Alumni Friars Teaching in Academia

It’s “cool” to be smart at Fenwick, and these Ph.D. scholars have taken their intellectual talents to a higher level as university professors.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick instructors have honed developing minds of highly intelligent people over thecourse of 90 school years. From physics and politics to English and French, some of those students took their passions for learning to the next level by pursuing research, education and scholarship at some of the world’s most prestigious private and public universities.

Holder Hall at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, where two Fenwick alumni teach.

At Princeton, the Ivy League research school with New Jersey roots dating back to 1746, two Fenwick alumni-turned-professors can be found teaching on campus: Thomas Duffy ’78 (geophysics) and John Mulvey ’64 (operations research/financial engineering). In Boston, Professor William Mayer ’74 has been a political-science guru at Northeastern University (established in 1898) for the past 28 years. After Fenwick, Mayer attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he also earned a Ph.D. (in 1989). “I don’t like to move,” he dead-pans, “plus my wife loves the New England area.”

On the West Coast, one of Prof. Duffy’s classmates, Larry Cahill ’78, is a neuroscientist and professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California at Irvine. And in the Midwest, Robert Lysak ’72 is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis – Saint Paul.

Additionally, two members of the Class of 1961 were college professors and are now retired: Terrence Doody (English Literature) at Rice University in Houston and Thomas Kavanagh (French), most recently at Yale University in Connecticut. Another Professor Emeritus isJohn Wendt ’69, who taught Ethics and Business Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) for 30 years. (Read more about them.) Spread out geographically across the United States, Fenwick is the common denominator for these seven Ph.D.’s and college professors. Read on for a glimpse at their impressive works.

A Computing Love Affair

John Mulvey in 1964.

John Mulvey is a professor within Princeton’s Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) Department, which he founded. He also is a founding member of the interdisciplinary Bendheim Center for Finance as well as the Statistics and Machine Learning Center at the university. Mulvey is captivated by the ongoing revolution in information and machine-learning. The ORFE Department focuses on the foundations of data science, probabilistic modeling and optimal decision-making under uncertainty. “Our world is a very uncertain place,” he stresses.

The work Mulvey does has applications throughout the service sector, including in communications, economics/finance, energy/the environment, health-care management, physical and biological sciences, and transportation. In the past, he has worked with aerospace/defense-technology firm TRW (now part of Northrop Grumman) to help solve military problems, including developing strategic models for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (U.S. Department of Defense).

“Today we work with major firms, including some of the largest investors in the world, which are interested in integrating their risk,” Mulvey explains. For example, “hedge funds and private-equity firms need to manage their portfolios over time to protect themselves. When the crash occurred in 2008, people thought they were diversified. The banking and finance world refers to systemic risk as contagion,” which is the spread of market changes or disturbances from one regional market to others.

Mulvey also analyzes data for supply-chain management, which he calls a “transformative industry. Production and distribution models were separate before,” he points out, “but we’ve brought it all together now. Amazon has built its whole system based on this commerce model.”

Prof. Mulvey at Princeton.

Machines running algorithms and computer optimization became passions for him at a relatively young age. At Fenwick, Mr. Edward Ludwig helped mathematics to make sense for young John. “He was an amazing math teacher,” Mulvey says of Ludwig. “His class was fantastic. I didn’t necessarily want to be an engineer but felt I could go into a technical area.

“In the 1960s we were at the cusp of computing, and the University of Illinois had one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the time,” recalls Mulvey, who grew up on the West Side of Chicago and attended the old St. Catherine of Siena Parish. “That’s why I wanted to go there, and I fell in love with computing.”

The ILLIAC IV supercomputer is what drew Mulvey to the University of Illinois in the mid-1960s.

He next ventured west to study business administration at the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California (Cal), then earned a second master’s degree in management science in ’72 from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Three years later Mulvey completed his Ph.D. at UCLA’s Graduate School of Management. His dissertation topic, “Special Structures in Large Scale Network Models and Associated Applications,” won the 1976 American Institute of Decision Sciences Doctoral Dissertation Competition.

Mulvey taught for three years at the Harvard Business School and, 41 years ago, came to Princeton “to have an impact at a smaller school,” he says. (Princeton has some 5,200 under-grads.) “I came here to grow the basic, general engineering program for undergraduates.” The 72-year-old thoroughly enjoys his work: “If you had a job like mine, you wouldn’t want to retire.”

Extreme Conditions

Tom Duffy in 1978.

Across campus, Tom Duffy is Director of Princeton’s High-Pressure Mineral Physics & Material Science Laboratory and Associate Chair of the Geosciences Department. His research focuses on understanding the large-scale physical and chemical behavior of the Earth and other planets through experimental study of geological materials under extreme conditions. He and his colleagues employ high-tech tools, such as laser-heated diamond anvil cells and optical spectroscopy along with X-rays, to explore crystal structures, phase relations, elasticity and deformation behavior in a range of materials at ultra-high pressure and temperature conditions.

