Jim Sweany earned his Bachelor in Business Administration in 1971, and went on to get an MBA at DePaul University. His professional career began at Bell & Howell and eventually led to employment at Gatorade and PepsiCo. Born and raised in Chicago, Jim has participated in numerous civic, parochial and archdiocesan volunteer opportunities. Among one of his most lasting contributions is serving as chairman of Old St. Pat’s first two block parties – now called the “World’s Largest Block Party.”
His spirit of service has been recognized many times over as he is the recipient of the Irish Fellowship Club’s Richard J. Daley Award, the alumni medal from St. Ignatius College Prep (his high school alma mater), and the Archdiocese’s Christifideles Award.
Married 32 years, he and his wife, Fern, are proud parents of two sons: Sean, a Notre Dame graduate, and Jack, engineering student at Marquette.
What’s the most enduring lesson you learned at Loyola?
I learned that people and how we relate to one another is what really matters.
What’s one of your favorite memories of Loyola?
In a Christian Marriage course with Fr. Filas, and we were required to write an incredibly long paper for one of his assignments. A fellow classmate, who will remain anonymous, did not believe Fr. Filas would ever read all the papers, so he wrote in his paper that he would buy Fr. Filas a pack of cigarettes if he read his paper. When Fr. Filas was handing back the graded papers, he called the classmate by name and said, “You owe me a pack of cigarettes. And by the way, you received an F.” We all had a good laugh on that one.
If you could go back to school, what Loyola course would you take? Why?
Actually, I am back in school at Loyola! I am enrolled in the Institute of Pastoral Studies and taking courses in Ignatian Spirituality. My volunteer activity and involvement with the Ignation Volunteer Corps (IVC) lit a fire in me. I am enjoying the courses and my grades are better than the last time. It’s great to be back at Loyola. They even gave me the same ID number I had as an undergrad. I am told it may be the lowest active student ID number in the university. Go Ramblers!
What’s your favorite place on campus?
A comfy front row chair overlooking Lake Michigan at the Klarchek Information Commons.
What led you to volunteering with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps?
I initially volunteered at Christ the King on my own for 15 months before joining the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. I was very committed to the mission of the school, however, I didn’t feel I was getting everything I had hoped for from the experience. Two fellow volunteers were IVC members and explained the program and the benefits they drew from it. I decided to join the IVC and it has made a real difference in how I view and feel about my volunteer effort. Transitioning from being in corporate management for 36 years to a volunteer role didn’t come all that easy for me. The IVC help me understand the Ignatian volunteer role as one of service to the poor and disadvantaged. I was not there to govern, but to serve. The IVC added a spiritual dimension to the experience that totally enriched my volunteer effort. I have also met a wonderful group of men and women who are committed to giving their time and talent in service to others. They are joy to be with.
What’s the most meaningful part of your servicing at Chicago’s Christ the King High School?
All the students at Christ the King come from backgrounds with limited resources that preclude them from paying tuition for a private college prep school education. At Christ the King, however, the students pay most of their tuition by working entry level intern jobs five days a month at banks, law firms, health care facilities and a variety of different businesses. I spend my time coaching and mentoring the student interns on their work endeavors. They are a very talented group of young people and have inspiring dreams about their future. It is very joyful to work with them and watch them take on new challenges and blossom. This June we will graduate our first class of students. The last couple months have been exceptionally thrilling and exciting as the students received their acceptance letters to college. Every senior has been accepted to a college or university, and there is tremendous energy at the school. I am very joyful and proud of what our students have accomplished.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Think for yourself and stand up for what you believe. Remember: to think is easy, to act is difficult, to act according to what one believes is the most difficult of all.
What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it to others?
I am reading two books: The first one in an autobiography by former Illinois Senate President Phil Rock entitled Nobody Calls Just to Say Hello and the second one is The Emergent Christ by Ilia Delio. Phil and I are fellow Westsiders. Phil is also Loyola alum. If you are into local politics, Rock’s book rocks. Delio is a little heavy, but quite fascinating. Faith and politics always make an interesting combination.
What (or who) inspires you?
Creation in all forms inspires me – people, nature, art, architecture, music, literature, poetry, theatre, dance, etc.
If you could travel to any time and place in history, where would you choose to go?
I would like to have heard Jesus preach.
Describe your perfect day.
Being with my family always makes for a perfect day. If we are in Ireland, it’s all the better.
If you could affect positive change for others, what pronouncement would make the world a better place?
The reign of peace and justice on earth begins now – no exceptions.