The legendary organization founded by Fr. Flanagan — or, Spencer Tracy, to people who remember the movie — will make history with a new non-Christian chairman:
For the first time in its 94-year history, the board chairman of Omaha-based Boys Town will be a non-Catholic. In fact, the new chairman is also non-Christian — he is Hindu.
“I think a ‘first’ is always good in the sense that there might be some stereotypes that people have about Boys Town,” said Rajive Johri, who becomes chairman next month. “This truly tells you how mission-oriented Boys Town is.”
The Rev. Steven E. Boes, national executive director, said Johri has been a valuable member of the 16-person board for four years.
“He really is an outside-the-box thinker and a great mind,” Boes said. “He’s not a rubber stamp. He pushes me a lot, which is exactly what a board member is supposed to do.”
For most of its history, the ex-officio Boys Town board chairman was the sitting archbishop of Omaha. But in 2003, then-Archbishop Elden Curtiss resigned, and the board elected its first lay chairman, John Gillin of Atlanta.
He was followed as chairman by Omaha businessmen Ken Stinson and John T. Reed. Johri, who was born in India and had served as president of the First National Bank of Omaha, will serve a two-year term as chairman.
It promises to be an important period. Boes (pronounced “Baze”) said Boys Town plans to embark on a $20 million capital campaign in hopes of adding two $10 million buildings to its main Omaha campus.
“We hope to write a new chapter in the history of Boys Town,” the priest said, “and make a large national impact.”