“We study the behavior of materials under extreme conditions – deep inside the Earth, for example, or under meteorite impact,” Prof. Duffy explains. “We examine how structures and chemistries change, then try to determine what these changes might mean for Earth and for other planets, including recently discovered planets orbiting other stars.” One big question with which he and his research associates grapple: How are these newly discovered planets fundamentally different from Earth?

Prof. Duffy (third from left) poses with students in his research group. (Photo courtesy of Princeton University.)

The youngest of six children from Riverside, IL (St. Mary’s), Duffy describes his career pathway as “roundabout.” He entered Boston College as a physics major. “I then was exposed to real- world applications through a geology course I took as a senior, then came home and worked in a food distribution warehouse,” Duffy says. After about one year he returned to school for his master’s degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in a new program that blended his interests in physics and geology. After six years at California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in Pasadena, earning a Ph.D., he returned home to pursue a research opportunity at the University of Chicago. In 1997 Duffy landed at Princeton and has never looked back.

Duffy travels “home” to Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL, about six times per year to conduct research. He credits Fenwick with developing his self-confidence as a young man who wasn’t necessarily science oriented. Mr. Andrew Arellano was a newer teacher back then, and Duffy got involved in speech and debate. “At tournaments we’d go up against bright, hard-working kids from other schools. You wouldn’t think that possessing strong writing and speaking skills are important in science, but they are. I have to write well and explain complex concepts.

History Teacher Mr. Louis “Jack” Spitznagel (shown in 1974) passed away in late 2001.

“I received a broad-based education at Fenwick — history, literature, math, art,” he continues. He remembers other “great teachers” who were dedicated to their craft: Fr. McGrath for math, Mr. Guerin for physics and Mr. Polka for biology. The late “Mr. Spitznagel was really tough,” Duffy recalls, “but I learned a lot” in his history class.

Sex Differences in the Brain

In high school in the mid-1970s, Larry Cahill was a self-described “little, smart guy with glasses” who everyone assumed would grow up to be a physician. “I rode in from Elmhurst with my brothers,” he recalls of his 12-mile daily commute eastward to Oak Park. Cahill’s father and uncle also attended Fenwick.


Larry Cahill in 1978.

“To show you what a ‘geek’ I was, I took Latin partly to get an advantage regarding medical terminology,” Prof. Cahill admits. Mrs. Mary Ann Spina was his Latin teacher. “She made learning Latin enjoyable,” he says. “As a matter of fact, some Fenwick friends and I started a philosophical group called ‘In Vino Veritas,’ which even had business cards (thanks to my Dad, a printer). I suppose the organization still lives, since philosophy never dies,” Cahill quips.

Despite being on the med-school track, “by default,” Cahill discovered brain research as an undergraduate student in Evanston at Northwestern University (NU). “I needed to stay in state to get Illinois state scholarship money,” he reflects. At NU he continued to study Latin and spent a semester in Rome his junior year. “Life works out in funny ways,” he believes. “That [trip] was the benefit of taking Latin back at Fenwick.”

While in college, the idea of medical school faded. After working on memory-enhancing drugs at G.D. Searle in Illinois for two years, Cahill earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1990 from the University of California at Irvine. Following post-doctoral research in Germany, he returned to UC Irvine to extend his research to studies of human subjects, which in turn led to discoveries about sex influences on emotional memory and revolutionary findings regarding sex influences on brain function, which he finds quite gratifying.

Prof. Cahill at UCI. (Photo courtesy of Orange County Register/Drew A. Kelley.)

For the past 18 years or so Cahill has been immersed in the differences between the male and female brain. “We used to believe that men and women were not so different outside of the ‘bikini zone,’” he says. But research is proving that women and men are very different in other ways, too: “The female heart, lungs, liver, immune system and brain are not the same as the male’s,” he informs, adding that medical research has been built disproportionately on studies of male organs and brains. “Women have not been treated equally because they have been treated the same,” he asserts.

Cahill is a leading advocate for the need to study biological sex differences in all of medicine. Adversaries have called him a “neurosexist.” “There has been enormous resistance,” he admits. His findings have been featured in the New York Times, London Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, medium.com and Quillette, an Australian online magazine focused on science, technology, news, culture and politics. On television, he has been interviewed by PBS, CNN and CBS. (Cahill’s “60 Minutes” piece was highlighted on “The Colbert Report.”) At the lecture podium, he has been recognized as an Outstanding Professor at UCI’s School of Biological Sciences in 2005-06 and in 2007-08.

Other than playing tennis as a senior, Cahill says he wasn’t very involved in extra-curricular activities as a Friar. “But I still know the words to the Fight Song,” he proudly declares. He remembers Fenwick as “a serious place at all levels. This whole attitude of seriousness was imbued on high school kids from the top down, including the concept of discipline – which is much maligned today — and self-discipline. One of the best things you can teach anyone is to suck it up and make it happen.”

“I learned more at Fenwick than I did at Harvard.”

– Prof. Bill Mayer ’74

A Political Voice

Prof. Mayer at Northeastern University (Boston).

