Saint Ignatius High School

Who Jim Skerl Was to Us

As the Saint Ignatius community recognized five years since the passing of beloved Theology teacher Mr. Jim Skerl ’74, we invited alumni, colleagues and friends to share their response to the question, "Who was Jim Skerl to you?" These are some of their answers.
As the Saint Ignatius community recognized five years since the passing of beloved Theology teacher Mr. Jim Skerl ’74, we invited alumni, colleagues and friends to share their response to the question Who was Jim Skerl to you? These are some of their answers:
“Mr. Jim Skerl was a fantastic human being and an incredible teacher. I was blessed to have had him for Christian Manhood. He personified the quote, ‘Sacrifice is the fire that makes the steel.’ Being a true Man for Others takes sacrifice, and Mr. Skerl’s example showed us this. His legacy is part of the steel foundation that makes up Saint Ignatius High School.” – Tom Fox
“Mr. Skerl was the man that taught me (among other things) that the best way to love your children is to love your wife.” – Joe Gunn ’94
“Mr. Skerl was one of the first Ignatius teachers I experienced, during Summer Enrichment Program in 2007. He taught math - I didn't know he wasn't a math teacher because he actually taught me some very useful tricks to figure out tips and multiply 2 and 3 digit numbers. I never had Mr. Skerl as a teacher while I was as a student but he did sub for sophomore year theology for a week. No offense to our regular theology teacher and the other great theology teachers I had at Ignatius, but that week was definitely the best week of theology I had. Mr. Skerl was so hilarious and energetic, and he brought out our best sides. He somehow managed to make the class super fun, and yet also challenged us to think deeply about faith and morality. He engaged with us on our level, making jokes to match our adolescent humor, and yet also challenged us to be mature. It was such a difficult balance to hit, and I've kept that image of Mr. Skerl with me ever since. To me, Jim Skerl is exactly what an Ignatius Man is supposed to be - infinitely kind, hilarious, thoughtful, and impossible not to love.” – Anyun Chatterjee
“Jim Skerl started off as a teacher but by the end of the semester I considered him a friend. His class is still meaningful to me 18 years later. I was lucky enough to have him on the same Kairos as me and I really learned how great of a man he was. He was the closest thing to an angel on Earth. He made me believe God existed.” – Jason
“For a while, the only reason why I believed there was a God. Jim’s faith in me kept me at St. Ignatius High School. His words and actions mattered, and he believed in each and every one of his students. Years after my graduation, the celebration of his life and death humbled me in ways I couldn’t describe and changed the course of my life. I think about him often, almost everyday, and how he is still with me through it all. I owe Jim Skerl everything.” – Paul Lederer
“Jim and I taught together in the theology department and attended and helped out with CAT meetings. I learned how to be a patient and loving teacher from him. I teach at Jesuit High School in Sacramento now. Everyday, and especially when I need help caring for a student, I pray for his intercession and ask myself how he would handle the situation. Jim Skerl, you loved the poor and everyone of your students, pray for us.” – Patrick Gilday Brabec
“Mr. Skerl was the fullest embodiment of a ‘Man for Others’ one could ever know. He often quoted the famous Les Miserables line ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’ I’d take it a step further that to have been a student and friend of Mr. Skerl’s also provided a glimpse of our eternal and loving Father. There is no doubt that he continues to look down on 1911 West 30th Street with that thunderous and joyful laugh and smile. AMDG.” – PJ Martin ’10
“Jim Skerl was and still is a legend and a role mode to me. During my time at Ignatius, despite never having Mr. Skerl in class, he would touch base with me to encourage my passions of running and service. His leadership at C.A.T. meetings, empathy, humility, and grace in serving others, and his faithful adherence to Ignatian values engrained in me a sense of reverence for seeing Christ in all people. As a high school teacher and running coach now, I think often of how Mr. Skerl was so intentional in moving beyond the classroom, and beyond the nitty gritty of each day, to provide the love and respect that all people deserve to many that don’t have it. Mr. Skerl was a living and breathing act of grace in our world. AMDG.” – Mitchell Baum
“I had the honor and pleasure of riding with Jim one Sunday evening for Labre. Jim exuded love, compassion and mercy. He was the most Christ-like person I’ve ever met.” – Kelly LaGuardia
My loving, goofy uncle.” – Jessica Mahan
“Jim was a teacher, even though I never had him in class. When I would come back to campus to say hi to ‘Doc’, he would treat me as if I was a cherished former student of his. Our paths would cross in parish ministry from time to time and he always took an interested in my work and my family. I heard him speak on the Seven Last Words of Christ near the time he was would have never known. He was focused on his faith and bringing others into a relationship with Christ.” – Jeff Stutzman
“A man of faith and courage. It feels like yesterday when I was sitting in Mr. Skerl's final day of teaching Christian Manhood. Near the end of class, after we had finished our lecture on Viktor Frankl's ‘Man's Search for Meaning,’ Jim announced to us that he could no longer continue teaching. Then he proclaimed something I will never forget, ‘This cancer will soon kill my body, but it will never take my soul.’ There is something chilling about this statement even as I write this today. In the face of death, Jim had more faith than most of us will have in an entire lifetime. I will never forget the happiness he brought to class day in and day out that semester. He never looked at his illness and said Why me, but How can I continue to be a man for others?” – Matt Coric
Mr. Skerl showed me that faith was a daring, bold, and confident embrace of the goodness of God that leads you out to serve, to lift up, and most importantly to be joyful. Always joyful. I'm a hospice chaplain and a Lutheran pastor now and Mr. Skerl showed me the kind of loving presence that people need in times of crisis. When we were all out feeding the homeless one person cried with anxiety about being newly forced to live on the streets. Mr. Skerl gave the man a giant bear hug and just held on saying nothing for a long time while the man cried. I learned more about Jesus in that moment than I did from entire seminary courses. He inspired me by just embodying the love of Christ.” – Matt Metevelis