Homewood-Flossmoor grads making their mark
Alumni move on to become powerhouse attorneys, U.S. ambassadors, economists
If the south suburbs seem a long way from the federal courthouse of Alexandria, Va., consider that there are Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduates who have gone on to make their mark in South Sudan and the Czech Republic.
Like them, before Uzodinma (Uzo) Asonye became a powerhouse attorney and lead prosecutor in the Paul Manafort trial, he spent his teen years walking the halls of the Kedzie Avenue high school in Flossmoor.
While there, Asonye, a 1998 graduate, also performed in the marching band, the symphonic band and the Viking ensemble and was a member of the National Honor Society, according to Ann Cherry, director of development and alumni relations at Homewood-Flossmoor.
Born in Nigeria, Asonye grew up in Flossmoor with younger sister Chidinma, who graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor in 2000.
From the south suburbs, Asonye went to Cornell University and then Yale Law School, Cherry said. He worked as an associate in the white-collar defense and corporate investigations unit with the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP of Washington, D.C., before becoming deputy chief of the financial crimes and public corruption unit and assistant U.S. attorney, Cherry said.
The Manafort case, in which President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager is being tried on charges of tax evasion and fraud, was headed to closing arguments Tuesday after the prosecution rested Monday and the defense opted not to call witnesses.
Were Homewood-Flossmoor officials surprised to learn that one of their own had landed such a prestigious role?
“Not at all,” Cherry said. “At one time a couple years ago, we had two standing United States ambassadors that were both graduates of H-F. And we had the former United States deputy of the treasury, who was second in command at the treasury, the highest-ranking female in the history of (that) department. They were under the Obama administration.”
Andy Schapiro, class of 1981, went to Yale and Harvard Law School before serving as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Cherry said. Susan D. Page, class of 1982, served as U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, the world’s newest country. Cherry said the graduate of the University of Michigan and Harvard works as the United Nations secretary general’s special adviser on rule of law. And there’s Sarah Bloom Raskin, class of 1979. She served as the U.S. deputy secretary of the treasury. She also was on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve, Cherry said.
“H-F has always been strong in economics,” Cherry said. The school, which opened in 1959 to alleviate crowding at Bloom High School because of a growth spurt in the south suburbs, also has always been strong in broadcasting, fine arts, mechanics, science and sports, according to Cherry.
“We have tons of alums like Uzo,” she said. “This school has always produced amazing grads and continues to do so. So we’re never really surprised. We’re just like, ‘Oh, yeah, OK.’ ”
Cherry said graduates also have gone on to excel in business and medicine. Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Fuller, former president of the Tribune Co., attended the high school. The former editor and publisher, who died in 2016, also had served as special assistant to U.S. Attorney General Edward Levi.
“Another of our alums was one of the scientists who helped sequence DNA,” Cherry said. “We would have a hard time coming up with a list of the top 10 graduates.”
Cherry said there have been so many high-achieving graduates that sometimes they’ve given new meaning to the term “small world.”
“There was an alum in Uzbekistan who ran into another alum there. Both were working for the State Department. They were a year apart but didn’t know each other back at H-F,” Cherry said. “They met in a receiving line.”
Cherry attributes the history of successes to several things: high parental expectations, good teachers, good feeder schools and lots of opportunity that includes things such as fine arts and industrial arts.
“If you look at this young man, Uzo was involved in all kinds of things. He was musical, in the marching band, etc.,” Cherry said. “We find that kids excel when they have the opportunity to excel.”