Setting the Standard for Excellence

High achievements in academics and athletics have been intertwined at Fenwick for 90 years and counting.

By Ray Wicklander, Jr. ’55

Ray Wicklander, Jr., Fenwick Class of 1955

Editor’s note: Mr. Wicklander gave this speech at the Fenwick Athletic Awards ceremony 26 years ago, on November 30, 1992. From Oak Park and Ascension, Ray was a National Honor Society student who played football for four years for the Friars. He also spent two years swimming and on the staff of The Wick.

On a night similar to this, over 60 years ago in the old Morrison Hotel in downtown Chicago, a new upstart high school from Oak Park, called Fenwick, held its first athletic awards night. Over 900 people attended – in the height of the Depression – for two basic reasons:

  1. They were there to give recognition to the accomplishments of the first senior class – with a football record of 6-1 – who established themselves already as a force in the Catholic League.
  2. And to make a statement: that the standard of excellence on which Fenwick was established would always reflect itself in its athletic programs.

That was the beginning of a tradition – one of excellence and leadership that has made Fenwick what it is today.

Historic Night for Female Friars

Tonight we have an equally historic moment. For it is obvious that we are now a new Fenwick, where the Black and White of the Friars is worn by both young women as well as young men. A new tradition of excellence and leadership is beginning right now. And just as at the first athletic awards night, we are here for two reasons: to recognize the accomplishments of these athletes and to make a statement that the new Fenwick is committed to excellence and leadership in our sports.

We know that sports are not the only thing that makes a school great. None of you came to Fenwick only because of its sports program. But Fenwick would not be Fenwick without these programs. In Father Botthof’s words, Fenwick is unabashedly a college preparatory program. But it is also a life preparatory program, where we come to learn the lessons of how to succeed as human beings, as Christians, as parents or spouses or colleagues, no matter what path in life we follow.

Many of the most important lessons do not come from books. Tony Lawless often reminded us: “Don’t let the books get in the way of your education.” It is on the field, on the court, in the pool – it is in competition that we learn to get up if we have been knocked down, where we learn to handle a loss without becoming a loser. It is in competition that we come to be truly honest with ourselves. For we can fool others, even parents and bosses and even some teachers, but we can’t fool our teammates. We learn that with determination and commitment, anything is possible – so the word “limits” really has no meaning.

What It Means to Compete

The ’92 Fenwick Football Team

It is also in competition that we learn that we really don’t do that much on our own, that we need a team and that is what counts. So words like “Loyalty” and “Trust” have a special meaning for athletes. It is in this competition that we form bonds and friendships that are unique and hopefully will last all our lives. These are the lessons, the elements that create the elusive, hard-to-describe reality called School Spirit or Tradition. And it is this spirit that affects everything around you here at Fenwick.

Tradition and Spirit are pretty vague words. We always talk about the Tradition and Spirit we received from prior classes and generations. But let me tell you – there is no Tradition or Spirit that lives by itself. If we have great Spirit here – and we have the best – it is because of what great people have done to live these traditions. If there is a great Spirit now – and there is no doubt there is – it is because the men and women of Fenwick are living these values today.

Fenwick’s inaugural Girls’ Swimming Team (1992 season).

So, we congratulate you tonight for your significant athletics accomplishments – and there were many. But, especially for keeping the tradition and spirit of Fenwick alive. In many ways you made Fenwick what it is.

But we are also here to make a statement: That just as the First Fenwick made a commitment to excellence in its athletic programs, so do we make the same commitment. Just as Fenwick would not be Fenwick without its sports programs, so the new Fenwick – with men and women – will not be Fenwick without our commitment to excellence in all we do.

We know this excellence cannot – and will not – be achieved without the complete support of the Fenwick family, from the administration and faculty, from alumni and trustees, from the outstanding coaching staff that is committed to your success. But most of all, this commitment must come from you – the men and women of the new Fenwick.

We leave here tonight with great memories – memories of successes, of courage and determination, of the friendships you have formed. But as a wise man said to me recently: “Ray, as long as we are still making memories, and not just living off them, we will be okay.” I know I speak for Father Botthof, all the faculty and your coaches, for all the alumni and parents when we salute you for the memories you are making – for Fenwick.

Fenwick’s November 2018 Athlete of the Month is Ellie Kaiser ’20, a junior center on the girls’ ice hockey team.

About the Author

Ray Wicklander received a BA in philosophy from St. Mary of the Lake (Mundelein, IL) in 1960 and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, in 1964. He is a graduate of Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management (1977) with an MBA degree and a major in finance. Ray joined Continental Bank (now owned by Bank of America)  in 1974. Before that, his investment experience included his position as a registered representative at Merrill Lynch in Chicago. Ray’s responsibilities at Continental, prior to joining the Investment Management Group, included acting as vice president of corporate staffing. Ray was an owner of the firm and, in addition to being an active client relationship manager, led Continental’s business development efforts and coordination of consultant communications. Later in his professional career, he became Managing Director of Great Lake Advisors (now a Wintrust company).

Additionally, Mr. Wicklander has served on the advisory boards of Catholic Charities and Misericordia Home and was a member of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.  He taught a class on ethics for the Investment Management Consultant’s Association CIMA Certification. Wicklander has made almost a second career out of helping Fenwick High School. He served on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and as Treasurer of the Board and Chairman of the Investment Committee during the 1990s — and was inducted into Fenwick’s Hall of Fame in 2000.

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