Slain teacher fondly remembered by former students
By Mike Nolan Sun-Times Media January 31, 2014 3:20PM
The electronic message sign outside of Brother Rice High School in Chicago's Mount Greenwood community is shown on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, as the school held a private mass in memory of slain business teacher Al Filan. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:36PM
As co-workers remembered slain Brother Rice High School teacher Al Filan’s legacy during a private memorial at the school Friday, some of his former students spoke of the lasting impression he left on them.
The Mass was open only to faculty, students and alumni and came a day after a Cook County judge ordered the 61-year-old Filan’s alleged killer held without bail.
Prosecutors say Alisha Walker, a 20-year-old alleged prostitute from Ohio, stabbed the teacher to death in his Orland Park home on Jan. 18 after an argument over how much she was to be paid. Walker’s family said she told them that she acted in self-defense after Filan pulled a knife on her. Filan’s body was found three days later after he didn’t show up at school.
Former students, speaking after the memorial Mass, paid glowing tribute to Filan.
Mykolas Saulis, a 2012 graduate, said he had Filan as a teacher for three of the four years he was a student at Brother Rice, describing Filan as his favorite instructor. Beyond his work in the classroom, Filan took a keen interest in the well-being of students, Saulis, of Oak Lawn, said, noting how the teacher “helped me though an extremely rough time” in his personal life.
Isaac Taylor, a 1990 graduate, knew Filan as both a teacher and coach, playing basketball for two years when Filan was head coach of the junior varsity squad.
“He pretty much devoted his life to the kids,” Taylor, who lives in Chicago and works as a stock index trader, said. “He was real tough, but a very loving person.”
At its website, the school described Filan as a devoted teacher and coach who was a mentor to other Brother Rice faculty members. Filan taught at Brother Rice in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood for nearly 40 years and was chairman of the school’s business studies department and had coached basketball. He also coached soccer at Andrew High School in Tinley Park for more than 10 years through the 2009-10 school year.
Filan was a member of a politically active family. His older brother is longtime lobbyist William Filan, whose clients include the city of Chicago, and his younger sister, Denise Filan, is a Cook County judge assigned to the Bridgeview courthouse. He’s also a cousin of former state budget director John Filan.
The school, in a notice announcing Friday’s private Mass, noted that while “there have been allegations in the press concerning Al’s personal life, we would hope that everyone will remember him for the good that he did, and ask God to look with mercy and favor upon him.”
Those who spoke at Friday’s Mass included Brother Rice Principal James Antos and the school’s technology director, Sandra Jones-Thomas, alumni said.
“(Jones-Thomas) said he never gave up on somebody once he took them under his wing, and if somebody needed help he helped,” Saulis, who is now studying at Moraine Valley Community College, said.
Taylor said that there were “a lot of life lessons” that Filan imparted to students — some of which didn’t resonate until long after they left Brother Rice.
“He talked a lot about choices and consequences,” Taylor said. “He told us to make good choices and realize whatever choice you make there is going to be a consequence for it.”