The recently retired faculty mentor addressed new Friar parents at the annual event renamed in his honor.
Welcome to Pleasant Home for the 28th Fenwick Fathers’ Club Frosh Family Picnic. We started his event in 1992 to welcome Fenwick’s first coeducational class. Three of the members of that Class of 1996 now serve on the Fenwick faculty. Pleasant Home, like Fenwick, is located in St. Edmund’s Parish. The first Catholic Mass celebrated in Oak Park was held in the barn that serviced this building.
Fenwick is the only high school in the United States sponsored by Dominican Friars. Dominicans lead lives of virtue. Humility is the greatest of all the virtues. We are humbled by the confidence families place in us by sending us their adolescents for formation. It is a teacher’s greatest joy to be surpassed by his students. We are pleased to see so many of our former students here today as parents of students in the class of 2023. We are pleased to welcome our first fourth generation Friar! We have a member of the class of 2023 with us today who follows in the footsteps of a great grandfather, grandfather and father.
Every high school in the United States has a legal obligation to the state legislature, which charters it to train patriotic citizens and literate workers. As a Dominican school, Fenwick follows the Thomist educational philosophy. A Thomist school has an obligation to our Creator, the Supreme Being to train moral, servant-leaders of society. The late Ed Brennan, a Fenwick alumnus and CEO of Sears, was once asked what course he studied in his graduate school of business that best prepared him to be the chief executive of a Fortune 500 Corporation. Mr. Brennan replied, “Nothing I studied in business school prepared me for my job. The only class that prepared me was Moral Theology during my junior year at Fenwick High School.”
Training moral, servant-leaders
Our freshman students will learn this year in history class that we are in an Axial Age. Everything changes in an Axial Age. We have had an Agricultural Revolution, which made us farmers. We have had an Industrial Revolution, which made us factory workers. We are entering an Information Revolution, which will make us computer scientists. We study the past to understand the present to shape the future. We do not know what challenges beyond our present comprehension the future may bring. We must be prepared to be the moral, servant-leaders of our society so we can enable others to meet these challenges. Therefore, Moral Theology is the most important subject that our students study.
The Dominicans are the Order of Preachers and have the initials, O.P., after their names. All of our students will study speech as sophomores.
The lessons we learn in class are important or we would not bother to teach them. Even more important, however, are the lessons we learn inside our building but outside of the classroom. Three of the Dominican Pillars are Prayer, Community and Study. Once a month we assemble in our Auditorium to celebrate Mass. It is appropriate that we meet in community to pray before we study.
The most important lessons we learn at Fenwick are taught outside of the building. All of our students will make a Kairos religious retreat during their senior year. This is the most important thing we do at Fenwick.
I am going to identify three activities that will enhance our Fenwick Experience. The first is for adults. The second is for adolescents. The third is for families. These suggestions are based on educational research. They are neither my opinions nor intuitive thoughts. Pedagogy is the science of education. These suggestions come from empirical pedagogical research and enjoy a measure of scientific certitude.
- Adults should be active in parent associations. Vibrant parent associations are in indicator of excellence for a school. Do not just join. Do not just pay dues. Get active. Make a difference.
- Adolescents should participate in student activities. This does not mean just sports. It includes all manner of student clubs such as speech, drama, student government, art and music.
- Families should eat dinner together. They should shut off the television. They should put down the smart phone. They should talk with one another.
If, and only if, adults join parent association, adolescents participate in student activities, and families eat dinner together, we can have social capital. Social capital is the quality of the families who send their adolescents to sit next to our adolescents in the Student Cafeteria. We rise and fall to the level of our peer group. We want our adolescents to belong to peer groups of friends from functional families with similar values to our family. Social capital is the single greatest determinant of excellence in a school. It is more important than the faculty, the facility and the curriculum.
If, and only if, we have social capital we can enjoy collective efficacy. Efficacy is the ability to get things done. If we have collective efficacy, we can shape the future in our Axial Age.
Editor’s note: Dr. Lordan also is a member of the Dominican Laity.