They Said It: Science Is a Fact, Not Fiction, at Fenwick

‘Preparing the scientists, researchers and health-care workers of tomorrow.’

by Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P., President Emeritus

For example, the dictionary defines excellence as “a quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Does Fenwick have, as a matter of fact, the right to describe itself in these terms and to embrace the word “excellent” as an integral part of its motto?

Father LaPata is a 1950 graduate of Fenwick.

As a former president of Fenwick, I could write a long essay giving many particular examples of the excellence to be found in the school’s multiple departments — from its teachers, its curriculum and its extracurricular activities to its actual educational outcomes. But perhaps what is even more persuasive is the testimony to Fenwick’s excellence given by those who have little or no ties to our school.

Recently, I was invited to have lunch by and with a group of men whom I did not know. They were not alumni nor family members of our students. After some pleasant conversation I asked them what the real purpose of our meeting was. They explained that in the recent past each of them had a loved one who succumbed to the ravages of cancer. In response, they had a benefit golf outing to raise funds for the “fight against cancer.”

As it happened, these gentlemen gave half of the proceeds to the Northwestern University Research Center. And, to my surprise, they said they were giving the other half to Fenwick because “we know you are preparing the scientists, researchers and health-care workers of tomorrow, and you are doing it well.”

These men seem to know how well we educate our students in the sciences, in part because of our reputation for excellence. What a remarkable testimony to what Fenwick claims in its motto!

Why Go to Fenwick?

Partly because Friars look at the world through ‘faith-colored’ glasses.

By Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P., President Emeritus

Why do parents send their children to a religious-sponsored school such as Fenwick? There may be more than one reason why they do so. For example, our school has the reputation of preparing a child well for college.

Or, it is felt that a Fenwick diploma guarantees a student getting into a good college or university? Perhaps it is the knowledge of well-qualified teachers present on our faculty. Possibly a first visit has impressed the visitor with Fenwick’s welcoming, friendly atmosphere. They see how much Fenwick appreciates diversity and the sense of family, and that these qualities are continued in the lives of our alumni.

Into this mix of motives, I hope boys and girls are seated here for the main reason why Dominican Friars founded the school: that is, to encounter and learn all about the faith and beliefs of the Catholic Christian community.

Like any other educational institution, Fenwick forms the students in their knowledge of the world through instruction in the arts and sciences, but it adds another dimension to the student’s awareness of that world. This is done through the study of theology, which looks at everything in its relation to God. Theology presents what we believe and how that belief throws light on whatever else we may know about the universe. There is another resource of learning, and that is our Christian faith. Contrary to what some people think, God’s gift of faith does not constrain or restrict human knowledge, nor does it diminish all other true knowledge but adds to our understanding of all things.

Again, it’s like looking at the world through faith-colored glasses. This faith-view sees God as present and working in the world, and that we have a relationship with God as Creator and Parent. And, so, what Fenwick attempts to do through its Theology classes is to enlighten the student, answering for him/her the ultimate meaning of life.

Whatever reasons move parents to send their children to Fenwick, I hope a deep understanding of the faith may be one of them.

Father LaPata is a 1950 graduate of Fenwick High School.

 

Faculty Focus: October 2017

Alumna Ms. Samantha Carraher ’96 is in her 18th year teaching Spanish at Fenwick.​

What is your educational background?
SC: After finishing my elementary education at St. Giles in Oak Park, I had the honor of attending Fenwick as part of the first class of girls in school history. When I graduated from Fenwick, I went to the University of Dayton, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in Spanish. I also have my master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from Elmhurst College and had the opportunity to study in Spain (Segovia and Madrid) on two separate occasions.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
SC: I actually began teaching at Fenwick immediately after graduating from Dayton in 2000.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

SC: After seeing “Hamilton,” I decided to read the biography about the title character to learn more about him and the impact he had on our nation’s development following the Revolutionary War.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

SC: I am an avid fan of the men’s basketball team from Dayton and the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. (I’m pretty sure I heard an exasperated groan coming from the direction of Mr. Arellano’s classroom before I even put the period on that last sentence.) I also love gardening and musical theater. My husband and I have tried to get into a variety of shows on cable and Netflix. However, with a two-year-old at home, our television viewing consists primarily of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Doc McStuffins” and “Peppa Pig.”

