The Reverend John E. Owens is known as one of the greatest and most beloved headmasters of Saint James. His WWII heroism and the impact he made during his time at Saint James has been a beacon of inspiration to many.During the Second World War, Father Owens was the Captain and Commanding Officer of Company "C" in the 354th Infantry. On March 26, 1945, Captain Owens and his troops were part of a water assault that required them to cross the Rhine River. During this crossing, one of his boats capsized midstream. His men, who were weighed down heavily by equipment, were in danger of drowning and threatened by heavy enemy fire. Captain Owens, with no regard for his safety, set out to save his men. He traveled 400 feet downstream to recover six men who were stranded on a sandbar. After his troops had reorganized, they were able to take the town of Willich as well as a castle without a casualty.
On April 27, 1945, while under heavy fire near Thal, Germany, Captain Owens and his troops advanced 50 yards on open terrain to relieve a fellow platoon. With his guidance and direction, his company, along with a weapons platoon, was able to neutralize the enemy positions. For his actions during the Rhine crossing, he was awarded the Silver Star. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions near Thal. Captain Owens was only 26-years-old at the time.
Father Owens would bring those selfless and strong qualities to Saint James. His leadership impacted the School both physically and spiritually during, and following his 29 years as Headmaster. A humble and devout man, Father Owens remains greatly revered.