liebentritt family on May 28, 2005.
Don was happy his parents were willing to pay $260 for Brother Rice compared to $150 for Leo in 1964. He remembers first becoming a Crusader fan when Ken took him to Shewbridge to watch a football game in 1959, and while still in 8th grade after the 1964 entrance exam, Don took the bus to Rice to watch the Flies and Bantams in the afternoon and the Lights and Heavies at night. (Contact Jim Casey or anyone older than the Class of 1974 for an explanation.)
Don’s excitement for Rice as a student was rooted in his well-rounded appreciation for taking two foreign languages, French (for 4 years) and Latin, attending football games at Gately Stadium, running cross country, dabbling in 3 intramural sports, spectating avidly at a variety of athletic contests, performing in what he calls “ok” fashion in the classroom, especially in math, but with less interest in biology, chemistry, and physics. When asked about other activities, Don cites his membership on the Dance Committee, the Crusader Yearbook Staff, and in the play South Pacific, for which he still thanks Brother Shannon for learning “the value of practice, repetition, and hard work.” What Don did not mention is that he was on the Honor Roll for 4 years, on The Standard student newspaper staff, and a member of CALM, the Freshmen Glee Club, and the Freshmen Library Club. That Brother Rice was “a family affair” for the four Liebentritt brothers remains prominent in Don’s appreciation for his high school days.
Don remembers “a lot going on in the world” when he graduated from Brother Rice in 1968. His parents were “under the radar” politically and he describes his world as “very closed,” remaining somewhat closed during his first year at St. Thomas in Minnesota. When he decided to attend Loyola University in Chicago because he felt a “larger school would be better” for his future plans for law school, he became involved in student government. He credits Mr. Nowicki from his high school Problems in Democracy Course, for preparing him to run a meeting using Roberts Rule of Order, and he remembers 1969-70 as a “transformational year for [him] politically.”
In a speech class at Loyola Don recalls “condemning the actions of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Panthers for advocating social change through violence.” After that, Don “could not accept the government’s use of force” during an ambush of the Black Panthers or the killing of students at Kent State in 1970. Don was compelled to “march in protest,” an experience he said “was eye opening to so many of us” that changed him.
Don recalls his University of Chicago Law School days, beginning in the fall of 1972, as three years of survival academically, but socially interesting because his classmates “were of all sorts,” from “kids fresh out of college to some embarking on second careers.” He looks back gratefully for his good friends, who “who took the edge off,” and who have stayed with him from Brother Rice, including Dave Benjamin ’68, Tom McGreal ’68, Jim Metz ’68, and Bob Lyons ’68.
Self-described as “scruffy… [with] long hair and a beard,” upon graduating from law school, Don felt lucky to land a job at “a small Chicago law firm, with a somewhat liberal culture.” After struggling with little guidance, a senior partner who did commercial real estate adopted Don, and he eventually “gained proficiency and was given more responsibility.”
In 1982 Don was recruited into the investment world of Sam Zell and Bob Lurie, where “they did deals” and Don “loved being on their in-house legal team.” They already had a significant portfolio of property and corporate holdings, “but in the mid to late 80’s things really took off,” and he said “it was a blast” before Lurie died in 1990 and there was an economic downturn, with liquidity issues. Don said “we survived” with “Staying Alive Til ‘95” as their mantra. When they took much of their real estate public in real estate investment trusts, marketable securities became “liquid gold.”
In 2000 Don evolved into what was described as a “consigliere,” and stopped working full-time in 2007 until joining the Tribune Company in 2008 as General Counselor. Before he knew it, he was working longer and harder than ever until 2013, and remembers it as a great experience, but describes his time since as “gainfully unemployed.”