Every four years, Bill Mayer’s phone rings more than usual at Northeastern University in Boston. Members of the media seek out his expert commentary during U.S. presidential election years. “I’ve done a lot of research and writing on that topic,” he admits. Reporters from the Boston Herald, Newsweek and the Christian Science Monitor have quoted Mayer. You can see him on videos aired by C-SPAN (the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network), too.

Fielding such calls is a natural for Mayer, whose forte is American politics. After graduating from Fenwick in 1974, Mayer earned a B.A. in government in ’79 from Harvard, where he finished up his Ph.D. in political science 10 years later. Prof. Mayer’s tenure at Northeastern began in 1991. Under his American government specialty, he has taught introductory classes as well as courses in “American Political Thought,” “Public Opinion, Voting and Elections” and “Politics and the Mass Media.” Next spring, leading up to the 2020 election, he again will teach his favorite course while the U.S. presidential nomination process is taking place.

“I’m grateful for the teachers I had at Fenwick,” says Mayer, a native of River Forest, IL, and St. Luke Parish & School. His older brother, Joseph Mayer ’73 (both were valedictorians), paved the way to Fenwick. “Joe helped me so much, especially with math,” says Bill. “I really owe a lot to him.” (The older Mayer brother became a medical doctor and presently is a neurologist with DuPage Medical Group.)

Bill Mayer as a Fenwick junior in 1973.

Young Bill served as editor of The Wick student newspaper for one semester and was on the Debate Team all four years as a Friar student. “I did well in debate,” he reports. “We advanced to the semi-finals of Catholic Nationals my senior year.” His debate partner was a junior, John McSweeney ’75. “Our coach was Father Motl for my first three years, then Mr. Arellano took over.”

In addition to teaching, Mayer is an accomplished author as well. He has published two of his own books, co-authored two other books, and edited and wrote chapters for seven other publications. He also has contributed some 50 scholarly articles to academic publications. (See “Alumni Authors.”) In the “Acknowledgements” section of his first book, The Changing American Mind (1992), Mayer thanks three of his teachers at Fenwick:

  • The late Fr. Jordan McGrath, O.P., who passed away last August at age 86, was his math teacher “for three of my four years. He taught me how to think rigorously,” says Mayer, who points out that he taught statistics earlier in his career.
  • Mr. John Heneghan “was a wonderful history teacher who taught [us]… how to take raw materials and try to interpret how they fit into the larger sweep of American history.”
  • Former English Teacher Mr. James Kucienski was “really good at passing along ideas about the teaching of literature,” Mayer says. “I had him my senior year.”

Additionally, Mayer is grateful for taking four years of Latin (two were required at the time). “Latin is a great way to learn about language,” he contends, “because it is constructed in a different way than English, where meaning is determined by word endings rather than position in the sentence. It, therefore, makes you much more conscious of noun cases and verb tenses.”

English Teacher Mr. James Kucienski was Fenwick’s resident grammarian, which Mayer says he didn’t appreciate at the time.

With the benefit of hindsight, he also now realizes how important freshman English class was to a youthful, 14-year-old Friar. “Our grammar textbook was thick, and the study could be tedious: subject-verb agreement, dangling participles and so forth. These disciplines are not terribly popular today, but I hope they still do it at Fenwick.

“I’ve always been regarded as a good writer,” he adds, attributing that reputation to his high school grammar instruction. “Trust me: There are some poor writers among political scientists!” Truth be told, “I learned more at Fenwick than I did at Harvard,” Mayer concludes.

The Northern Lights Man

Bob Lysak in 1972.

Bob Lysak, a professor of physics and astronomy, is interested in Theoretical Space Plasma Physics, especially magnetospheric physics, auroral particle acceleration, the dynamics of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves in the magnetosphere, magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, and the dynamics of field-aligned currents. He is fascinated by aurorae: the natural light displayed in the Earth’s sky; the phenomenon also is referred to as polar lights or northern lights (aurora borealis).

This infatuation is, perhaps, part of the reason why he has been located for the past 37 years at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, which are four latitudinal degrees north of his hometown of Westchester, IL. “I’m a glutton for winters,” jokes Lysak, who attended Divine Infant Parish as a child. This past semester he was on sabbatical in Australia, collaborating on southern lights (aurora australis) research around the Antarctic and designing computer models of the Earth’s magnetic-field oscillations.

After graduating from Fenwick in 1972, Lysak enrolled at Michigan State (earning a B.S. degree in three years) and then at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in physics in 1980. His post-doctoral studies, conducted near Munich, Germany, focused on extraterrestrial physics.

Prof. Lysak at the University of Minnesota.

Recognized among his peers for making significant scientific contributions to society, the professor was selected the by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) as a 2011 Fellow, a designation conferred upon fewer than 0.1% of all AGU members in any given year. The European Geosciences Union also awarded Lysak the Hannes Alfvén Medal, which honors scientists who have achieved exceptional international standing in Solar-Terrestrial Sciences.

