Class of 1965
Born in DeKalb, Rich Kearney moved to Sycamore together with his parents in 1963. Yearning to play the sport he loved for the legendary football coach, Pete Johnson, and his longtime assistant coach, Bert Fredrick, Rich soon became a Spartan for life. Coach Johnson’s coaching philosophy proved to be very instrumental to Rich. More importantly, he was witness to the strong passion, work ethic and sense of community-pride embedded into the people of Sycamore.
After graduating from SHS in 1965, Rich attended NIU on a football scholarship. During summer sessions, he developed severe knee issues that would ultimately cut his college career short. Suddenly finding himself without football, Rich decided to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1966. He served two years which included one year deployment to the jungles of Vietnam.
Those two critical years serving the country proved to be a very humbling experience making him keenly aware of how precious life was. This newfound appreciation cultivated a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others once he was discharged. In 1968, his love for teaching and athletics lead him back to NIU to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Education graduating in 1973.
Rich’s first teaching job was at Plainfield High School in 1974 as a health teacher and quickly assumed the duties of the defensive coordinator of the varsity football squad. After just four years at Plainfield, Rich got the call in 1978 from his former high school football coach, Pete Johnson, to come back to Sycamore to teach health and to coach alongside his mentor, Bert Fredrick. Who said you can never go back home? Rich was hired as a health teacher and assumed the duties of defensive coordinator for the varsity football team. To come back to coach and teach at his alma mater was a very special honor. The following year in 1979 he was also named head girl’s track coach and later boy’s track coach. Upon Coach Fredrick’s retirement, Rich became varsity head coach at SHS in 1983. He was truly blessed with the privilege of coaching and teaching for 12 years in Sycamore within a system that encompassed such passionate young men and women.
Sycamore has always been a tight-knit community and a feeling of undeniable pride and stewardship has always run deep throughout the entire community. Rich retired from teaching and coaching in 2002 after leaving Sycamore and leading Kaneland High School as its defensive coordinator winning back-to-back state titles in 1997 and 1998.
Rich married his life-long soulmate, Jacki Greenacre, in 1968. They will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this coming October. They have two children, Kim (Joe) Vranicar and Rich Kearney III and four grandchildren Taylor, Lindsey, and Grace Vranicar and Rich Kearney IV. Of all the blessings in his life, his family is and always will be his top priority. Rich and Jacki moved to Minocqua, WI and now split the year between Wisconsin and Florida.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
“Reflecting on my many years in teaching and coaching, I would never trade a day for any other profession. The saying, money isn’t everything, is so very true. The riches I received by being able to interact and help shape the lives of so many fine young people is immeasurable. It’s such a tremendous honor that some of my former students from Sycamore High School began a yearly golf outing called the ‘Kearney Cup’ and has been attended by former students and athletes from Sycamore, Kaneland, and even DeKalb High Schools. These same former students and athletes at SHS also initiated a yearly scholarship in my name at Sycamore High School, which will commence in the 2018-19 school year. It’s a great way of giving back to a school that gave me so much.”
“This SHS Distinguished Alumni Award is very humbling and I feel so honored that I have been included within this group of amazing individuals. My years at Sycamore were so rewarding in that many years later, so many of my former students have become such close friends of my family. There is this distinct feeling that I believe best personifies Sycamore, a feeling that no matter where you go in life, you are proud to call this wonderful community home. The true grit, loyalty, and sense of community among its young people is what truly separates this town from all others.”
“One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is seeing former students 20 to 30 years later as parents and or successful community members and hoping maybe you played a role in their development.”