Janet E. and Jeffrey T. Leitch '71 have a marriage built on shared faith, humor, and a commitment to service passed on by their parents. They’ve served in countless leadership roles at Saint Ignatius High School, Magnificat High School, the Jesuit Retreat Center, and St. Malachi parish. In addition, both built successful careers – Jeff in business as President of Cook-Leitch & Associates, Riverwood Development Company, and R.W. Screw Products; Jan as a teacher and catechist at Ruffing Montessori in Rocky River for 25 years.
“Our faith has always been an important part of our lives and a strong basis for our marriage,” says Jan. “The Ignatian Exercises were significant in giving us a shared way to proceed – and to deal with the challenges.”
Jeff acknowledges there are plenty of challenges in a marriage between two people with similar styles. Jan and Jeff both laugh recalling an anniversary card from good friends Rita and Peter Carfagna ’71 with the line, “Marriage is nature’s way of keeping us from fighting with strangers.”
“We’re both the oldest of five and both strong leaders,” says Jeff with a smile. “We’re really different people – but share a commitment to service in the community and to our own family. Somehow it works – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Jan and Jeff both grew up in Westlake at St. Bernadette parish – and while they weren’t close then, both their fathers graduated from Saint Ignatius High School in 1942. Jeff attended Saint Ignatius as well and recalls being deeply affected by the Jesuits, especially the late Fr. Robert Welsh, S.J. ’54. “He became my spiritual father for the past 50 years,” says Jeff. “I seriously considered a vocation to the Society of Jesus and we had a lot of conversations about that.”
After deciding to pursue a degree in American Government and Economics from the University of Virginia, Jeff graduated and began working for his father’s business, Cook-Leitch & Associates, a manufacturer’s representative firm where he eventually took on the role of president.
In the mid-1970s, Jan Duffy and Jeff were both teaching evening PSR classes at St. Bernadette. Jan had graduated from Wheeling Jesuit and was teaching 8th grade at the parish school. The attraction was mutual. They married in 1979 and began a life centered on serving God, their children (Megan, Patrick, and Kevin) and the community. “Matthew 25 is our impetus,” says Jan. “Fr. Welsh said ‘Once you get to know Jesus, you fall in love with him. And then you want to serve.’”
The Leitchs are longtime parishioners at St. Malachi, where Jan has served as catechist, sacristan, lector, member of the Spiritual Development Commission and cook for the Monday Night Meal. Since her first retreat as a Magnificat High School student, Jan’s been involved with the Jesuit Retreat Center as a member of the Board of Trustees and the Development Committee, and as a spiritual companion to Ignatian retreatants.
Jeff has served on the Saint Ignatius Board of Regents including two years as Chairman, received the 2009 Founders’ Award; he also chaired the 2003 Christmas Concert with Jan. He recalls his most rewarding experience with the school was in chairing the Presidential Search Committee in 1998 that selected Fr. Welsh’s successor, Fr. Timothy Kesicki S.J. Jeff has also served on the Board of Directors for Magnificat High School, trained as a spiritual director and was a leader in the Saint Ignatius Spirituality Program for Adults (S.P.A.), plus the annual alumni retreat.
“I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams all that God would invite me to participate in,” says Jeff. “I’ve always been grateful He thought I had the gifts to tackle it.” For Jan, the philosophy of ‘magis’ is personal. “It means listening carefully to how you’ve been called and responding to the best of your ability by cooperating with God’s grace.”
Jeff and Jan live in Lakewood. Their daughter Megan (2000 Magnificat graduate) resides in Philadelphia with husband Andrew and sons, Grady and Rudy. Patrick ’02 lives in Detroit with wife Carrie, and Kevin ’05 resides in Lakewood.
We invite you to attend the 34th Annual Saint Ignatius High School Christmas Concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus on Sunday, December 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Severance Hall as Jan & Jeff are presented with the Magis Award.