When he reflects on his time at Fenwick some 50 years ago, Lysak points to two non-scientific events that positively affected his illustrious career:

  1. Serving as editor-in-chief of The Wick student newspaper, where “I learned to write to a deadline.” (English Teacher and alumnus Mr. George Wendt ’65 was the moderator.)
  2. Participating in stage plays as part of the Blackfriars Guild, where “I was in front of people and talking.” Lysak, who has been lecturing for nearly four decades, adds that he took part in Debate & Forensics, run by Fr. James Motl, O.P. “but I wasn’t very good.”
Former Fenwick Math Teacher Mr. Ed Ludwig in 1964.

Lysak and his Honors Math classmates were taught all four years by the aforementioned Mr. Ludwig, who had a reputation among students as a somewhat stern disciplinarian. “It was early-1970’s turmoil,” he laughs. “We had our issues, but we developed a good relationship. During our senior year we worked on problems and asked a lot of questions. Mr. Ludwig encouraged us to go at our own pace and [to] explore.” Also influential was Science Teacher Fr. Dave Delich, O.P., who would “let us hang around the lab after school and ‘play’ with the equipment.”

All of these experiences taught Lysak valuable lessons and skills, as did commuting: “I got used to taking public transportation and buses,” he says. “St. Joe’s was less than a mile from our house, but I had a pretty good academic record in grade school and wanted to go to Fenwick. It was worth it.”

Oops, Did We Miss Someone?

The seven professors highlighted here only scratches the surface of Fenwick alumni in academia. If you know of an alumnus or alumna who has a Ph.D. and/or is a college professor, tell us about him or her!

Please email names and titles to communications@fenwickfriars.com.

More PhD.’s from Fenwick

Fenwick Junior Spent Two Weeks as a Cardiothoracic Surgical Intern

The adjective resourceful doesn’t even begin to describe Xonhane Medina, an ambitious teenager who excels in the classroom and in the pool as a girls’ water polo player.

By Mark Vruno

If there’s one thing that Fenwick go-getter Xonhane Medina doesn’t lack, it’s heart.

Most 16-year-olds can’t pronounce the medical term cardiothoracic, let alone know what is means. But last summer, Fenwick student Xonhane Medina ’20 — now a junior — spent two weeks in Northern California as a cardiothoracic intern at Stanford University. (For the record, cardiothoracic surgery is the field of medicine involved in surgical treatment of organs inside the thorax — generally treatment of conditions of the heart and lungs.)

Fenwick Girls’ water polo head coach Jack Wagner has a hard enough time pronouncing Medina’s first name. He affectionately calls her “Shawn.” And anyone who knows the gruff exterior of Wagner knows that Jack doesn’t brag. Here he was, however, bragging about Xonhane – not about her MCAC All-Conference status as a sophomore last season (his Friars took second in state, by the way). He was boasting about this phenomenal internship she orchestrated.

“This kid, she set up her own funding!” he exclaimed.

Every day, Medina received a new pig heart on which to slice and clamp.

Due in part to being a huge fan of the “Grey’s Anatomy” TV series when she was younger, Ms. Medina was interested in doing some type of a medical-related internship. She began her search online. Her cousin’s fiancée is a pediatric surgeon at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, so Stanford was on her proverbial radar. A similar opportunity at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, also had captured her attention.

“I knew they were a reach,” Ms. Medina admits. For one thing, Xonhane knew her family could not afford the $6,500 price tag. Yet, as the late advertising guru Leo Burnett once said: “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” So, Xonhane reached high.

Not knowing how to begin the process, she reached out to Paul Morgan, a director at the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, who became her educational sponsor.  Medina is one of the Fenwick students receiving financial aid from the Murphy organization, which for 29 years has been providing high school scholarship assistance and educational support to Chicago students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

She reached higher, next asking for letters of recommendation from Fenwick teachers, including Andy Arellano (speech) and Shana Wang (English) as well as, of course, Wagner, her coach. In early March she received her letter of acceptance. Subsequently, she received $4,000 from the Oak Park-based Farther Foundation. She put that money toward the $3,000 housing fee and air fare. She had enough money left over to buy some Stanford sweaters. “That was literally the only thing I bought,” reveals Medina, who, when she’s not doing homework or working out in the basement pool at Fenwick, works weekends as a cashier downtown at Navy Pier.

Internship Itinerary

The Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center Stanford Summer Internship is designed to educate high school and pre-medical students considering careers in science, medicine and public health in basic and advanced cardiovascular anatomy and physiology as well as medical and surgical techniques that will be used in pre-medical and medical school. In 2018 the two-week experience ran from June 24 – July 7.

The typical morning (9:30 a.m. – 12 noon) was dominated by lectures, according to Medina. Anatomy of the entire body was led by a pair of third-year medical students. Then, discussions on different types of surgeries were led by senior scientist Paul A. Chang, co-founder of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center. She learned that there are two main heart surgeries: 1) valve replacements and 2) coronary artery bypass grafts.