In addition to Brother Rice, Don has remained active on the Boards of two Hispanic health organizations in Washington, D.C. and on the Dean’s Advisory Council for Loyola University’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Don said, “My need to give back has its beginnings at Brother Rice. He added, “What has impressed me most about what Rice does is the religious experience it offers to our young students. A 14-year-old freshman has little real appreciation for what our Catholic teachings have to offer and the significance of our faith to his development as a man. Yes, we had Masses and four years of religion, and a few extracurricular activities focused on service, but it was nothing compared to the focus on the Charism of Edmund Rice that today so permeates the Brother Rice experience. I have been in awe of what has been advanced on this front by President Kevin Burns and Principal Jim Antos, among many others. I didn’t know the full story of Edmund Rice and his Christian Brothers until only a few months ago. It is an incredible adventure that we have the privilege of supporting and furthering today.”
Don also added, “We can all be proud of where Rice is today. But the environment is tough. Like its Catholic competitors, Rice is drawing on a smaller, less affluent group of potential Crusaders, all of whom deserve the best, which is what Rice still offers. We are holding our own, but that is not good enough. We all need to support our school in whatever way we can. Money is said to be king. There are many other ways. Rice remains a cause worthy of our efforts.”
It is because Don Liebentritt ’68 has been momentously and continuously exceptional in supporting what he calls “a cause worthy of our efforts,” that we honor him as a 2018 Man of the Year and induct him into the Alumni Hall of Fame.
Pat Folliard ’73
Pat Folliard ’73 came from a family of twelve, all of whom attended St. Linus in Oak Lawn. That number prompted his parents to tell Pat and his siblings that they could attend Catholic high schools, but they had to pay. Pat knew in 5th grade that he had “no doubt” he would follow his older brother Ed ’70 to Brother Rice, and Michael ’74 and Jack ’76 followed them.
Pat remembers looking forward to attending Brother Rice and “being treated like an adult,” compared to grade school. While his interactions with friends stand out the most in his memories about Brother Rice, he also points to the “tough classes and teachers” he respected who forced students into developing a work ethic in order to receive decent grades. He cites Cliff Petrak ’60 as an “excellent math teacher,” and since he was also Pat’s hockey coach, he knew he had to perform in class in order to gain his respect from his coach.
Pat said, “What you get out of a class is based on what you put into a class, and I did very well, which built a solid base for my math at Brother Rice.”
Pat was injured so much in grade school that the family doctor advised his parents that he should avoid contact sports. But Pat felt he was too slow for track and liked his whipped cream too much to wrestle, so he tried out for hockey with skates that were too large for him. Coach Petrak saw enough in Pat to give him a chance. Eventually, teammate and all-star player Brian Roll ’73 gave him a pair of skates and everything changed. Pat could skate with anyone.
Teams of early 70’s, the early 80’s, and early 00’s, and the whole school were and are happy that Pat chose the right sport, even though his BRHS hockey career began inauspiciously as a freshman varsity player. Pat stepped onto the ice for his first game with his skate guards still on and so he began his career by falling down. Fortunately for Brother Rice, Pat picked himself back up and the team would go on to win three out of four Kennedy Cups during Pat’s playing days. Seven years later, Pat would also serve as an assistant for 3 successful teams in the early 80’s and then again years later from 1997-2005, including a long awaited return of the Kennedy Cup to Brother Rice in 2001, for a team that included sons Darcy ’01 and Dennis ’03.
VP of Alumni Relations Jim Casey ’70, remembers Pat from college. They both attended Chicago State University, and Casey rented a room in a house owned by one of Pat’s teammates, John Deuran, on the CSU hockey team. John was also the varsity hockey coach of Mt. Carmel and he had coached against Pat. Like everyone who knew hockey and saw Pat play, John believed that Pat “played the game like it should be played,” as witnessed by his college accomplishments as multiple all-star, all-tournament, best league defensemen, league MVP, and league sportsmanship awards, while averaging 56 out of 60 minutes of playing time. However, Pat cites one of his biggest accomplishments at CSU was not in hockey. It was meeting his wife of 40 years, Patti.
Pat did not dream about becoming a CPA while he was at Brother Rice, nor did he ponder it after he accepted a scholarship for hockey, or even when he first walked into CSU to register for classes. While in line, he overheard the person in front of him declare “accounting” as a major, so Pat said, “I went with that one.”
