Fenwick ‘Mathletes’ Claim Chicago Archdiocese Crown

The school’s Math Competition Club is moderated by alumnus Roger Finnell from the Class of ’59, who has been teaching in the building this academic year.

Fenwick High School defeated 12 other Chicago-area, Catholic high schools earlier this month to win the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Math Contest. The competition has been held annually since 1967 — four years after Roger Finnell began teaching math at Fenwick in the fall of 1963. Mr. Finnell (pictured above, in his classroom, where he still uses chalk!) grew up in Cicero and Forest View, IL, attending grade school at Queen of Heaven, then St. Leonard’s in Berwyn. He has been in charge of running the archdiocese’s contest for the past 52 years.

“Fenwick has been fortunate to win first place 15 of the last 22 years with some extremely talented and dedicated math competitors,” reports Finnell, who is the Friars’ proud math club moderator and longtime chair of Fenwick’s Mathematics Department. To win this year’s Archdiocesan championship, his team tallied the highest score among both divisions of Catholic schools, which include (in alphabetical order): De La Salle Institute, DePaul Prep, Marist, Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights), Marmion Academy (Aurora), Montini (Lombard), Mount Carmel, St. Francis (Wheaton), St. Ignatius, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Viator (Arlington Heights) and Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart (Lake Forest). Like much of this school year, the 2021 math contest was conducted “virtually” online.

Mr. Finnell in 1968 (yearbook image).

Alongside many Archdiocesan high schools, Fenwick has successfully operated a hybrid education model since last August. Approximately half of its 1,100 students are in the building on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other half comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (Note: Some families have opted for fully remote, eLearning.) However, COVID-19 adjustments have not deterred Finnell, a 1959 alumnus of Fenwick who has been teaching at his alma mater for 58 years. The former Friar student returned to Oak Park shortly after graduating from Loyola University (Chicago), where he also completed his master’s degree in mathematics. Amazingly, five decades later, he can be seen in the building this school year. “The past year has been challenging to say the least!” Finnell admits. “Like others [teachers], I have had to adjust teaching to a camera while still engaging the in-person learners,” he explains, “but I miss the one-to-oneness in class during normal times.

“I have tried to do all the usual math competition activity [this year],” Finnell continues. “Three math leagues [17 contests total] have been online — with fewer participants than usual. Our junior-high math contest was online and drew twice as many contestants as usual! For state math contest practices, all early ones were conducted online. Now, for three team events, we have asked students to attend in-person practices, which have gone fairly normally. I miss going to a local college for state math regionals, and the team misses going to Champaign for the state finals. This year, the state contest is totally virtual, one day only, with less events than usual. But our team is still looking forward to it.

“Personally, after some struggles, I have finished my COVID vaccine shots and hope that many others can do the same very soon,” Finnell shares. This Saturday, February 27, his colleagues have the opportunity to receive their first doses of the COVID -19 vaccination at an event for Fenwick and other Oak Park private-school faculty members, who are eligible as status 1B educators. “I look forward eagerly to the day when I can resume traveling and attending White Sox games!” he concludes. “Until then, I’m praying that each day gets us one day closer to normalcy.”

Arch trophies go to …

Fenwick junior Finley Huggins ’22 (at right, from Oak Park) claimed the first-place prize by posting the highest score in either division! Huggins attended Oak Park’s Ascension Catholic Elementary School.

Daniel Majcher ’21 of Chicago (left) placed third and has been accepted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Loyola University (Chicago) as well as Northwestern University. The Chicago resident is heading north to Evanston to study biomedical engineering this coming fall at NU. For grade school, Majcher attended Keystone Montessori in River Forest.

Placing second was Logan Maue ’21 (right), an Oak Parker who plans to study aerospace engineering. “I have been accepted to Purdue and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” Maue reports, and is still waiting to hear from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is an alumnus of St. Giles Catholic School in Oak Park.

Fellow Oak Parker Sam Sikora ’21 (left) hopes to attend the University of Michigan and major in economics and mathematics. The alumnus of Ascension Catholic School (Oak Park) has been accepted at Michigan, Wisconsin and Villanova so far.

Patrick Kronstein ’21 (right), who is from Elmhurst and grabbed sixth place, attended Visitation Catholic School. He remains “undecided and [is] still waiting to hear from schools. My major is also undecided, as it may change depending on where I go to school,” Kronstein explains.

Fifth-place winner Hugo Nunez ’22 (left, from Berwyn) is a rising star as the other junior member of the Math Team with Huggins. Nunez is a graduate of St. Leonard Catholic School (Berwyn).

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