Jim spent most of his youth in the north end of the city. In 1953 his father started a small automotive business in the downtown area of the city which was the seed for Jim's future passion in the automotive world. The Tennant family moved frequently over the next 10 years and in 1963 Jim was sent to St Paul's High School; then located on the downtown Ellice Avenue campus. He had no family ties to the school and did not know one person on his first day.
While at St Paul's, the Jesuits encouraged his participation in the school from day one and their influence became a major factor in his future successes. In no small part, Jim credits a strong set of standards and high expectations that he sets for himself and others to those early years on Ellice and Vaughan. Jim participated in Crusader hockey, football and drama, and made loyal friends to whom he has remained close for the last 40 years. He has always been a strong supporter of the school. His son Trevor '91 as well as his younger brother John '69 and nephew Gavin '92, graduated from St. Paul's while his daughters Meredith and Melissa went on to become graduates of St Mary's Academy.
Jim attended the University of Manitoba where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and later completed his Certificate in Business Management. In university he was elected president of his fraternity. He took a strong stand against the practice of hazing on college campuses and upon graduation was hired by Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity to work for one year with the Greek system on many U.S. campuses.
Upon his return to Canada in 1971, Jim married Janice Hanson and began working full time at his lifelong career in the automotive aftermarket. In the following four years he and Jan had their three children, Trevor, Meredith, and Melissa. He actively coached boys and girls hockey, softball and ringette, taught at summer hockey camps and served as hockey convener and president of Tuxedo Community Club. He worked behind the scenes for the Charleswood Hawks and quietly threw his support behind the movement to launch high school hockey, which has turned out to be a highly visible platform for the demonstration of St Paul's pursuit of excellence.
Jim's work career started in his father's business, Piston Ring Service, working on weekends at an early age and he continued to work there part time while attending university. In 1971 he started his own distribution business known as James Alexander Warehouse and in 1976 he amalgamated the businesses along with his father and brother. When his father passed away in 1981 he became the CEO of Piston Ring and with his brother John as his partner, continued to build the company to where it is today. Presently the company has 26 corporate stores and 16 franchise stores throughout rural Manitoba and northern Ontario and employs over 400 people. The company sponsors and runs an annual Pro-Am Golf Tournament that raises money for various charities and hosts a February social that raises money for local children to attend summer camps.
Piston Ring Service actively sponsors many rural Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario vehicle-based events benefiting local charities and institutions. Piston Ring Service supports vocational schools' automotive programs through provisions of access to Piston Ring facilities and personnel for training and education purposes. Jim's role as an employer is characterized by his attitude of equal opportunity, his steadfast support of his employees, and the encouragement of those employees to participate in their community life. He is known for his belief in second chances and his personal support of employees in times of need. He believes that a friend is someone who is there when most needed.
Jim has been involved as a supporter for many charitable, academic, and cultural groups in the city of Winnipeg in numerous ways. He has also been involved with the Young Presidents' Organization, the Associates of the Asper School of Business, and the Manitoba Business Council. His preference has always been to participate quietly and maintain a low profile while helping these organizations in areas of business expertise and fundraising.
Jim was a member of the first Board of Directors of St. Paul's High School, created in 1983, and later went on to become Chair of the Board in 1986. During this time the school undertook an organizational and physical expansion. A business office was established and a business manager hired. The Jesuits, who had been in residence at the Tuxedo campus since its construction in 1964, took up residence on Grosvenor Avenue. The former residence was renovated and dedicated as the Monaghan Wing, in honour of Fr St Clair Monaghan, SJ, St Paul's Principal from 1948 to 1971. The new wing included new classrooms, computer facilities, a music room and faculty offices.
Also during this time, the school's finances were stabilized by successful lobbying of the provincial government for more financial support for independent schools. The Public Schools Act and subsequent regulations allowed for the minister of the day to make grants in respect of instruction and services offered by the independent school. Notably absent from the legislation was a provincial commitment to support the costs associated with capital building and renovation of independent schools. This increased the need for continued and expanded financial support from alumni and friends of the school. To this end, Jim was involved in various fundraising and community building initiatives through the years which directly contributed to the school remaining accessible and affordable. Among these efforts was the transformation of Father Holland's newsletter into the precursor of what has become The Crusader magazine, which celebrates the community of alumni and friends of the school.
Jim considers his attendance at and involvement with St. Paul's High School both a privilege and a blessing. He is deeply honoured to be included in the company of those who have received the Ignatian Challenge Award.