Leo Linbeck III has been a trailblazer in political and educational reform much of his adult life; so, when a school model that required students to work one day a week at major corporations was suggested to him nearly 11 years ago, he immediately wanted to be part of the experiment. Linbeck is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Aquinas Companies, LLC, which has three operating companies: institutional construction management, real estate acquisition and development, and bioscience technology development. He has been an ardent Cristo Rey Jesuit supporter since our doors opened in 2009 to 82 students. Now, 540 students strong, Aquinas has supported Cristo Rey Jesuit for 10 years!
After meeting our Founding President, Fr. TJ Martinez, SJ, and learning about Cristo Rey Jesuit’s mission to educate and provide extensive workplace training to economically challenged students, Linbeck was immediately on board. “There has to be experimentation around business models,” Linbeck said. “The more exposure students get to the work environment, the better they are able to form professional relationships.
“High school can be tough, but I love the work-study program,” he continued. The work-study program benefits both the students and the company that employs them because employees feel good about “supporting kids who come from low-income families.”
Linbeck’s executive assistant, Carolyn Noack, has been supervising and mentoring Cristo Rey Jesuit students since the opening of the school 10 years ago, witnessing the impact Cristo Rey Jesuit’s work-study program has on the many students who pass through the doors of Aquinas Companies. “I like watching them grow up and transform into confident adults, especially the students who come in here as quiet as church mice, but bloom into poised, articulate young people. Most arrive timid as ninth graders, but by the time they graduate, they don’t hesitate to look people in the eye and ask questions. It’s so incredibly rewarding to be part of their growth.”
Noack, who has been with Aquinas Companies for 37 years, was encouraged by Fr. Martinez to participate in the program. “Fr. Martinez was so inspiring. He encouraged everyone he came in contact with to become involved in growing Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston. I’ve learned from the students, and I’m proud to be a part of the school’s growth over the past 10 years.”
“These are hard-working students trying to make a better life and to better their education in a positive workplace, and I fully support them,” Linbeck concluded.