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

SC: I played volleyball and basketball during my first two years at Fenwick, and Coach Power is still trying to recover from the experience. I was a member of Fenwick’s varsity softball team for four years and played for a traveling softball organization called the Windmills. I was also in the cast of the spring musical my sophomore year.

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

SC: I am a coach for both the freshman girls’ volleyball team and boys’ varsity volleyball team. I am also a moderator of the Friar Mentor tutoring program.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

SC: There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the quality and character of our students. They are dedicated learners who are incredibly intelligent and hard working. They also exhibit a genuine kindness, concern and compassion for others on a daily basis. I truly appreciate what outstanding people our kids are both in and out of the classroom.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

SC: While I knew I wanted to teach Spanish early on in my high school career, I struggled with the language quite a bit during my freshman year at Fenwick. However, thanks to the quality of the teachers and instruction I had access to, I eventually had that “ah-ha” moment when it all clicked and I fell in love with the language. Continue reading “Faculty Focus: October 2017”

Faculty Focus: October 2017

Alumna Samantha Carraher ’96 is in her 18th year teaching Spanish at Fenwick.

Sam_Carraher_2017_sm

What is your educational background?
SC: After finishing my elementary education at St. Giles in Oak Park, I had the honor of attending Fenwick as part of the first class of girls in school history. When I graduated from Fenwick, I went to the University of Dayton, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in Spanish. I also have my master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from Elmhurst College and had the opportunity to study in Spain (Segovia and Madrid) on two separate occasions.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
SC: I actually began teaching at Fenwick immediately after graduating from Dayton in 2000.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

SC: After seeing Hamilton, I decided to read the biography about the title character to learn more about him and the impact he had on our nation’s development following the Revolutionary War.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

SC: I am an avid fan of the men’s basketball team from Dayton and the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. (I’m pretty sure I heard an exasperated groan coming from the direction of Mr. Arellano’s classroom before I even put the period on that last sentence.) I also love gardening and musical theater. My husband and I have tried to get into a variety of shows on cable and Netflix. However, with a two-year-old at home, our television viewing consists primarily of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Doc McStuffins” and “Peppa Pig.”

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

SC: I played volleyball and basketball during my first two years at Fenwick, and Coach Power is still trying to recover from the experience. I was a member of Fenwick’s varsity softball team for four years and played for a traveling softball organization called the Windmills. I was also in the cast of the spring musical my sophomore year.

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

SC: I am a coach for both the freshman girls’ volleyball team and boys’ varsity volleyball team. I am also a moderator of the Friar Mentor tutoring program.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

SC: There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the quality and character of our students. They are dedicated learners who are incredibly intelligent and hard working. They also exhibit a genuine kindness, concern and compassion for others on a daily basis. I truly appreciate what outstanding people our kids are both in and out of the classroom.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: October 2017”

The Philosophy of Education

By Gerald F. Lordan, O.P., Ph.D., Social Studies Teacher and Faculty Mentor

There are five principal educational philosophies in America:

  1. the Idealism of Plato
  2. the Realism of Aristotle
  3. the Experimentalism of Dewey
  4. the Existentialism of Sartre
  5. the Thomism of Aquinas

Philosophy is the love of wisdom. A philosopher seeks to ask the right question — and not to give the right answer. Philosophy has three principal questions: a) What is real? (metaphysics), b) What is true? (epistemology), and c) What is good? (axiology)

The axiological question is so broad that it often is divided into two subsections: What is right? (ethics) and What is beautiful? (aesthetics)

Approximately 90% of American children attend public schools. They are usually taught under more than one of the first four philosophies. Approximately 10% of American children attend private schools. Of that amount, about nine of ten are in parochial schools, and some 90% of them are in Roman Catholic schools. These children are usually taught under Thomism.

