General William J. Walker ’75 (USA-ret.) really made a day of it when he traveled from Washington, D.C., to Chicago to accept this year’s Leo Lions Legacy Award at the sixth annual Leo High School Scholarship Benefit.
And the entire Leo Community is better for it.
General Walker is the first African American to serve as Sergeant at Arms for the United State House of Representatives, hired by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in May upon his retirement from active duty with the U.S. Army. In his last Army assignment, the General was commanding officer for all National Guard forces assigned to the nation’s capital.
Before his enthusiastic and captivating participation in the Scholarship Benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel on Wednesday, December 1, General Walker visited Leo and addressed the student body. His message: It was my Leo education that opened doors to my future, and it will do likewise for you if you identify your goals and pursue them with passion.
General Walker’s talk to the students covered some 20 minutes. It preceded a Q-and-A session that was also scheduled for 20 minutes, but stretched out to 45 as young Leo Men peppered him with queries about his 30-year career with the Drug Enforcement Administration (“Suffice it to say I put a lot of bad guys away”) and the ongoing threat from insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol Building on Jan. 6 in an attempt to nullify results of the November presidential election (“It was nothing less than an attempt to overthrow the government and put an end to democracy.”)
At the Benefit, previous Legacy Award recipients Bill Conlon ’63, Bob Sheehy ’71 and Mike Holmes ’76 presented General Walker with the special sweater that goes to each year’s honoree. Andy McKenna ’47, the first recipient, offered a videotaped message of congratulations.
In his remarks, the General acknowledged and thanked former Leo teachers Pete Doyle and Jay Standring (who were in the crowd) for providing the steady, nurturing hand that helped him navigate Leo and prepare him for the career that has brought him great honor and distinction. He also recalled former Dean of Students Brian Tansey as a no-nonsense enforcer of the rules who kept him on the straight and narrow.
He then joined Leo Principal Shaka Rawls ’93 and students Jamari Allen ’22, William Anderson ’22 and Christopher Robinson ’23 for a then-and-now panel discussion about Leo and its future. Three other students—Austin Ford ’22, Cameron Cleveland ’22 and Oliver Brown Jr. ’22—shared the role of master of ceremonies.
“My education at Leo provided me with the tools to do whatever I wanted with my life,” General Walker said.
The benefit drew a crowd of 200-plus and raised more than $500,000 that will go toward tuition assistance for deserving Leo students. General Walker shared center stage with the world-renowned Leo Choir, which made a triumphant return to the stage after a 20-month shutdown caused by COVID concerns.
The Choir opened the show with its inimitable treatment of the Star Spangled Banner and closed it with a rousing rendition of the Leo Fight Song that brought attendees to their feet. But it was their third song—“Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now”—that was a perfect summation of another great night for Leo High School.
Congratulations, General Walker. It was our honor to honor you.
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A story about General Walker in the September 18 New York Times: