A 1958-62 alumnus takes a fist-in-cheek look back at Fenwick’s lost ‘art’ of pugilism, which began at the school in 1930 as an intramural activity.
By Jim Fineran ’62 (originally published in Fenwick’s First 75 Years, 2005)
It was called the boxing tournament but it actually was ‘fighting’ with gloves and rules, because [for many students] the boxing instruction lasted about two minutes. Tony Lawless was the instructor for what he called the ‘Art Course.’ It was strictly voluntary in that Mr. Lawless decided who was to volunteer and who was not. It was not a good time of year (early February) to be on his bad side. Doctors all over the West Side were exhausted from writing excuses for boys to not participate in the ‘Art Course.’
The bouts consisted of three one-minute rounds with Referee Lawless intoning ‘That’s a round!’ when the minute was up. Of course, if a couple of guys were really going at it, Mr. Lawless would let the rounds go on longer. The tournament commenced on a Friday night in March with ‘The Silver-Gloves:’ a big night of runner-up and championship fights in eight different weight classes. The gym was always packed. [In 1960, some 1,500 fans jammed into the bleachers and balcony.] Tony would bring in ex-pug ‘Tuffy’ Griffiths to referee. ‘Tuffy’ appeared to have taken a few too many shots during his career because it was not unknown for him to ‘put ’em up’ and start feinting when the bell would sound.
I don’t know when Mr. Lawless started all this [it was in 1930, during Fenwick’s infancy], but I do know it came to an end when Fr. Thomas Cumiskey became principal/president (1962-69). More than once he told me that he thought the whole thing was too brutal. Maybe yes, maybe no, but I never knew anyone who got hurt and I think the boxing did a little character-building.
Fennwick High School received an early Christmas present in mid-December: a gift from an anonymous donor in the amount of $3 million cash! “This is the first leadership gift toward the second phase of our Centennial Campaign,” praises President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. “The money will be used to help construct the Centennial addition,” Father Peddicord explains, “and the new dining hall will be named for alumnus Arthur Dalton, Jr., who was a proud member of the Friars’ Class of 1942.” Mr. Dalton passed away in 2003 at age 80.
Who was Art Dalton? According to the ’42 Blackfriars yearbook, he was a member of St. Eulalia Parish in Maywood, IL. A versatile student-athlete in high school, Art participated in basketball, boxing and track for three of his four years at Fenwick; he played tennis (doubles) as a junior and senior and tried football and track as a freshman. He also wrote for The Wick student newspaper as a junior and was a member of the Pan-American Club as a senior.
Later in life, Mr. Dalton became a resident of Western Springs, IL. He was a husband and family man: married to Regina (nee Frawley) for 56 years; the couple had four children — Thomas, Cathie, Nancy and Daniel. The latter, a medical doctor, is a parent of three Fenwick graduates: Ryan ’03, Kyle ’05 and Katie ’06. (Art’s younger brother, Ray, also was a Friar: Class of ’44.)
Professionally, Art Dalton was president of Park Corp. of Barrington, IL, and executive vice president of Jewel Food Stores. Civically, he was Chairman of the Board at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, IL, and chairman of the Westlake Health Foundation. In his spare time, Dalton also was an avid golfer, with memberships at La Grange Country Club and the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
This $3 million gift made in honor of Dalton matches the largest gift in school history. The new Arthur T. Dalton, Jr. ’42 Dining Hall (see artist’s rendering, below) will be housed within the proposed Centennial Building addition. The new building is estimated to be a $25-million construction initiative that will dramatically expand and enhance the facilities at Fenwick. One of the most visible and beautiful of all spaces within the new building, the dining hall will provide not only a much-needed new dining area and healthier environment for students, but it will also serve as a gathering space for alumni events, board meetings and community social events.
How did a rough-and-tumble kid survive being a gang member on Chicago’s mean streets in the early 1960s to become a successful entrepreneur? Fenwick had something to do with it — as did his nearly lifelong love of boxing.
There were 269 students in Roy Terracina’s 1964 graduating class at Fenwick. His academic rank among those boys was near the bottom: 254. “That’s why I wear these cuff-links,” the businessman and entrepreneur explained to three groups of current students in mid-April, standing on stage in the school’s auditorium and pointing to his wrist. “These remind me of where I was and where I started. I ran with a gang and got into trouble,” Mr. Terracina admitted. But he also stuck it out and got through Fenwick, by the grace of God.
His message to today’s Friars included anecdotes about some of his mistakes, his great love of family and his understanding of how faith has played an important role in his life. “My purpose is simple: to reach the bottom half of each class,” Terracina shared, “and to give them hope that the education they are getting is preparing them for the future; that the combination of studies and peer motivation mixes to make this a special, four-year education. I wanted a message of how special their time is here at Fenwick, even though they may not realize it today.”
After his high-school graduation, Terracina attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, where he majored in finance. In the early 1990s he borrowed $1 million from a bank and bought Sterling Foods to provide packaged food to the military during the first Gulf War in Iraq. Eleven years later, Terracina sold the food-packaging business and transitioned to his present career at US Global Investors and CEO of Sunshine Ventures, Inc. (See bio.)
“I speak to youth groups and groups of young entrepreneurs about 10 to 15 times a year,” Terracina told the Friar Files. “However, no experience matches speaking at a place that means so much to me, as Fenwick truly changed my life.” Fenwick is unlike most places he talks, “where I normally have to ask the teachers to keep things orderly,” he shared. “Recently, I had to send a group to the principal’s office at a local elementary school in my home base of San Antonio. But Fenwick students indeed are different: well behaved and sponges for learning.”
Here is Roy’s story, in his own words:
“If I Had My Life to Live Over”
By Roy Terracina ’64
My teen years where filled with family stability, hard work with my father and a lot of confusion over who or what I was. I would travel by bus, elevated train and walk to get to a high school, Fenwick, that I didn’t feel a part of. I knew going to Fenwick was the right thing to do, but I knew it because I was told it was as opposed to ‘feeling’ it was.
My freshman year was particularly puzzling because my close friends from my younger years were all going to either public schools, or a much less academic Catholic school. My evenings as a student were filled with friends who attended mostly public schools and were learning trades, while I was trying to learn Latin and physics. The childhood friends quickly saw that I was different, as did my peers at Fenwick. So the reality is that I didn’t fit into either place. I felt lost, confused, bewildered and went with the flow of the day. When my friends were out on weeknights doing what inner-city kids did, I was to be home studying, but my heart and mind were not there.
I did what I had to do to get by, and yet found myself working twice as hard as my neighborhood friends, and still not keeping up with the Fenwick standards. I was small, and in a football-first high school at the time, did not manage to engage in sports.
In the neighborhood, we were out making trouble: fighting, chasing girls and, in general, not doing the things I needed to do to build my academic career. I found out that I loved competition, especially in sports, and particularly liked to lose my temper and fight. My friends would use me as the guy who would tease others into fighting since I looked like an easy mark. When I would get into it with someone much larger, the rest of my friends would jump in and “handle the situation,” and eventually I got tired of that and learned that my speed was enough to outmaneuver most larger boys.