Xonhane clamped onto her two-week internship experience on the West Coast.

After lunch came four full hours of hands-on, laboratory time. “This was my favorite thing,” Xonhane offers, enthusiastically. Each day, she and her lab partner received a new pig heart on which to slice and clamp. They learned how to use several cardiovascular, surgical instruments, such as:

  • forceps: a pair of pincers or tweezers used in surgery or in a laboratory.
  • Debakey forceps: a type of atraumatic tissue forceps used in vascular procedures to avoid tissue damage during manipulation. (They are typically large, and have a distinct coarsely ribbed grip panel, as opposed to the finer ribbing on most other tissue forceps.)
  • Gerald Tissue Forceps: a light- to intermediate-weight instrument with very narrow tips specifically used to handle delicate tissue. They are often used in cardiothoracic procedures. About seven inches in length with serrated tips, Geralds feature 1 x 2 teeth to securely grasp the tissue, but also have a stop peg to prevent an overly harsh grasp that may crush the tissue.
  • Mayo: Straight-bladed Mayo scissorsare designed for cutting body tissues near the surface of a wound.
  • aortic cross-clamps: surgical instruments used in cardiac surgery to clamp the aorta and separate the systemic circulation from the outflow of the heart.

She and her partner even had to apply sutures or stitches to aorta-dissected hearts. “We had competitions [with other interns] to see who could stitch the fastest,” Medina reports. “We also competed to see how fast we could ligate six [blood] vessels on the aorta.” The athlete in Xonhane liked the contests, but the fierce competitor is quick to point out that she came to Fenwick for academics — not for water polo.

Continue reading “Fenwick Junior Spent Two Weeks as a Cardiothoracic Surgical Intern”

Choosing a Catholic Education

GUEST BLOGGER

How a grade-school speech contest led a South Sider to send his boys to Fenwick — despite proximity to two other high-school options near Countryside/La Grange.

By Patrick Heslin

Patrick, Jr. ’09 (from left) and his younger brother, Sean ’17, with their dad, Pat Heslin, Sr.

The road to Fenwick for my boys started when my son Patrick was in the 5th grade. He attended St. Cletus La Grange and brought a letter home about a Fenwick speech contest one day.

I grew up on the southside in Englewood and knew very little about Fenwick. I lived about a ½ mile from the original St. Rita High School at 63rd and Claremont in Chicago. On Sunday afternoons I would occasionally attend football games in their walled-in stadium. I could get in for 50 cents, if I had to pay at all, and the hot dogs with mustard were my Sunday dinner. What I vividly remember was St. Rita playing on a hot Sunday afternoon against a Fenwick team dressed in black. I thought these guys had to be tough wearing black in that sun!

Fast forward a few years. I am now a dad and I am reading this invitation to the Fenwick speech contest. My career has been in technology sales, and the only public speaking I have had is a class in college and a Toastmasters class when I got my first sales job. Toastmasters is a great, community-based public speaking program where you learn by writing and delivering speeches to your peers.

Throughout my career I have always looked at how effortlessly some people are able to speak in front of an audience while others look like a deer in headlights. In these situations, I am often reminded of the quote from Jerry Seinfield: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I am sure that all the above experiences were going through my mind when I committed to taking Patrick to his first speech contest at Fenwick in 5th grade.  The speech contest was on an early Saturday morning in November. Walking up to Fenwick for the first time can be intimidating! It’s got that Gothic look to it. We made it to the cafeteria and met our very small team from St. Cletus. We were surrounded by many larger teams from other Catholic grade schools.

Mr. Heslin says it didn’t hurt that Fenwick speech guru Mr. Arellano is a White Sox fan. (Andy, center, is pictured in his classroom last September during a surprise visit from team radio announcer and former big-leaguer Ed Farmer, left.)

Andy Arellano welcomed us and explained the rules for the contest. Then Andy took some time to talk about Fenwick. You could tell he was passionate about it as Andy explained the history of Fenwick and why it was a great choice for my son’s high school education.  He may also have mentioned at some point that he was a White Sox fan, so I then knew he was also a man of great intelligence.

Time to Choose

In 2005 young Patrick told his dad he’d walk to Fenwick from Countryside rather than go to closer high schools. (’09 FHS Yearbook photo.)

As they say, “rinse and repeat,” so we did the speech contest for three more years. I actually became a judge in the contest in subsequent years. Fast forward and Patrick is now in 8th grade. I tell Patrick that we live within a mile of two great schools, but immediately I could see in his face that his heart was elsewhere. I told him it would be four years of taking trains and buses if he went to Fenwick, and he told me he would walk every day if he had to.

Continue reading “Choosing a Catholic Education”

The Modern Civil Rights Era and Police Accountability

GUEST BLOGGER

April 4, 2018

Fifty years ago today, 39-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead by hate. Civil-rights concerns remain front and center in 2018, as trial lawyer and Fenwick alumnus Tony Romanucci reflects.