Although he credits his accounting professor Dr. Goodman with providing him with “a great path” to his profession, he remembers a philosophy course in hypnosis as “one of the most exciting classes ever.” Pat recalls going “in arms crossed” not believing “this crap.” He needed the credit, so he just wanted the grade and move on. Instead, he became so “amazed” that he learned enough to hypnotize others who wanted to quit smoking or be entertained. He wanted to use it “to recall scenes of an accident,” because he still wanted to be a police officer, but the “city wasn’t hiring,” and Pat needed a job.
“So off I went into the accounting field, and I’ve been in there without regret for 40+ years, having been self-employed for 35 of them.”
Pat credits his college hockey coach Dr. David Rogers as the most influential person at the time, because “he was a great hockey player and coach and he insured all players were good students, while taking me under his wing and helping me tremendously,” Pat recalls.
Pat so distinguished himself as a player and coach, that he was inducted into the Brother Rice Circle of Champions in 2014.
Pat’s generosity of time and talent as a player and coach were only a part of the gifts he has shared with Brother Rice over the last 25 years. He and Patti have attended and supported virtually every major fund-raising event in the last 20 years. At the same time, Pat steadily increased both his regular donations and his time spent sharing his accounting expertise as a member of both the Finance Committee and the School Board of Directors, two demanding volunteer roles that require many hours of devotion to details.
Pat said that he and Patti are “blessed with three fantastic children – Darcy, Dennis and Gabi,” and two “wonderful” daughters-in-law – Sharon and Bridget, who have blessed them with three grandsons – Jake, Luke, and Jack.
Before reflecting more thoughtfully about coaching his sons at Brother Rice, Pat was beaming about being “blessed” as the father of a fantastic daughter, Gabi. A 2016 Mother McAuley grad, Gabi’s dad loved watching her play volleyball, and he also appreciated that “when girls have free time, they want to talk, which is so different than my boys, when we would throw balls, shoot pucks, etc.”
Regarding coaching his sons, Pat said his playing days were great, but “the highlight of my entire hockey career was coaching my sons when they both played varsity together and we went on to win the Catholic League Championship and the Kennedy Cup. In the state playoffs we lost to state champions New Trier, and were ranked 2nd in the state. It was a fun year and the boys are part of a special group, bound forever with their accomplishments.”
Darcy, who is also a CPA, said this about his dad: “Growing up playing hockey, my brother, Dennis and I were very competitive, always trying to outdo each other. My dad was our coach on and off the ice, making sure we did our homework and kept up our grades. He would make sure we stayed out of trouble and always watched out for us, even when we didn’t know it. On the ice, he made us understand the game and proved to us that hard work pays off. Having him as our coach was one of the best experiences my brother and I could have. We won it all but more importantly, it is something my dad, Dennis and I did together. As a dad myself now, I appreciate more than ever the dedication and everything that goes into being a father because of MY DAD.”
Pat appreciates the “fantastic role models” Brother Rice provided, like Jim Antos and Brother Hayes for his sons and Cliff Petrak for himself. He credits Brother Hayes as a “major influence” on Dennis, who obtained a masters in engineering from Northwestern.
Pat said, “Brother Rice is special to me and my family because it gave us an opportunity and a foundation. You can’t ask for more. When asked to be on the Finance Committee, I had to give back. Rice is filled with caring, supportive administrators. I see the school staff trying whatever they can to help out every student in the school, not just the athletes. I hope we all realize how lucky we were and hope that everyone supports the school going forward, because that’s what it’s going to take for us to remain the TOP Catholic School around.”
It is because he has progressively supported Brother Rice High School in a wide variety of significant ways, that the Brother Rice Alumni Association honors Pat Folliard ’73 as a 2018 Man of the Year and inducts him into the Brother Rice Alumni Hall of Fame.
John Singler ’78
John Singler ’78 is about stepping up and giving what he can for others and for the love of God and because he truly believes in “Acting Manfully in Christ Jesus.”
Vice President of Alumni Relations Jim Casey ’70 said John epitomizes the words of Blessed Edmund Rice, who said, “Were we to know the merit and value of only going from one street to another to serve a neighbor for the love of God, we should prize it more than gold or silver.”
