Fr. Tom Reed, S.J., Christian Service Center
As principal at SI in the 1950s and 1960s, as dean at USF and as a parish priest, the late Fr. Thomas Reed, SJ ’34, always fought for the underdog — whether it was a family from El Salvador needing legal help or a young person needing a college scholarship.
To honor him, one man — himself a recipient of Fr. Reed’s generous spirit — is making it possible for two SI students each year to donate $1,000 to the charity of their choice.
Tom Leonardini ’59, donated $250,000 to endow Christian Service Center — now known as the Thomas Reed, SJ, Christian Service Center. Each year, beginning in 2005, two seniors — male and female — will be chosen as exemplars of the ideals of the program and the values of Fr. Reed, who served as principal between 1957 and 1964 and who died in 2003. SI will give each student $1,000 that they will, in turn, donate to the organization where they served the majority of their community service hours.
To receive the award, students will write a proposal to be read by Jenny Girard, the director of the Christian Service Program, who will choose the two recipients.
Leonardini recalls his student days at SI and getting to know Fr. Reed. “I made many visits, unwillingly, to his office. I first saw him as a gruff, abrupt guy. But over the years, I saw that he had a big heart, and we became friends by the time I graduated.
Leonardini, whose mother founded the Ignatian Guild, retired from the car rental and leasing business in 1985 and then opened Whitehall Lane Winery. “I found retirement very tedious, and I wanted to buy a business in a field I knew nothing about.” He now owns six high-end vineyards that grow all the grapes he uses for the 50,000 cases of premium wine he bottles each year.
Over the years, Leonardini was among the individuals Fr. Reed would call when he found someone in need. “He would call me and tell me about a family from El Salvador without a washer or dryer. Then he would call an attorney friend to ask for help getting them naturalized as American citizens.”
That generous spirit was the same one Leonardini encountered at SI. “He looked at my low grades and my high SAT score and told me that I was underachieving. He offered to find tutors to help me with homework. He showed a great interest in me, and I truly appreciated that. Later, after my mother passed away, he would come and visit my father. The two would sit and watch a baseball game on TV and sit and talk. He was just that kind of guy.”
In addition to serving SI as principal, Fr. Reed taught at SI between 1942 and 1944. In one of his first acts as principal, he created a split lunch period, given the large enrollment of 1957, with seniors and sophomores eating before juniors and freshmen. He also added fluorescent lights to the first floor corridor. After his time as principal, he moved on to USF to serve as acting dean of education. He made an unsuccessful bid in 1972 for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Education, but was appointed to the board by Mayor Joseph Alioto to fill a vacancy and served until 1977.
Leonardini now hopes that the students who receive the Reed Award will carry on the legacy of Fr. Reed in “performing work in the spirit of Christian Service.”