By Antonio M. Romanucci ’78

When the term “civil rights” is invoked, many think of images of Martin Luther King, Jr. standing at the forefront of a street march protesting or standing at a podium challenging the leaders of this country for equality and inclusion. However, the reality is that civil rights is far older than MLK and, from its genesis, has evolved into something far more prevalent which dominates the news headlines of today.

This past November, Romanucci (right) represented client Esperanza Davila in a civil lawsuit against Chicago Police Officer Patrick Kelly and the City of Chicago. Ms. Davila says her boyfriend, 21-year-old Hector Hernandez, was wrongfully shoot and killed by police. (Chicago Sun-Times photo.)

Fenwick has a lot to do with my pursuit of justice over a legal career spanning more than 30 years now. The Catholic education I received emphasized inclusion, diversity and equality amongst us all. That helped shape my views towards the realization that we all should be treated with dignity, respect and equality. How many times do you think you have recited the pledge of allegiance? Surely, in the hundreds if not the thousands of times. At least 700 times over four school years at Fenwick alone! How many times have you said the words “and liberty and justice for all” and actually thought about what you were saying — and realized that our forefathers were setting the stage for our country’s future as a melting pot of people, made up of all sorts of races, ethnicities and backgrounds? If only they could realize how prescient they were but also how ominous the future was going to be despite their desire for equality amongst all.

Our country had to fight a brutal internal war to abolish slavery that cost this country economic, moral, emotional and philosophical scars that, to this day, cause deep controversy. Witness the takedowns of the statutes of General Robert E. Lee within the past 12 months because parts of the South remain loyal to a past that most of this country would rather forget. One of the unfortunate consequences of the Civil War left many African-Americans looking in from the outside. Many argue those ills have not been remedied since, despite the passage of the Ku Klux Klan act of 1871 and its nascent 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, the civil rights movement associated with Brown v. Board of Education; the tumultuous times of Emmit Tills and Rosa Parks; the aforementioned MLK era; and then, of course, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which strengthened the rights of private citizens to sue municipalities, cities, states and government when they infringe on one’s constitutional rights.

April 5, 1968 – Chicago was burning: In the aftermath of King’s murder, rioting broke out on the city’s West Side, not far from Fenwick. The violence got so bad that the National Guard was called in to protect citizens.

Indeed, modern-day civil rights are an extension of the CRA and the powers that now lie in the hands of citizens to tell local, state and federal governments that the constitution and its amendments are sacrosanct and cannot be willfully violated — ever. The civil rights lawyer is a protector of those citizens and ensures that government violations are dealt with and, if necessary, paid for. Rest assured that without the civil rights lawyer existing, there would be no civil rights to protect in this country. I have become a civil rights trial lawyer. I am deeply proud of what I do for our people and our country.

Michael LaPorta (at left, in wheelchair) accused his longtime friend and off-duty CPD officer Patrick Kelly of shooting him in the head after a night of drinking in 2010. Kelly, who had a checkered past on the force, claimed that LaPorta had shot himself in a suicide attempt. Last fall LaPorta was awarded $44.7 million: the largest verdict ever reached in Chicago for a police-misconduct lawsuit. He was represented legally by Tony Romanucci (right), who sought justice amid the police department’s “Code of Silence.” (Chicago Tribune photo.)

The first thing required to determine if there is a viable claim to move forward with an action against a governmental entity for a civil-rights violation is whether or not the constitution was violated. Specifically, when it comes to my personal practice, was there a violation of the 4th, 8th or 14th amendment? What we are looking for is a determination whether there was an unlawful search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment for a detained citizen or a deprivation of due process, respectively. The vast majority of clients we represented involve the 4th Amendment search and seizure issues.

Continue reading “The Modern Civil Rights Era and Police Accountability”

The Fenwick Love Connection

On Valentine’s Day last month, the FHS Facebook page posted about how Cupid’s arrow struck the hearts of our ‘First Friar Couple.’ Turns out, romance is in the air more than we first thought!

By Mark Vruno

Father LaPata ’50 baptized the Ori’s son, Joseph Thomas, on March 11th in the Fenwick Chapel. Godparents are Janessa and Frank Perna. ’03.

With St. Patrick’s Day 2018 in the rear-view mirror, today is, of course, St. Joesph’s Day. In honor of the feast day of the patron of the universal church, fathers, families, married people and much more, here is a rundown of couples who are sweet on each other — and who have Fenwick in common.

The Keating children.

 

We thought that Brendan Keating ’97 and his wife, Christa Battaglia ’97, may be the first double-alumnus couple from Fenwick to have gotten married (based on their wedding date). Perhaps it is fitting this St. Paddy’s-St. Joe’s “long weekend” that theirs is one of several mixed, Irish-Italian romances. Brendan grew up in Oak Park and went to St. Bernadine’s, Fenwick and Loyola U. Christa is a St. Giles’ girl. The couple has two children, ages six and three.

The Thies Family

Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 and his wife  Lea (nee Crawford) ’03 are the proud parents of three children: two boys and girl. Admissions Director Joe Ori ’03 and his wife Jen (nee Morris) ’03, an English teacher for the Friars, in January celebrated the birth of their first child: a son, Joseph, Jr.

