Acts of Kindness: Fighting COVID in Ohio

More than a year into the Coronavirus pandemic, a Fenwick alumnus, whose class is celebrating its 50th reunion this fall, reflects on the pandemic from the perspective of a front-line health care professional.

By Dr. James Tita ‘71

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime. Most physicians go through their entire career and never experience an event of this magnitude. As a physician who specializes in pulmonary and critical-care medicine, I found myself confronting an illness that had never afflicted humans.

The SARS-Cov-2 virus, identified only in bats previously, was reported in late 2019 from Wuhan, China, as the cause of an outbreak of a severe viral pneumonia. The illness appeared to be very contagious and frequently deadly. There had been limited outbreaks of two other similar coronavirus illnesses within the last 15 to 20 years, but SARS-Cov-2 virus appeared to be much more contagious. Our fascination with the medical reports coming out China soon turned to dread as the virus spread to Europe and beyond.

I recall our public health authorities estimating that, based on a handful of positive tests in Ohio, the virus had infected 6,000 people across the state by mid-March 2020. By the end of that month, our hospitals went into crisis mode as they were overwhelmed by the number of patients with COVID pneumonia. Elective surgeries were canceled, and most of the hospital was filled with critically ill COVID patients on ventilators. Many were elderly and frail. Supplies such as N-95 masks, gloves and gowns were in short supply and had to be re-used.

Since there were no effective treatments, we offered largely supportive care. Because of the need for strict isolation, families were not allowed to visit, even at end of life. The isolation this caused only added to the anguish and despair. We tried to facilitate video visits, but most times the patients were too sedated to communicate.

Watch the heart-wrenching video from a Toledo, local TV news station.

Dr. Tita is Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, OH.

Caring for patients became difficult because of the constant need for personal protective equipment. The fear that any of us could become infected, and potentially spread the disease to our families, was always present. And yet, despite the long hours and difficult and stressful conditions, our nurses, respiratory therapists and staff demonstrated a level of professionalism, teamwork and compassion that was inspirational. Acts of kindness were easy to find.

Ebb and flow

By summer, the number of new cases had fallen dramatically, and our COVID caseloads dropped. The hospitals started to open for elective surgeries. People grew tired of masking and social distancing and began to let their guard down. It was not uncommon to see large gatherings of people at a party or other event. Unfortunately, the virus was not gone and, by late fall and winter, our case numbers began to skyrocket. Hospital beds again filled with COVID patients.

This second surge was different, however. The average age was about 10 years younger than in the spring. We don’t know why exactly but believe it was related to the fact that the nursing homes, through strictly limiting visitation, were able to keep their residents safe. I think we got better at managing the illness as well. We used more alternatives to invasive ventilation, such as high-flow oxygen. We also had a drug (dexamethasone), which was modestly effective at treating those who had severe pneumonia. (Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid used in a wide range of conditions for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects.)

But despite these small improvements, the United States recorded its highest daily COVID death numbers in January this year at more than 4,000 deaths. We are closing in on nearly 600,000 deaths in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.

Vaccine relief

Fenwick faculty and staff had opportunities to receive the COVID vaccine this past winter.

From my perspective, a turning point came in late November when the FDA gave Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer vaccine and, shortly thereafter, to the Moderna vaccine. Last summer we could only dream about an effective vaccine for this illness. While some worry that these vaccines were “rushed into production,” the technology for mRNA vaccines was developed nearly 10 years ago. The Chinese, early in the pandemic, were able to map out the entire viral genome. From there, we were able to find the sequence that coded for the spike protein on the surface of the virus; insert this sequence using nanotechnology into a lipid coat, and the vaccine was complete. These mRNA vaccines have been extraordinarily safe and effective. I was among the first to receive the vaccine in December and strongly recommend the same to all members of the community. The more people we get vaccinated, the less the virus can replicate and the less chance for variants to occur. (Fenwick faculty and staff received first shots in late February.)

For those who recover from COVID, approximately 10% to 30% develop post-acute syndrome. These “long-haulers,” as they are referred to, can suffer lingering symptoms for weeks to months after the infection. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, racing heart, cough and headache. Many other symptoms have been described including prolonged loss of taste and smell, sleep disturbances and GI [gastrointestinal] problems. Most people with this syndrome were not hospitalized and reported relatively mild COVID symptoms.

We cannot know how and when the pandemic will end. It has been said “the virus will do what the virus will do.” However, given the outbreaks occurring in India and South America, it is likely that COVID will become endemic. [An endemic is a disease that belongs to a particular people or country.] Vaccine hesitancy has stalled vaccination rates in our communities and does not bode well for the U.S. to reach herd immunity. Local outbreaks, such as the one occurring in Michigan currently, are likely to continue until more of the population becomes vaccinated.

Pandemics change history, and it is likely our lives and world will be changed as well. Only in retrospect will we understand the significance of this pandemic.

James Tita’s Blackfriars yearbook photo from 1971. The Berwyn boy was a member of the National Honor Society and German Club as well as a debater and Illinois State Scholar semi-finalist.

About the Author

A native of Berwyn, IL, Fenwick alumnus James Tita is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians. A specialist in pulmonary and critical-care medicine, Dr. Tita is the Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio.

Fenwick Faculty, Staff Receive First Dose of COVID Vaccine!

Some 140 of our “Status 1B Educators” rolled up their sleeves this past weekend.

School Nurse Donna Pape administers the shot to Senior Class Counselor and baseball coach Mr. Pat Jacobsen, who was one of some 140 Fenwick faculty and staff members to get vaccinated on Saturday.

Fenwick teachers, coaches, staff and administrators received their first COVID-19 vaccinations at a Saturday event for Oak Park private schools. “We had a great turn out with approximately 265 Oak Park private school educators and staff,” reports School Nurse Kathleen Monty, RN. “Of that, approximately 140 were Fenwick faculty/staff. The Village of Oak Park and the Oak Park Board of Health were pleased with the turnout ….” Later this month, the faculty/staff will return for shot two. 

Ms. Monty adds that she and fellow School Nurse Donna Pape, RN, appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding. “The Fenwick faculty and staff have put up with all our constantly changing rules and have shown up every day since August for our students. We are proud to be part of the Fenwick family!”

Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. notes: “Please join me thanking our nurses, Donna Pape and Kitty Monty, for all their great work this year and their heroic efforts to get all of us vaccinated on Saturday. It was truly inspiring to see them in action! The Fenwick community owes them so much. Thanks, too, to Bryan Boehm [Digital Learning Specialist] and Jimmy Sperandio [Class of ’85 and Community Resource Officer] for their good work on Saturday on our behalf.”

Forty-Niners Reminisce about the Dominicans of Fenwick

With extra time on their hands during the COVID-19 health crisis,
10 members from Fenwick’s Class of ’49 trade memories via e-mail.

“I keep looking for something more or less productive to do,” writes Fenwick alumnus Tom Morsch ’49. “While watching a Zoom presentation on Thomas Aquinas, I noticed that his treatise on the Gospel of John was translated from Latin to English by someone named Fabian Larcher, O.P. I said to myself, I know that guy; he taught me algebra. To be sure, I went online to check ‘Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great.’ There I found that this was, in fact, our Fr. Larcher (and lots of other interesting stuff).”

Classmate Bob Lee responded, “I had Fr. Larcher for algebra also. He was a clean-desk guy. Remember? The only book on your desk was the algebra book, all others below your desk. And he walked around the class every day and enforced the law. He was one of my best teachers at Fenwick. You always had to be prepared for his quick tests. I had the feeling he was interested that I got it.” Fr. Larcher went on to teach at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN, from 1949-53. He passed away in 1981 at age 77 (see list below).

Tom Morsch in 1948-49.

“I agree with you, Bob. I loved the guy!” replied Morsch, who also reminisced about Father James Dempsey. “My first day in Fr. Dempsey’s English class, he asked: ‘Are there any of you who did not go to a Catholic school? If so, raise your hand’” recalls Mr. Morsch. “I did so, along with two or three others. My hand was about as high as the top of my ear.

“Dempsey said: ‘Morsch, stand up and recite the Our Father,’” he continues. “I stood up. I was terribly embarrassed, and mumbled something like, ‘Mumble, mumble, Our Father, mumble, ugh, er, mumble.’ I knew the Our Father but was too scared to say it. With disgust Dempsey said, ‘Sit down, Morsch.’ That was that. But I loved the guy!”

Classmate Jack Spatafora notes: “Fr. Dempsey let me be a columnist for The Wick. All went well until I got writer’s block. I decided to ‘borrow’ some ideas from the Chicago Public Library stacks … [and] found a clever piece on golf and adapted it. Later, I discovered that my source was a well-known New York author who was all too familiar to Dempsey — as he later advised me with a contemptuous scowl! Still, I think I’d prefer THOSE innocent days to THESE!”

Tom McCormick ’49 adds: “Freshman year we … had Fr. Larcher for Algebra, Dempsey (a good friend of Red Sox catcher and manager Birdie Tebbets) for English, Lawton for General Science, maybe Donlan or Morganthaler for Religion, Shortie Connolly for Speech, aka ‘Show and Tell,’ I don’t remember who for Latin, but I do remember fun-loving Br. Schoffman being overseer of JUG …

“An anecdote, perhaps you recall, involving Fr. Dempsey: Bill Finnegan knew I had the book Barefoot Boy with Cheek and asked to borrow it. I said okay, gave it to him before English class, and admonished him not to read it during class. Naturally, he couldn’t resist a peek, started giggling, and prompted Fr. Dempsey to ask ‘What do you have there?’ The first words out of Finnegan’s mouth were, ‘It’s McCormick’s.’ So Dempsey confiscates the book. Three weeks later he gives it back to me with a lecture on why I shouldn’t be reading things like that. I’m sure it made the rounds at the Priory during the three weeks. As a result, I wouldn’t let Finnegan read my father’s copy of Forever Amber.”

Fr. Dempsey and Fr. Lawton left Fenwick to join the Dominican mission in Nigeria. Fr. Lawton was invested as Bishop of Sokto in 1964. He died of a heart attack in 1966 while riding in an automobile and is buried in Nigeria. Fr. Dempsey succeeded him as Bishop of Sokoto in 1967 and eventually returned to the United States, where he died in 1996.

’49 TRIVIA

Father Malone
  1. What were the nicknames of Fr. Conley and Fr. Malone?
  2. Nickname of Fr. Scannell?
  3. What bet was made by astronaut Joe Kerwin in September 1945?
  4. How many freshman boys hailed from northwest suburban Park Ridge, IL?
  5. Who won the Scholar-Athlete Award at the 1949 graduation?
  6. What model car did Tony Nashaar drive to school?
  7. What was the rather remarkable thing that Jack McMahon did after graduating?
  8. Who was the fourth member of the one-mile relay team that won the Daily News Relays title beside Jack Kelly, Jack Regan and Bill Carmody?
Nashaar’s mystery car.

Answers

  1. Little Caesar & Butch
  2. Skipper because he was moderator of sea scouts.
  3. Chicago Cubs to whip Detroit Tigers in World Series, and he gave odds!
  4. Nine (A. Jenks, Sorquist, O’Brien, Frainey, Jolie, Normandt, Barczykowski, Gleason, Georgen)
  5. Jim Strojny
  6. Nash
  7. Robbed a bank and went to jail.
  8. George Remus

Order of Preachers – Province of St. Albert the Great – Necrology (Date of Death)

Teachers

John Murtaugh – 1947
James Quinn – 1961
Edward Lawton – 1966
John Simones – 1967
Michael McNicholas – 1968
Chester Myers – 1968
Andrew Henry – 1971
George Conway – 1972
Anselm Townsend – 1972
Joseph Reardon – 1977
Fabian Larcher – 1981
Cyril Fisher – 1982
George Conway – 1984
Victor Feltrop – 1984
Walter van Rooy – 1985
John Malone – 1993
James Dempsey – 1996
James Regan – 1996
Gordon Walter – 1996
Louis Nugent – 1998
Raymond Ashenbrenner – 2003
Walter Soleta – 2003
John Morgenthaler – 2004
Thomas Donlon
Albert Niesser

Teachers not O.P.

Fr. Leonard Puisis – 2013
Tony Lawless – 1976
Dan O’Brien ’34 – 2003
Br. Schaufman               

Praying for Nurses and Medical Professionals with Fenwick Ties

The observation of National Nurses Week, celebrated May 6 – May 12, has extra-special meaning this year.

As is the case with many care-givers, the hard work of dedicated nurses often is taken for granted. Sometimes, it takes a health crisis such as the Coronavirus pandemic to bring these medical heroes into the spotlight.

Pictured above is alumna Julianne (Comiskey) Heinimann ’01, who works as a NICU nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She is one of at least 34 Friar alumni — women and men — who are registered nurses or nurse practitioners (see list below) across the United States: from Chicago, Oak Park, Downers Grove and Indiana to Washington (DC), Ohio, Arizona and San Francisco. (We know there are many more who are not in our system.)

Nurse Meade

Kathryn Meade, the mother of Fenwick senior Jack Meade (Lombard, IL), is one of at least nine parents working in the nursing field (see below). ” I had contracted COVID-19 from work,” shares Mrs. Meade, who has been a nurse since 1994, working as a NICU nurse for 22 years until recently becoming a Lactation Consultant. “Thankfully, I am on the mend and am humbled by the outpouring of love and support I received,” she says.

In observance if National Nurses Week, we want to publicly thank these moral servant-leaders for all that they do for their patients – especially by putting themselves and their families at risk during the COVID-19 crisis. You make us all proud to be fellow Friars!

Mary Berkemeyer ’11 Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago Emergency Room Registered Nurse
Monica Bomben ’11 Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago Registered Nurse, Neuro/Ortho
Allison Borkovec ’07 Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Registered Nurse
Marco Candido ’03 Independent Registered Nurse
Katie Dalton ’06 Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago Registered Nurse
Jennifer Dan ’08 Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago Cardiac Cath
Lab Nurse

Lauren


Sarah

Dillon-Ellsworth

Finan

’99


’04
Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL

Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago
Nurse



Nurse, neurointestinal and motility
Shannon

Daniela
Flannery

Giacalone
’14

’07


Northwestern Memorial
University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital

Registered Nurse

Registered Nurse
Margaret Grace ’13 Rush University Medical Center, Chicago Registered Nurse
Sharon Grandy ’01 Presence Health (Arizona) Emergency Room, RN
Julianne

Michelle
Comiskey-Heinimann

Androwich- Horrigan
’01

’05
Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Northwestern Memorial
Registered Nurse (Neonatal ICU)
Dana Jakoubek ’01 UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco Kidney Transplant Nurse Practitioner
Bridget Kern ’07 Rush University Medical Center, Chicago Registered Nurse
Amy Konopasek ’01 Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL Registered Nurse Multidisciplinary Coordinator
Alexis

Grace
Kozyra

Lattner
’12

’15
AMITA Health

Cleveland Clinic
Registered Nurse

Registered Nurse
Robert Lewis ’71 Emory University Emergency Medicine, Atlanta Nurse Practitioner
Anne Loeffler ’06 Rush University Medical Center Nurse Assistant 2
Mark Manankil ’86 Advocate Healthcare/Good Samaritan Hospital, Downers Gtove, IL Nurse/Psychiatry
Madalyn

Molly
Mazur

McHugh
’11

’13
U. of Chicago Hospital – Stem Cell Transplant Unit

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Charge Nurse/ Floor Nurse

Registered Nurse
Martin Mikell ’86 Zablocki VA Medical Center, MilwaukeeRegistered Nurse
Elissa Mikol ’04 Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Pediatric Surgery, Nurse Practitioner
Kyle

Nora
Morris

Napleton
’97

’15
Saint Mary’s Medical Center, Chicago
Loyola Medical Center, Maywood
Registered Nurse

ICU Nurse
Thomas Papadakis ’01 Rush Oak Park Hospital Registered Nurse, Emergency Department
Rachel


Katherine
Koranda-Plant

Racanelli
’00


’08

Loyola Medical Center (Chicago)

AMITA Health Medical Group

Registered Nurse


Family Nurse Practitioner
Terri Ferrera-Salinas ’09 Magnificat Family Medicine, Indianapolis Registered Nurse
Pamela


Andrew
Chase-Smith

Straub
’97


’87

Champaign, IL

UnitedHealth Group, Ohio

RN

Nurse Practitioner
Brittney Woosley ’08 Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, Melrose Park, IL Permanent Charge Nurse/RN

According to the Fenwick database, another 225 people (including alumni) have listed either “medicine” as their business/industry or “nursing” or “physician” as their profession. They are:

Continue reading “Praying for Nurses and Medical Professionals with Fenwick Ties”

Remote Collegiate Friars: May 2020

Fenwick 2017 alumnae the Ritten triplets are eLearning together (but separately) in Oak Park, as they finish their junior years in college. The sisters reflect on the Coronavirus pandemic’s effect on their experiences.

Maria Ritten ’17 (at right) is majoring in political science (and minoring in poverty studies and sociology) at the University of Notre Dame:

In these strange and unprecedented times of COVID-19 and social distancing, the last phrase I ever want to hear again is “in these strange and unprecedented times.” After being away from Notre Dame for over a month now, I have seen, heard and said this phrase more times than I ever could have anticipated. I hate the formality of it. While “in these strange and unprecedented times” is undeniably accurate, I think that its use is basically us saying, “now that I’ve addressed the elephant in the room, we can get back to how we normally act.”

But nothing is normal.

ND students haven’t seen the Golden Dome on campus since early March.

Fortunately for me, several of my professors seem to be on the same page. During our Zoom sessions, one of my professors has made it a point to ask each student how they are doing, really doing. Rather than beginning class with a quick hello and diving into material, he gives us time to talk about our real feelings about this pandemic. Our conversations have included topics such as how to celebrate a birthday during quarantine, good TV shows to binge, and how it is nice to be spending more time with our families.

While these positive conversations have been a source of light for me, we have also discussed the situations of classmates who are away from home and missing their families, or how the seniors felt after their graduation was postponed until next year. These conversations, although limited, have been one of the few formal settings during this quarantine in which I have felt encouraged to talk about my real experience. In asking us about our feelings, whether good or bad, my professor is enabling my classmates and me to acknowledge that nothing is normal, and that our thoughts, fears and hopes are all valid. While these are “strange and unprecedented times,” I am grateful for these Zoom sessions because they have taught me one of the most important lessons of my college career: When life throws a curveball, it is more important to reflect on the situation and acknowledge its impact than to pretend it never happened and just move on.

Missing New Orleans

Bridget Ritten ’17 (center) has a double major in public health and sociology at Tulane University:

For most people, New Orleans is a place to party and eat great food. However, New Orleans is much more than that, and for the last three years I have been lucky enough to call it my home.

The Tulane campus in NOLA.

I love New Orleans because it is the opposite of every city in America. Most cities are fast-paced and stressful while New Orleans is slow, easy-going and fun. New Orleans reminds me of a party that celebrates life that everyone is invited to. Unfortunately, there is not much to be celebrating these days as Coronavirus has spread throughout the nation, and particularly in New Orleans.

Fortunately, my family and I are healthy and have been sheltering in place in our home in Oak Park. Over the last month, many college students have been thinking about and missing their friends, classmates and classes. Although I have also been missing those things, I have often found myself thinking about New Orleans and wishing I were there.

Continue reading “Remote Collegiate Friars: May 2020”

Fenwick Students of Italian Pray for Italy

COVID-19 global outreach project employs video app technology called Flipgrid.

Earlier this month, students in Level I Italian completed an Italy Outreach Project through the video app Flipgrid. “They recorded themselves praying for Italy in Italian and reading a letter they wrote to Italy in Italian,” explains Fenwick Italian Teacher and alumnus Mr. John Schoeph ’95. “Each student submitted a prayer and a letter as a video recording.”

Mr. Schoeph then compiled them into what Flipgrid calls a mixtape. “This mixtape plays them all as a video and also presents each video individually in a grid. Italy was struck so severely and early [by the Coronavirus pandemic] that it was important for our students to reach out,” he notes.

LISTEN TO THE FENWICK STUDENTS PRAY IN ITALIAN

“In the meantime, one student drafted a letter in Italian ‘to Italy,’” Mr. Schoeph continues, “while every student was required to find the e-mail address of one high school and one church in their assigned town or city in Italy.” Freshmen Angelina Squeo ’23 (Elmwood Park, IL) and Cate Krema ’23 (Western Springs, IL) compiled the e-mail lists of churches and high schools that every student was required to look up and submit.

Mr. John Schoeph ’95

With the e-mail lists ready to go and the letter drafted, their teacher inserted the mixtape link and sent off the e-mails. “We wanted to let Italy know that a group of beginner Italian students is praying for them and sending them our best,” Mr. Schoeph concludes.

To Italy, with love

The letter was drafted in Italian by fellow freshman Angelina Woods ’23 (Elmwood Park, IL):

I nostri carissimi in Italia, 

Noi siamo una classe d’italiano al livello il più base a Fenwick High School. Fenwick è un liceo negli Stati Uniti. Le priorità di Fenwick sono le preghiere, la studia, il ministero/il volontariato, e la comunità. Mandiamo le nostre preghiere a voi virtualmente e spiritualmente. Anche, mandiamo qualche lettere che offrono la nostra speranza e positività. Se potete, per favore condividete queste lettere e preghiere con la facoltà e gli studenti del liceo o con i parrocchiani della chiesa. Da una piccola scuola di Chicago viene molto amore per Italia.

(La freccia blu e bianca della mano destra dello schermo mette in funzione il video.)

Da una piccola scuola di Chicago a un’altra in Italia. 

Auguri!​

Translation:

Continue reading “Fenwick Students of Italian Pray for Italy”

How Fenwick Prepared Me for the Great Quarantine

By John Nerger ’74

I loved my Fenwick experience of many years ago, but also painfully remember how I often felt trapped, confined, somewhat “quarantined” by life’s circumstances at the time. While attending school, I worked for a newspaper distributor overseeing about 100 paper routes and assisting the manager. This was a seven-day-a-week commitment, 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and a half-day apiece on Saturday and Sunday. My job, home chores and Fenwick’s rigorous course load left little time for much else besides eating and sleeping.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed my job and reveled in its responsibilities, realizing at some level I was getting experience that would pay off eventually. It’s just that it didn’t leave me much time for extra-curricular activities, like the clubs and sports many of my Fenwick friends enjoyed. 

I felt cheated of a normal social life because, come Saturday evening, I was often exhausted and wanted to get to bed, knowing my alarm was set for a 5 a.m. jarring wake-up the following morning. I resented not having much time for a girlfriend or just hang out with neighborhood pals. My family didn’t have a car I could borrow to escape the confines of home.

Since my parents were financing Catholic education for their five children, I felt a little guilty going to Fenwick, where the tuition was higher than other schools, so I worked out of a sense of obligation to help with the bills. I worked that much harder at my classwork because I didn’t want my parents to think they were wasting their money on me.

Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, Fenwick equipped me with the tools that helped me stay sane during those challenging times as an adolescent, even helping me tunnel under the barriers of my “quarantine” to escape:It was at Fenwick where I acquired a love of reading. When I read, I could go anywhere, any time — and I did.

  • It was at Fenwick where I gained a love of learning. Math, science and language (Latin) opened new doorways for me. The life of the mind had no walls or limitations.
  • It was at Fenwick where I began to strengthen what had been a thin and immature faith. Prayer took me to another world, an eternal spiritual realm I was just beginning to discover; one that returned far more than I gave to it, and one that proved more instrumental than anything else over my 63 years.
  • It was at Fenwick where my character would be shaped. Its rules, discipline, expectations and moral code, while not so obvious at the time, prepared me to thrive at university and persevere throughout my career.
  • It was later, after graduation, when I found how rigorous physical labor and exercise, Fenwick’s daily gym classes and intramurals notwithstanding, could free me of anxiety and improve my health and well-being.
  • And it would be later still when I would discover how love of another could be liberating and unbounded, freeing me from my selfish self; although the generous love experienced in my immediate family, and my Fenwick family to a considerable degree, certainly set the right conditions for this to occur.
Last summer, Nerger donned a Fenwick shirt while riding in RAGBRAI across Iowa. 

During the decades since, I’ve seen many ways one can find oneself trapped, even imprisoned. We may feel trapped or shackled by jobs we dislike, fears, unhealthy addictions, illness, sin and bad habits. I’ve experienced my share of these as well.

Continue reading “How Fenwick Prepared Me for the Great Quarantine”

Drawing Parallels between 9/11 and COVID-19

How do Friars respond during crises? Fenwick has asked the alumni community to share memories of when the world seemed upside down and how, we as a community, responded.

This Fenwick alumnus, who visited campus back in February, remembers the traumatic period following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 — and has an important message for today’s students.

By Dave West ’98

World Trade Center, NYC: the dreadful day the “Twin Towers” fell.

I was a senior at Duke preparing for a public policy class when the attacks of 9/11 jolted us all around breakfast time on a Tuesday morning. School abruptly shut down as did the country, and we quickly learned over the next few, confusing days that several graduated fraternity brothers, parents of classmates and thousands of others were killed in the towers, in the planes or in the Pentagon.

As a senior, thoughts quickly turned to what other attacks were next; how we’d ever get back to life as usual; whether there would be any jobs for us; and even whether a military draft might be brought back and we would all need to prepare to fight a new enemy halfway around the world. Our grandparents were “the greatest generation”… would we be good enough and up to the challenge?

Parallels to the present pandemic

The U.S. Pentagon on 9/11/01.

The answer was a huge, “Yes” then, and it will be again now. Despite the trauma of that day and the months that followed, the country persevered. I recommend students use this current pandemic shock to step back a bit and think about their goals, purpose and what they really want out of the next five, next 10, next few decades.

In my case, 9/11 was a catalyst to immediately pivot to pursue grad school and national security public service. I was able to serve in Washington and work with over 50 allied countries in counter-terror and anti-terror cooperation efforts. A friend of mine from Duke, lacrosse star Jimmy Regan, turned down a Wall Street job and enlist in the special forces, giving his life years later as a hero on the battlefield and inspiring us all even today. Others became doctors/researchers, teachers or strong executives building new companies, etc. 

The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City.

I want to underscore to the students that people generally, and our economy and country in particular, are incredibly resilient. Families, economies and life as we know it are taking a hit right now due to the pandemic, but we will come out on the other side of it. The world will need Fenwick people to help lead and deal with the uncertainty, so we should all stay focused, positive and ensure we’re ready when needed.  

Health and safety to all.

Continue reading “Drawing Parallels between 9/11 and COVID-19”