Common Sense and the Importance of Obeying Rules

What Fenwick was and is: from the school vault …

Bernardi as a Fenwick student.

“I have been thinking about the anecdotes I recall from my years at Fenwick …,” alumnus Judge Donald Bernardi ’69 wrote some 20 years ago from his Bloomington, IL office to then Social Studies Teacher Mr. Louis Spitznagel. More than three decades had passed since Mr. Bernardi’s high-school graduation:

I will go to my grave recalling the image of Tony Lawless standing on the balcony of the pool prior to our exercise and lecturing on the importance of common sense. Mr. Lawless (see above) was fond of reminding all of us that, although we may walk around with a stack of books a foot high under our arm, it doesn’t mean anything if you ‘don’t have common sense.’ These comments were usually preceded by some event that occurred that day which demonstrated a lack of common sense on the part of one of the students.

Fr. Robert Pieper, O.P. was Fenwick’s Director of Discipline at the time.

The second memory that I recall vividly would be that of either an AM or PM assembly resulting from student rule violations. Generally, the assemblies were not pleasant occurences because we were typically advised of what the rules were and who had been breaking them — and then warned not to break them again in the future. Father Pieper would always end these speeches with the following words: ‘Those are the rules, and if you don’t like it, there is the door,’ as he pointed to the back of the auditorium.

The most vivid recollection I have of being at Fenwick in the 1965-69 era was the atmosphere of discipline created by the faculty and staff. The notion of group discipline was foreign to me when I arrived at Fenwick and it caused me to be on edge and alert to problems constantly throughout the school day. I recall numerous ‘Class JUGs’ [detentions] as a result of various persons in my class having misbehaved ….

“Overall, the high quality of the students and the intense academic competition [at Fenwick] made the transition to college remarkably easy.”

Ret. Judge Donald Bernardi ’69

I am enclosing a copy of the rule book which had to be carried by every student at all times while I was at Fenwick. It is my recollection that if you were asked for the rule book and didn’t have it on your person you could receive a JUG [‘Judgment Under God’] as well. I can recall to this day my efforts to memorize which stairways were up and which stairways were down so that if I was going anywhere during low-traffic times I would not be caught by faculty ‘going up the down staircase.’ Overall, the high quality of the students and the intense academic competition made the transition to college remarkably easy.

Judge Donald Bernardi in 2008.
(Image courtesy of The Pantagraph.)

About Hon. Donald Bernardi: Retired for nearly 12 years, Judge Bernardi was an 18-year veteran of the McLean County bench (Eleventh Judicial Circuit), where he presided over several murder trials. He also was a Livingston County prosecutor (State’s Attorney and Assistant State’s Attorney) for 13 years and served on the McLean County Foster Care Coalition. Post-retirement, Bernardi became a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Illinois State University. He originally is from Elmwood Park, IL.

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