The Lileks gave thank for Baby Ernie this past Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

From the Class of 2005, Paul and Chrissy (Tallarico) Lilek welcomed home a baby boy, Ernest, born on Thanksgiving Day 2017. (In addition to being a new mother, Mrs. Lilek also is a new Spanish Teacher at Fenwick.)

Alex gave the new Holmbergs the thumbs up in November ’16.

 

 

Social Studies Teacher Alex Holmberg ’05 married former Fenwick English Teacher Georgia Schulte ’04 in November 2016. The couple is expecting their first child literally any day now (March 20 due date!). “I think Mr. Arellano may have introduced the Holmbergs and the Ori’s at our New Teacher Cohort Summer Orientation Program,” says Faculty Mentor Dr. Jerry Lordan.

Ryan Alexander Holmberg was born on St. Joseph’s Day: March 19, 2018.

Thanks to more than 20 alumni comments on Facebook, Friars and their friends have chimed in to inform us that there is at least a baker’s dozen more romances that blossomed within Fenwick’s hallowed halls and have matured, resulting in the holy sacrament of marriage:

Class of ’96:

John & Marianne (Palmer) Carrozza

The Fantasias have resided in the Cayman Islands for the past 13 years.

Anthony & Margaret (Arts) Fantasia were married in June 2004.  The couple currently lives with their three children (Isabella, 9; Leo, 7; and Joseph, 6) in the Cayman Islands.

Class of ’97:

Chris & Chrissy (Gentile) Carlson

Pat McMahon with his hands full.

Mina McMahon in the driver’s seat.

 

 

Patrick & Mina (McGuire) McMahon

Jeff & Suzanne (Sharp) Williams 

 

Class of ’98:

Larry and Katie Dolendi with their twins.

The Dolendis are married “but we didn’t date in high school or college,” writes Katie (Morelli) ’98. “It happened a in our mid-20s.” She and husband Larry Dolendi ’99 are the proud parents of six-year-old twins Reese and Riley.

TJ and Sue Maloney and family.

 

 

Andrea and Mike Mostardi ’98

Tim & Maureen (Goggin) Funke

TJ & Sue (Atella) Mahoney

Michael & Andrea (Geis) Mostardi

Class of ’99:

Lena and Kevin McMahon ’99

Kevin & Lena (Lloyd) McMahon

 

Class of ’00

Dan & Colleen (Dan) Doherty

 

Class of ’01:

Sam and Megan (Kenny) Kucia

The Kucia Family

“We never dated in high school, but we attended senior prom together and reconnected after college,” Megan reports. “We married in 2010, and we had more than 30 Fenwick alumni in attendance.”

Class of ’01 & ’02:

Paul & Jessie (Drevs) Wilhelm

The Wilhelm’s look of love.

 

“We met in Madame Schnabel’s French II Class back in 1999!” Jessie writes. “We still look back on the pictures of us both from the French Club’s trip to France (over the summer of 2000, I believe). Although we didn’t find our l’amour while at Fenwick, we reconnected after college and were married in 2014. We are both proud to be Fenwick alums, but even more so we are grateful to be as we may not have found one another otherwise.”

Class of ’02:

Dan & Kate (Maloy) Ferri

Mike & Edna (Romero) Tallarico

Brian & Erin (Jones) Megall

Ben & Roselyn (Chanchai) Swan

Class of ’04:

Father LaPata married the Flahertys in November 2016.

Kevin & Bianca (Reggi) Flaherty

David & Teresa (Nierzwicki) Pollitz

 

Class of ’05:

Patrick & Sondra (Tenorio) Healy

The Italian destination wedding of Meg Scanlon & Michael McGillen ’07 was featured in Vogue magazine.

 

 

 

 

Class of ’06:

Tim & Nanci (Reggi) Gallo

Michael & Meg (Scanlon) ’07 McGillen

Class of ’07:

Brian & Anastasia (Tesfaye) DeMaio

Class of ’09:

Alex & Kim (Nelson) Furth

Continue reading “The Fenwick Love Connection”

Black History Month: My Fenwick Experience

By Marlon R. Hall, Sr., EdD., Guest Blogger

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”  ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Dr. Marlon Hall

My journey to Fenwick High School began as a student in 1972. I was one of 11 African-American males that year who entered as freshmen. At the time, there were only two African-American males in the entire school. The most memorable episode of African-American student integration of schools in the history of our nation occurred 15 years earlier when nine students entered Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were called the “Little Rock Nine.”  I am calling us, “The Fenwick 11.”

The route to Fenwick began at my grammar school, Our Lady of Sorrows, on the West Side of Chicago. During our eighth grade year, high school representatives traveled to our school to speak about the advantages of attending Gordon Tech, Providence-St. Mel, Hales Franciscan, Holy Trinity, St. Ignatius, Loyola Academy and Fenwick.

