Forever Friars: Remembering Poet Tom Clark, Class of 1959

Poet, biographer and Fenwick alumnus Tom Clark ’59 died tragically in mid-August. Mr. Clark, 77, was struck by a motorist while walking in his hometown of Berkeley, CA, on August 17th, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) reported. He died of his injuries the next morning.

Clark as a Freshman Friar in 1956.

Clark was born in Oak Park in 1941. “Many Fenwick men from our class attended Ascension grammar school with Tom. I was among them,” writes Tom Maloney ’59, who resides in Chicago. Mr. Maloney remembers his classmate’s artistic abilities. “No one could draw like Tom Clark,” Maloney recalls. “He was a great artist.”

Founded in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, as part of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s 100-year experiment, Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics is located in Boulder, Colorado,.

Writing, however, became Clark’s forte. “He is considered one of America’s finest poets,” Maloney continues. “He was an accomplished and knowledgeable baseball writer. Add to his literary achievements a biography on Jack Kerouac,” the 1950s’ Beat Generation novelist and poet (portrayed at left).

Clark was, indeed, a prolific writer, compiling two dozen collections. He once said that his literary influences came from Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, leaders of the rebellious “Imagist” poetry movement in the 20th century.

He graduated from Fenwick and went on to the University of Michigan, where he was a student of former U.S. Poet Laureate (2006-07) Donald Hall, Jr. Last year before his own death, Hall called Clark “the best student I ever had.”

During his productive writing career, Clark penned more than two dozen works, including Fractured Karma in 1990 and the controversial Great Naropa Poetry Wars 10 years earlier.

After earning his under-graduate degree in 1963, Clark became poetry editor of the Paris Review. A glowing recommendation from Hall convinced Editor-in-Chief George Plimpton to hire the then 22-year-old. Fifteen years ago Clark told poetry publication Jacket magazine that his “sole stipulated condition [at the time] was that I be allowed to send out rejection notices to all the poets who’d lately had verse accepted by my immediate predecessor, X.J. Kennedy.” Plimpton embraced the rebel in Clark, who would stay on for 10 years and bring to the Paris Review’s pages the work of so-called New York School poets, including Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest, Amiri Baraka, singer-songwriter Lou Reed and, later, Ron Padgett.

Beatniks in England

While studying for his master’s degree in 1965 at Cambridge University under a Fulbright scholarship, Clark had a chance encounter with Allen Ginsberg. He ran into the Beat poet at a pub in Bristol, and the two men proceeded to hitch-hike to London. He then enrolled at the University of Essex for two years.

Clark in 1972

In the New York Times, peer poet Padgett has described Clark’s subtle work as “music to the ear” that always left readers feeling “elevated.” Billy Collins, another poet laureate, called Clark “the lyric imp of American poetry” in a Boulder News article. (Clark once resided in Boulder, CO.) In reviewing Clark’s 2006 poetry collection, Light & Shade, Collins wrote: “Tom Clark … has delivered many decades’ worth of goofy, melancholic, cosmic, playful and wiggy poems. I can never get enough of this wise guy leaning on the literary jukebox, this charmer who refuses to part with his lovesick teenage heart.”

From 1987-2008 Clark taught poetics at New College of California in San Francisco. More recently, he wrote regularly on a personal blog, “Beyond the Pale,” even hours up until his death.

“Tom and I were married for 50 years,” writes his widow, Angelica Heinegg. “It’s a time of shock and sorrow for me and my daughter, Juliet. But we are slowly adjusting to the new reality.” They scattered his ashes on September 9th.

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Faculty Focus: Spanish Teacher Dee Megall


Spanish Teacher Mrs. Megall celebrated her 26th year at Fenwick in 2017-18, after migrating from Trinity H.S. in River Forest.

What is your educational background?

DM: I have a B.A. in Spanish from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and an M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Loyola University in Chicago. I have also studied in Guadalajara, Mexico, through Arizona State University and took classes at the University of Madrid.

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

DM: I began my teaching career at Trinity High School in River Forest in 1970. I am a Trinity graduate and four years later I was back there teaching. I was on the faculty for six years until the birth of the first of our three sons. I stayed home raising the boys for 16 years. I was working on my Master’s degree when I started at FHS in 1992. I have taught the mothers of many of my Fenwick students due to my early years working at Trinity.

To what teams did you belong as a student?

DM: Trinity only had intramural volleyball and basketball teams when I was a student. I was on the volleyball team all four years. The game was completely different from what it is now. We just kept hitting the ball back and forth until someone missed. Only one girl in the school would spike the ball and we all just thought she was being rude!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

DM: I love to read. My next book is The Bridge at Andau, which is about the Hungarian Revolution. I am very interested in this topic due to family history. In 1956, when my husband was eight years old, his third cousin escaped from Hungary during the revolution and came over and lived with the Megalls from age 18 to 28. We just celebrated his 80th birthday, which was a wonderful family occasion. I also enjoy doing needlepoint and knitting in my spare time.

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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.”

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Faculty Focus: Meet English Teacher Rick O’Connor

English Teacher Rick O’Connor brings his broadcasting expertise to Fenwick’s students.

What is your educational background?

RO: I have a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Rhode Island and a M.A.T. from National-Louis University.

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

RO: I was the Executive Producer for “The Steve Cochran Show” on WGN Radio for eight years. Prior to that, I held positions at Fidelity Investments and Putnam Investments in Boston.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

RO: When [Basketball] Coach [Staunton] Peck and I are not discussing the Red Sox and White Sox and other world affairs, we recommend books to each other. The current recommendation is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I just started it, and so far, so good!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom? Continue reading “Faculty Focus: Meet English Teacher Rick O’Connor”