The private-sector students who do not attend a parochial school usually attend an independent school. These schools usually have a focus on either Idealism or Existentialism. I believe those schools which focus on one philosophy better serve their children. Furthermore, it is my opinion that those schools which focus on Thomism best serve their children.

Here’s Why

In the Chicago metropolitan area, we have schools which are examples of all five educational philosophies. The curriculum model of an Idealist-philosophy school is Scholar Academic. The Scholar Academic School trains the next generation of academic discipline scholars – that is chemists, poets, mathematicians, etc. Students are valuable for what they know.

The curriculum model of a Realist-philosophy school is Social Efficiency. The Social Efficiency School trains the next generation of workers – that is engineers, accountants, architects, actuaries, librarians, etc. Students are valuable for what they do.

The curriculum model of an Experimentalist-philosophy school is Social Reconstruction. The Social Reconstruction School trains the next generation of change agents dedicated to the advancement of a democratic, capitalist, political-economic order. Students are valuable for what they believe.

The curriculum model of an Existentialist-philosophy school is Human Development. The Human Development School prepares the next generation of self-actualized individuals. Students are valuable for the people they may become.

The curriculum model at Fenwick is Thomism. Fenwick prepares the next generation of virtuous servant leaders of society. Students are valuable as human beings with the potential to be full of God’s grace. There are neither superiors nor inferiors in a Thomist-philosophy school, but rather superodinates and subordinates. They are trained to be members of the Hero Generation.

The Hero is the poor boy or girl made good; the person on horseback who rides into a polis, a city, in the midst of anarchy, a situation in which there is bad government by the many with mob rule and wildness in the streets – a scenario in which nobody’s life, liberty and property are safe. The Hero says, “I know what to do. I have a plan. Follow me.” The Hero inspires the people and leads society to serenity.

About the Author

 

Gerald Lordan

Dr. Lordan is entering his 27th year of teaching at Fenwick. Originally from Massachusetts, Lordan completed his under-graduate studies at Northeastern University and received a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Boston College.

Fondly Remembering Father Regan

The author’s first article about his beloved former Fenwick teacher first appeared in the Alumni Wick in 1985. Here are more of his recollections, 32 years later.

By James Loverde ’64, Guest Blogger

Fenwick Theology Teacher Father James Regan, O.P. (circa 1964).

Surely the sun was not always shining through Fenwick’s high windows during Father Regan’s Religion Class – the last one of the afternoon. But, in my recollections, that was the way it seemed. On afternoons today, notes and memories begin to stir one another like the reds and golds on medieval prints ….

“Candy Spots”

Candy Spots in 1963.

What was the name of a horse doing atop the first page of my newly found notebook from the spring quarter? Father Regan had written it on the blackboard to illustrate a point, as usual. Candy Spots was the recent winner of that year’s Preakness Stakes. The owner of this fine animal once said that he would rather be sick himself than have a sick horse.

We all knew what Father was getting at. He wanted to illustrate the dedication many people had to what was really important in their lives. He concluded by quoting the words of Christ: “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.”

There were many other moments that none of us need a notebook to remember. “What’s the toughest job in the world, Cahill?” he once asked a good fellow student in a charcoal pullover, “being a teenager on the West Side in 1963?” Father Regan paused for a second, with his fingers holding the yellow chalk like a plucked jonquil. Then he gave the answer himself. Plato had agreed with it many semesters before: “The most difficult task a man can undertake is to be a parent.”

Continue reading “Fondly Remembering Father Regan”

88 Years of Community at Fenwick

‘No One Gets to Heaven Alone’

By Father Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50, President Emeritus (1998-2007) of Fenwick High School

Fr. Dick LaPata serves as Assistant Manager to the Fenwick Fund, formerly known as the Dooley Fund.