The Fenwick representative was a man by the name of Mr. Kennedy. At the time, he was the Dean of Students/Vice Principal. His presentation really fascinated me. He spoke about the famous alumni, the class schedule and the opportunity to be enrolled in a Physical Education course for four years. The athletic prowess in me loved the idea of time in the gym for four years. Previously, I had the privilege of attending a basketball game in the old Lawless Gym in 1965. My cousin, Darnell, was playing for the St. Phillips High Lightweight basketball team in the Annual Fenwick Junior Basketball Holiday Tournament, so I was aware of the school, the township of Oak Park, and the ‘el’ ride from the West Side of Chicago.

Marlon Hall as a Fenwick freshman in 1972-73.

I decided that Fenwick was the place for me after Mr. Kennedy’s presentation. I arranged a campus visit with Mr. Kennedy, and he introduced me to Greg Stephans, an African-American student at Fenwick who took me on a tour of the campus. After the tour, I took the entrance exam with five of my classmates. After the testing was completed, one of my classmates was fully accepted, one was rejected, and the rest of us were told that we needed summer enrichment in math, English or reading. For four weeks in the summer, I took a math course with Mr. Finnell and a reading course with Mr. Kucienski (self-appointed ‘Sir’). During those few weeks, I became acquainted with the Fenwick community, travelling to Oak Park, and met new people like Don Howard, Henry Tolbert, George Kas, Kevin Galvin and Kevin Prendergast. They became freshman classmates of mine at Fenwick. I finished the courses sufficiently and I was fully accepted into Fenwick High School.

The ‘N’ word and other slurs

What happened during the next year was unexpected! I guess I was naïve coming from the West Side of Chicago. After the summer school experience, I thought that I would be able to successfully integrate into the Fenwick community. But I was called nigger, bourgie, burrhead, ‘boy,’ and one upperclassman one day decided to take it out on me and slapped me across the head and said, “Nigger, why did you come to this school!” This was not part of the program.

I was spit upon. Pennies were thrown at me, and my classmates threw rocks at us as we walked to the bus stop or the el stop. I can look through my Blackfriars 1973 Annual and remember every Fenwick student who communicated some type of racial slur or comment at me during my brief tenure at the school. The insults hurt but made me stronger. I decided to leave Fenwick after my freshman year. I transferred to Hales Franciscan, where I completed my high school education. Out of the 11 freshman, only three remained to graduate in 1976. They were Donald Howard, Henry Clarke and Wilbur Parker.

In the early 1970s, racial tension ran high in schools across America, from Virginia to Illinois. Oak Park and Fenwick were no exceptions.

Since leaving Fenwick in 1973, I realized that I should have remained and completed my education there. I have voiced that opinion to other members of the Fenwick 11 whom I remain in contact with. They agree. But, why did nearly all of us leave? Fenwick is one of the greatest educational experiences any student could have, especially a “ghetto” kid from Chicago’s West Side. The ridicules, the snickers, the violence afflicted, the racial slurs that I suffered made me a stronger individual.

Continue reading “Black History Month: My Fenwick Experience”

Humble in Victory, Proud in Defeat

Like strong support of an argument, good mentors come in threes.

By John Paulett

St. Ignatius was established in Cleveland in 1886.

Perhaps it is a bit of nostalgia. It has been almost 50 years since I graduated from high school. That is enough time to make things appear better than they were. But when I remember the teachers that had the greatest effect on me, I am pretty sure my memories are something more than nostalgia. There were some giants in my classrooms — teachers who changed many lives, including mine.

I went to St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The experiences were the same, I think, for students at Fenwick, Trinity, De La Salle, Leo, Mother McAuley and so many great Catholic schools with so many great educators. Three teachers come immediately to my mind.

Father John Miday, S.J., liked his arguments in threes, former student John Paulett recalls.

When I am writing or speaking today, I always form my arguments into a group of three. That comes from Father Miday, an imposing Jesuit who taught Senior English. I once answered a question he posed with just two proofs. He stared at me and his body seemed to rise up until it filled the front of the room. With a voice that rumbled from the floorboards, he said, “Do not triangles have three sides? Are not the ancient pyramids made of threes? Why, God himself! Is God not a three? And yet, young Mister Paulett has asked us to accept his argument with only two arguments.” The word “two” withered. It turned as it fell to the ground in a lonely death. I have never since tried to support a claim with less than three arguments.

I was not a football player but I knew and admired Coach John Wirtz as much as any Ignatius man. He had been at the school for many, many years. The Coach had a list of sayings, motivational phrases, I suppose, that he had mimeographed and distributed through Freshman Religion classes. We were told to memorize the adages. When Coach Wirtz met a student in the hall (not just a football player–any student), he would check on how well we had learned the lessons.

Mr. John Wirtz taught freshman religion and coached the Wildcats’ football and basketball programs for decades.

“How are you in victory, son?”

“Humble, sir.”

“And in defeat?”

“Proud, sir.”

“How do you come to the field?” Continue reading “Humble in Victory, Proud in Defeat”

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”