Worldly Sophomore to Study in Germany for 11 Months

Fenwick student Jack Kornowske ’22 takes part in the Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick student Jack Kornowske (Oak Park) is headed to Germany for his sophomore year.

Fenwick parents Diane Ellsworth and Pete Kornowske have four children, including twin boys Eric and Jack, who will be sophomores this coming school year. (Older sibling Will is a senior Friar.) Of the twins, “Jack is the more independent one,” their mother says. She is about to find out just how self-sufficient her 15-year-old son is, as he embarks in mid-August on an 11-month study opportunity near Berlin, Germany, as part of the Rotary Club of Oak Park – River Forest’s Youth Exchange Program. The cultural experience will feature several host families, not just one.

“We host two [Rotary] students per year,” explains Mrs. Ellsworth, who hails from nearby Norridge and became familiar with the program from a friend who is a Rotarian host. “My friend once ran a school in France and had great experiences hosting,” adds Diane. Ellsworth-Kornowske’s Oak Park house was the U.S. home of a junior student from Brazil attending Oak Park-River Forest High School this past spring. Last fall they hosted a student from Italy who was a guest at St. Patrick High School in Chicago. The family also has hosted other foreign-exchange students, from France and Japan, in the past.

As for Jack spending almost a year away from home in Germany, his mother admits to being a little “freaked out” by the prospect of her young, teenage son traveling, by himself, across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. “I was preparing for my oldest to go to college,” she explains. And now, this! Kornowske is one of eight students sponsored by the Rotary district to study abroad for the 2019-20 school year. Rotary International handles the logistics; each participating family is responsible for their child’s airfare and travel insurance. 

Visiting an English-speaking country is not an option for students participating the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, Jack notes. “I was asked to rank my top 12 countries,” he recalls. At first he thought he was heading to Lithuania, number 7 on his list. However, in May, Outbound Coordinator Sue DeBolt (Rotary District 6450) and Youth Exchange Officer Lesley Gottlinger notified the family that his destination had changed to Germany. Soon, passport in hand, he will be on his way to board an airplane at O’Hare’s International Terminal. 

Sprechen Sie Deutsche?

Young Kornowske does not speak fluent German, so to get ready for his 4,400-mile journey he has been working with a language tutor this summer. “Rotary helps with the language skills — they expect Jack to be fluent after three months,” his mom reports. He will attend a language camp his first week in Germany. And he won’t be allowed to text or FaceTime his family in Oak Park; at least not at first. As part of the Rotary program’s deeply immersive strategy, Jack cannot communicate with his parents or siblings at all for those first 90 days, which makes his mother even more anxious. 

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Grooming Some of Fenwick’s Students to be Philanthropists in the Future

A philanthropic program for teenagers can contribute to our “mutual future social infrastructure,” writes Dr. Lordan.

By Gerald Lordan, PhD.

Fenwick seniors Ethan Seavey (left) and Isaiah Curry with mentor Justin Lewis (standing).

The Future Philanthropist Program (FPP) is an adolescent leadership-training program sponsored by the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, which invests $25,000 annually into community social-service agencies that provide programs for adolescents. Fenwick has five students presently participating in the program: Isaiah Curry ’19, Camille Luckett ’19, Aimee Morrissey ’20, Roger Rhomberg ’20 and Ethan Seavey ’19.

As the only high school in the United States sponsored by Dominican Friars, Fenwick is sui generis (unique). We want our Ministry to be a valued local anchor, a visible metropolitan resource and a recognized national lighthouse for our Thomist Educational Philosophy.  Every high school in the United State has a contractual obligation to the state legislature which chartered it to train patriotic citizens and literate workers. In addition to those legal obligations, Fenwick, as a Thomist School, has a covenant obligation with the Supreme Being to train moral servant leaders. To that end our curriculum includes Speech, Moral Theology, the Christian Service Project and the Kairos retreat.

Those lessons our students learn in the classroom, such as in Speech class, are important. Even more important are those lessons which our students learn inside the building but outside of the classroom, such as liturgy assemblies in the Auditorium. The most important lessons our students learn, such as Kairos, are taught to them outside of the building. Adolescent leadership training is an important component to the Fenwick Thomist experience.

FPP’s leadership affirms the symbiotic relationship between our school and the community. “The Future Philanthropists Program is proud to have partnered with Fenwick High School for the last nine years to teach juniors and seniors the art, science and business of philanthropy,” says program coordinator Karen Tardy. “Our Fenwick students are always eager and very engaged in the program, and they work hard to made a difference in our communities through grant-making, fund-raising and volunteering.  We appreciate the commitment Fenwick has made to the Future Philanthropists Program and their help in creating the leaders of tomorrow.”

FPP participants make a two-year commitment to attend monthly dinner meetings with a small affinity peer group and an adult mentor. Student members of the affinity groups come from Fenwick, Trinity and Oak Park-River Forest high schools. Community leaders share their observations about the past, present and future of our community with the students who, in turn, identify the most critical needs of adolescents in the community. They then solicit grant proposals from community service agencies to address these needs. The students award $25,000 in grant funds provided by the OPRFCF to implement the most promising proposals. Students then conduct field investigations to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposal implementation.

We hope this early life experience will encourage future philanthropists to stay within the community during their adult years to donate their talent, time and treasure to the advance the quality of life in the community where our Ministry has flourished.

Fenwick and the Village of Oak Park

Oak Park would not be Oak Park, and Fenwick would not be Fenwick, without one another. Fenwick, celebrating its 90th year in 2019, has flourished in the Oak Park/River Forest Community for these past nine decades. The school’s architects carved an Oak Park shield carved in stone above our front door on Washington Blvd. It is our intention to be a valued local anchor, a visible metropolitan resource and, as I mentioned before, a recognized national lighthouse for the Thomist educational philosophy.

The presence of vibrant parochial educational institutions, such as Trinity and Fenwick, was an important part in the community’s continuity and evolution. John Gearen ’32, an alumnus from the Class of 1932 (and the school library’s namesake) was a racial inclusive, and the late John Philbin, who sent his children to Fenwick, was a sexual-orientation inclusive. Both men were Fenwick Community leaders who served as Village President. Former Village Clerk Ginny Cassin also was a Fenwick parent. Oak Park is the garden in which we have blossomed.

Fenwick turns 100 in 10 more years. It is our intention to thrive and not just to survive in the next 100 years. It is interesting to note that the Fenwick Hispanic ethnicity enrollment is 17% of the student body. Our institution could be a magnet to attract the next great demographic evolution of Oak Park.

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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”