When Fenwick was founded in 1929, the founding Friars wished to endow their new school with qualities that were special and important to them. There were certain attributes of the Dominican Order that these Friars wanted their students to embrace. These values were considered the pillars of the Order; they were the building blocks that sustained and gave direction to all Dominicans. These “building blocks” or “pillars” became the foundation of Fenwick High School and are passed on to its students even today. They are prayer, study, community  and preaching (or service).

Today, I would simply like to make a few comments regarding the idea of “community” here at our school. We at Fenwick are committed to become a place where a sense of community is felt by faculty, students, parents, alumni and friends. Here, for example, friendships are nourished. As an alumnus from the Class of 1950, I can say that some of my very best and long-lived friendships were forged here as a student so many years ago.

Beyond the forming of friendships, we want our students to have a sense of belonging to one another while they are in school. This increases our students’ care and respect for one another, thus diminishing incidents of meanness and bullying for which teenagers are often criticized.

Fenwick’s encouraging of a sense of community promotes a spirit of cooperation as students engage in the many activities offered by our school. These include teamwork in sports, in outreach to those in need, in spiritual and religious events such as retreats.

Inculcating the value of community in our students is also based on our belief in what Jesus proclaimed, namely the “kingdom of God.” Jesus gathers us into a society, a community based on our belief in God, to make this world a better place together and to build, finally, the kingdom in heaven. I might add as emphasis that no one gets to heaven alone. It takes a community to get to our final home.

Deepening the Dominican Spirit

Ten Days in the South of France:
How the President of Fenwick High School Spends His Summer Vacations

By Father Richard Peddicord, O.P.

The inspiration to establish the Order of Preachers came to St. Dominic during his time living in the South of France. There he encountered people who had been led astray by the Cathar heresy. Before too long, it became clear to him that the Church needed a religious order dedicated to preaching the gospel. Pope Honorius III agreed and in 1216 formally approved the Order of Preachers with Dominic as its first Master.

There are a number of significant places in the South of France that tell the story of the founding of the Dominican Order and that evoke the presence of St. Dominic and the early Dominicans. I have had the privilege of helping to lead a summer pilgrimage to these “lands of St. Dominic” for the past 12 years. Sr. Jeanne Goyette, O.P. (Caldwell, NJ), Sr. Mary Ellen O’Grady, O.P. (Sinsinawa, WI) and I take 25 pilgrims on a trek to St. Dominic’s country in France. We stay in Fanjeaux with the Dominican Sisters of Sainte-Famille who operate the “Couvent St-Dominique”—a guest house that had been a Dominican priory in the 15th century.

The goal of the pilgrimage is to deepen one’s sense of Dominican life and spirituality. Most of the participants are lay women and men who serve in Dominican ministries—usually in Dominican schools. Since I became president of Fenwick High School, we’ve sponsored one faculty member a year to participate in the pilgrimage. The only stipulation is that he or she must give a presentation on the experience to the full faculty and staff at one of the first meetings of the new school year. This past year, Ms. Toni Dactilidis from the Mathematics Department was our Fenwick pilgrim.

Each day of the pilgrimage begins with Morning Prayer and a conference. The conferences that I present include “Dominic in Fanjeaux,” “Dominic the Itinerant Preacher,” “Dominic and Prayer,” “Truth and Compassion in Dominic’s Life,” “St. Thomas Aquinas and Study,” “The Life and Legacy of Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, O.P.” and “Art as a Means of Preaching in the Dominican Order.” Each day includes an excursion to a significant Dominican site and time for personal and communal reflection. I celebrate Mass for the group several times during the course of the 10-day experience. I can’t help but note that, since it is France, each meal is exquisite!

It is wonderful to watch the participants come together as a community, deepen their Dominican spirit and claim their identity as collaborators in the Dominican mission.

Snapshots of the places on our itinerary each year:

Fanjeaux

The village of Fanjeaux sits on a hilltop. The view from the “Seignadou”—a lookout point associated with St. Dominic—is spectacular. The fields below alternate between wheat and sunflowers. As you can see, it’s easy to imagine that you’re in the 13th century!

St. Dominic’s house in Fanjeaux.