Like most unselfish Christian men, John wishes to defer all credit to others like his fellow Dad’s Club and Alumni Dad’s Club co-workers. According to a Dad’s Club legend who wished to be anonymous, John has led many improvement projects. Although John would prefer we leave his name out, we learned that his crew included dads Joe Miller, Tom Scott ‘71, Tim Berger, Mark Bean, Martin Gutierrez, Steve Parlick, the late George Basile and others. Together in the last few years, they painted the Carmody Center; cleaned out the classroom radiators; painted hallways, 25 classrooms and the Weick Wrestling Center; built trophy cases; added crucifixes to frequently used areas; added memorial tributes to Brother Toole and to the mother of Brother Hayes. This past summer some of these same men painted and repaired the pool area, another noticeable improvement that was no small feat.
John says he was just a cheerleader, there for moral support during all of these projects, but crew members say he was a driving force, excited about taking on and finishing every project, no matter how much work needed to be done.
His crew also says John has been a driving spiritual force, adding the crucifixes and organizing a pilgrimage of dads to The National Shrine of Our of Good Help in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where they prayed for members stricken with illness.
Tom Scott ’71 echoed the thoughts of other crew members when he said, “The motto ‘Family, God, and Country’ is not just a motto with John, but the way he lives his life. John is always looking out for someone else, and he is truly a great guy, someone I feel privileged to call my friend.”
The pool had a huge personal influence on his life, as it is where Brothers Joyce and McDonald taught John how to swim properly on the swimming and water polo teams, which led him to becoming a lifeguard that paid his tuition at Brother Rice and at SIU.
To this day, John still remembers and admires the work the brothers have done to help struggling students manage their time by taking such an active interest in the success of every one.
John credits Brother Rice for helping him learn right from wrong. He said he became a federal agent largely because of the foundation he gained at Brother Rice, believing that “public university did not influence that decision at all.”
John continues to report to volunteer duty with the dads nine years after his son Tim ’09 graduated and went on to Notre Dame. John remains inspired watching shy freshmen whom he interviews two years later for awards become “confident and positive young men,’ adding that “Brother Rice offers me more than I could ever give back,” which says something, considering that John has been giving something back to Brother Rice since he was 30 years old. John is also inspired to give what he can by men like Ed Kalata who still “gives 110%,” even though his four sons graduated between 1982 and 1990, and Leroy Legerski who gives his time and talent even though he never had a son go to Brother Rice, and the “young dads who are up here sometimes daily.”
John said he does not remember why Tim chose Brother Rice, but he knows he “loves the place as much as I do,” adding that his son’s four years flew by and “may have been more important to him than his years at ND.”
John continues to pray for the living and the dead and cites three deceased friends whom he especially remembers:
“Brother Toole was my guy,” John said, “When my son was fighting for his life, he sent us a letter of encouragement. I miss him daily,” he added.
John remembers the late Tony Hanrahan ’61, also a fellow member of the school and alumni halls of fame, as “the finest example of a teacher and mentor that I ever knew at Brother Rice and pretty much my entire life.” John added, “Tony was always available to struggling algebra students like me after school and over weekends and during breaks. If you showed that you were attempting to learn, he would in turn promise you would not fail. His dedication and perseverance still resonates with me more than 40 years later.”
Of his fellow Dad’s Club friend, George Basile, John said with affection and admiration, “George was a former Marine and proud father, as deep as the ocean, yet as Mt. Greenwood as they come.”
Never wanting to stray too far from family, John was also compelled to mention his father-in-law, Joe Memmesheimer, who “never met a person who wasn’t his best friend. Never a glad-hander, Joe was genuine, caring, gentle, and generous, who told horrible jokes.”
We want to thank John’s wife, Pat, for forcing him to accept this honor, even though it was difficult to get him to say anything about himself, for John is a great example of a character who reveals himself by what he says about other people.
It is also because of what we learned about John from fellow Dad’s Club friends, that we are proud to confer upon him the honor of Alumni Association Man of the Year and induct John Singler ’78 into the Alumni Hall of Fame.