DANVERS — Forty-one years ago, Jim O’Leary arrived at St. John’s Prep because his nephew’s freshman football team had just lost its coach, Brother Linus, who had died suddenly.
Forty-one years later, he’s still there. Only now it’ll be in a different capacity.
O’Leary, who has been athletic director at the school since 1999, announced his retirement Monday. But before anyone can launch any farewell parties for him, he hastens to add that he’s not going anywhere.
“It’s just time,” said O’Leary Monday. “I’m 67 years old. I love the job, and I’ve been treated in a spectacular manner.”
He will remain as athletic director until the end of the school year.
“I’m going to stay here and still be involved,” he said. “I’m just changing my role a little bit.”
O’Leary considers himself fortunate that St. John’s Prep has been a part of his life for as long as it has. Seven years after arriving on campus, in 1984, he assumed head coaching duties for the Eagles, replacing Fred Glatz. Fifteen years after that, he took over as athletic director, again after Glatz announced his retirement from the position.
Upon first glance, it would appear that not much will change in O’Leary’s life.
“I’ll still be a game administrator,” he said. “There will still be night games, and things like that, and I’ll be there for some of those.”
And he hopes to retain his relationship with the MIAA, including his position on the state football committee, “for as long as they’ll have me.”
The big plus, those, is that his load will be lightened to the point where he’ll have summer off.
“It’ll be the first time I’ve had that for years,” he said. “I’ve been directing Camp Christopher (St. John’s day camp) for a lot of those years.”
Also, he said, “the athletic director’s position is an 11-month job,” he said. “You may get a vacation day here or there.”
But the details of running the athletic office will fall on someone else’s shoulders, and that, he said, will allow him to do what he likes to do best — working with kids.
“We all got into education with the idea of working with kids,” he said. “But a lot of the administrative things kind of take away from doing that. I hope to continue helping out in that way.
“But the days of getting here at 8 a.m. every day, and being here into the evening, no,” he said, adding that his duties and projects will be assigned by the principal.
“I don’t see this as a major change,” he said. “Freddie (Glatz) was real good when I took over. He didn’t interfere, and when a new athletic director is appointed, I’m certainly not going to interfere. But I’ll be here as an asset when needed.”
From the time he was appointed in 1999 to the end of the 2013 season, O’Leary doubled as AD and head football coach, but there are less instances of that.
“It’s not a trend in this state or in many others,” he said. “I was able to do it, but I was blessed with good assistants, Anne (Carpenter), Jameson (Pelkey) and Jordan (Edgett).
“It was because of them that I could do my job,” he said. “It’s a lot of time, but remember, this is a vocation and not just a job.”