Continue reading “Deepening the Dominican Spirit”

Faculty Focus: September 2017

Speech Teacher Andy Arellano enters his 46th year of teaching students at Fenwick.

What is your educational background?

AA: After graduating from De La Salle Institute on the South Side, I went to MacMurray College, a small Methodist liberal arts college, that awarded me a super academic scholarship that allowed me to earn a bachelor’s degree in Speech. Later, while teaching at Fenwick, I earned a master’s degree in Speech Communication from Northeastern Illinois University on the North Side of Chicago.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

AA: Upon graduating from MacMurray, I came to Fenwick and taught freshman English and helped Fr. Motl, a great guy and my predecessor, coach the speech, debate, and Congress teams. The following year, Fr. Motl went off to teach future priests how to deliver quality sermons. I then took over teaching the sophomore Speech class and coaching our speech activities which had been the goal behind the work that I had done with Fr. Motl during my first year at Fenwick. (One should also note that Fenwick’s requirement that every student must take one semester of Speech in order to graduate came about because Fr. Motl believed that our students needed to learn how to speak in order to gain success in our society. If anything, this requirement fits into the Dominican mission as the Order of Preachers. Fenwick is one of a limited number of schools to have this requirement.)

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

AA: During the school year, my reading tends to be largely focused on current events and the news so that ties can be made between Speech class and what is going on in the world. This past summer, the last book that I read was Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Senator Al Franken. In sections, the book contained some humor. Other sections sadly showed how dysfunctional our government can sometimes be.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

AA: My wife and I like to travel, eat at small mom-and-pop restaurants, visit art and other types of museums, be with our one-year-old grandson when possible (he lives in Colorado), and go to various movies. I also enjoy listening to Ed Farmer who announces Sox games on the radio. (Farmer too is from the South Side, and he pitched for the Sox for a while.)

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

AA: While in school, I competed in speech activities, wrote for the school paper, served in student government, volunteered for various service organizations, participated in academic honors organizations, and was a lector at my parish.

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

AA: Currently, I coach speech contests that are sponsored by various fraternal organizations, such as the Optimist Club, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The prizes usually consist of money. In fact, since 1993, Fenwick speakers have won over $191,000 for themselves as well as trips to various national contests. I also run the Grade School Speech Contest that our school sponsors for grade school students. After school, I am responsible for running “JUG” (detention). I also assist Dr. Lordan in mentoring the faculty members who are new to Fenwick.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

AA: First, Fenwick students are intelligent. They have been blessed by God with a great deal of ability, both mentally and physically. They tend to be driven to do well. Many of our students have lofty college and professional goals. Even more importantly, our students give of themselves through service for others in their parishes and in their communities. Our students are truly impressive. They step up and demonstrate their leadership. Continue reading “Faculty Focus: September 2017”

In Loco Parentis Does Not Mean ‘Crazy Parents:’ Why We Place So Much Value on Private Education

Fenwick High School, Oak Park, IL, was founded by Dominican Friars in 1929.

Parochial teachers serve as parental supplements, not substitutes — and therein lies the difference between the Fenwick community and its public-school counterparts.

By Gerald F. Lordan, O.P., Ph.D., Social Studies Teacher

Parents of parochial school students almost universally value their decision to choose religious-based programs over public education for the formation of their children. However, beyond intuition, parents sometimes find it difficult to articulate why they value that decision. An examination of the philosophical foundations of parochial education may enable us to understand on a rational level what we already value on an intuitive level.

Parochial schools have greater social capital than their public school counterparts. Social capital is the agreement among families concerning the core values which identify their behavior.  Parochial school communities often have great diversity among their families by ethnicity, geography, income, and language, but these schools are successful in achieving the goals of their ministries because there is a congruence of core values among families. Good families gravitate toward good schools with good community values. With their obligation to service all families within their geographic attendance area, public schools often have less value congruence and less social capital.

Continue reading “In Loco Parentis Does Not Mean ‘Crazy Parents:’ Why We Place So Much Value on Private Education”