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Brother Rice Is Winner On Field and in Classrooms

School of the Month

Brother Rice High School, at 10001 S. Pulaski Road, is the Southwest News-Herald’s April ÒSchool of the Month.”

Open since 1956, Brother Rice is one of three Catholic schools in the area founded by the religious order originally known as the Christian Brothers of Ireland, the others being Mt. Carmel in Chicago and St. Laurence, in Burbank. {{more}}

Brother Rice Principal James Antos, an Oak Lawn resident originally from the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, was in the first graduating class at St. Laurence in 1966, and joined the Brother Rice faculty in 1979, as a social studies teacher.

He served as dean of students and as vice principal before being named principal in 1998.

The religious order founded in Ireland by Blessed Edmund Rice now has a worldwide presence. Five brothers belonging to the American branch, the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers of North America, still teach the school.

While the current student population of 838 may be low compared to decades ago, when well over 1,000 students attended, the numbers are holding steady or growing. The student body is expected to be at least 860 next year, in part due to the relatively large incoming freshman class now at 254, compared to 220 freshmen this year.

ÒWould we like more students, sure. But the kids we get are all pretty solid citizens,” he said, noting that while Brother Rice welcomes boys of all religions, 85 percent are Catholic, and the Catholic ethos is still stressed.

Students come from distant neighborhoods such as Pilsen and Little Village, and even Hegewisch, as well as suburbs like La Grange and Lockport, but Antos said the majority come from Southwest Side neighborhoods like Scottsdale and West Lawn, and nearby suburbs such as Oak Lawn, Bridgeview and Burbank. Antos himself is a graduate of St. Nicholas of Tolentine School.

ÒWith tuition approaching $10,000, we’re grateful for the financial sacrifices parents make to send their sons here,” he said.

ÒIt is really gratifying when I hear our students talking about their studies, and how much they are getting out of their classes. I tell them every year that ‘It’s cool to be smart,’ and I think they believe that,” said Antos.

He said that while Brother Rice does share facilities and programs such as band, theater and languages with neighboring Mother McAuley High School, being a single-gender school enhances Brother Rice students’ focus on studies.

He said that while Brother Rice students are required to do community service in order to graduate, the school tries to take that a step further. For instance, he takes a group of students each year to Appalachia to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. Students also help out at local PADS shelters for the homeless.

More than two-thirds of students made one of the three honor rolls this year, and Òover 80 percent of our seniors get accepted to their first choice in colleges,” said Antos. He said 12 or 13 percent more get into their second choice, and more than 70 percent of Brother Rice graduates go on to four-year colleges.

Successes in baseball, football, basketball and other sports are also a draw.

ÒWe might not win every year but we are always competitive,” said Antos. The rugby program, which is not affiliated with the IHSA, has seen the most success this year, being undefeated going into the playoffs. Newer sports such as lacrosse have recently been added, and there is even a sailing club.

Brother Rice counts among its alumni many men who have attained great success in music, acting, dance, and football and other sports.

These include Kevin Cronin, the lead singer of the band REO Speedwagon; dancer and choreographer Michael Flatley, a 1977 graduate and former Oak Lawn resident; former Blackhawk and NHL broadcaster Ed Olczyk; Chicago Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), and the actor John C. Reilly, a 1983 graduate and former Chicago Lawn resident. The most recent graduate to gain fame is New York Giants offensive tackle David Diehl, a 1998 graduate who was on the Super Bowl-winning team this year.

While Flatley and some of the others have stayed in touch with Brother Rice, Diehl probably has the closest connection, because his mother, Darlene Diehl, is Antos’ assistant.

ÒWe’re very pleased with his success,” said Antos, who dubbed Diehl Double D when he was announcing the football games in the 1990s.

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