By Ted Londos (Originally published in the Oak Leaves newspaper, April 1972)
“There will always be a Fenwick. Yes indeed, the prep-renowned Friars will continue to make the usual good brand of history in both the academic and sports world for many years to come.”
These were the unequivocal utterances of youthful, brilliant Richard B. Kennedy , assistant principal of this great school when interviewed by this reporter.
My two-hour-long visit to Friarland was dictated by an abundance of disturbing rumors that Fenwick would eventually meet the same fate that befell a few of their Catholic high school counterparts, because of dire pecuniary straits. Well, after much talk and probing with other official Fenwick sources – I was assured, in no uncertain language, this just ain’t so!
Tony Lawless and Dan O’Brien in unison couldn’t conceive of anyone entertaining the idea of an exodus for the Friars from the Catholic prep ranks. Fenwick’s lofty status in the all-important fields of academics and athletics precludes such idle chatter. This writer evokes an Amen.
How many Oak Park-River Forest citizens know the splendid history of Fenwick?
I know that over the many, many years – folk from everywhere marveled at the architectural beauty of Fenwick High School. Our people exuded pride, and the school building was acclaimed by countless as “the most esthetic looking edifice in our village.” It is located on Washington Blvd., between Scoville and East avenues.
Variety is given in its 300-foot length by the wall in front of the gymnasium, the extended tower in the center of the building, and the castellated effect in the main entrance. Its three stories contain 19 class rooms, laboratories, library, cafeteria, swimming pool and gymnasium. Modern equipment in class rooms and laboratories add to the efficiency of its educational facilities.
Fenwick owes its birth to an invitation extended in 1928 by George Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago; to the Dominican Fathers, and the founding principal, the Rev. Leo C. Gainor, to erect and administer a new high school to serve the educational needs to the rapidly growing west side of Chicago and its western suburbs. The school, begun in November, 1928, was finished in August of 1929 and opened its doors to the first students in September of the same year.
Fenwick was chosen as its name in honor of the pioneer Dominican in the United States and the first Bishop of Cincinnati, Edward Dominic Fenwick, whose educational ideals and labors contributed so much to the early Catholic history of the Middle West.
It’s common knowledge that Fenwick is primarily a day school for boys – offering every facility for the highest and broadest mental culture. The big aim is to provide a thoroughly dependable foundation in solid elemental subjects conducive for college and for life in the world.
Fenwick’s faculty is second to none in the world of storied three or four R’s and higher learning. In addition to regular collegiate work – they have followed the seven year course of philosophical and theological subjects in the various Dominican Houses of Studies and have made special studies for advanced degrees in leading Catholic and European universities.
In the 43 years of its existence, Fenwick’s record in the field of sports can be tagged as truly spectacular – one of the finest athletic programs in the United States – always under the superlative coaching guidance of the great Tony Lawless. More important, countless members of its graduating classes have won exceptional recognition and honors in colleges throughout the United States. Add to this the many, many athletes who brought fame to their respective colleges as well as to the Friars [and] to Oak Park.
At the University of Notre Dame, out of representatives of 800 preparatory and secondary schools, the graduates of Fenwick have consistently ranked first in group excellence. At Xavier and Holy Cross, Fenwick alumni attained a Percentile mark of 90.9 percent, to rank second among graduates of 50 schools. Similar records at Purdue, St. Benedicts, and Providence College bear strong evidence of the type of training received at Fenwick and of the scholastic ability of its graduates.
We fervently pray and hope that this still-young school will ever remain the major force in the education and formation of the young men of Oak Park and the Chicago area.
closest friend for 46 years summed up the great Coach’s qualities in an address
to Friar student-athletes one month after his death at age 73.
By late coach/trainer Dan O’Brien ’34 (Fenwick Sports Banquet, December 1976)
1929, 250 people applied for the position of athletic director at Fenwick High
School, an all-boys Catholic school opening in September of that year. Principal/President
Fr. Leo Gainor, O.P. selected 26-year-old Anthony R. Lawless to direct the new
school’s athletic program. From Peoria, IL, Mr. Lawless was a graduate of
Loyola University, Chicago, and the lone layperson among the then all-Dominican
faculty and staff. He was the Friars’ head football coach from 1929-56 (record:
177-43-8). A member of the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame, Lawless also was
Fenwick’s head basketball coach (1929-47) and founded the Chicago Catholic
League Coaches Association.
There comes a time in the life of every athlete when
he draws back and takes a hard look at his experiences in order to assess the
returns that might have been. His initial inclination will be to recall the
emotional peaks, the victories: the win over Loyola’s football team; the cross
country effort against Gordon Tech; the golf team’s close finish in the league
and district competition; our tennis team’s dramatic victory in straight sets.
It is perfectly natural to cling to these memories for personal satisfaction.
However, your more meaningful returns – rewards that
will affect your lifestyle and personality – will come in the form of your
character-information. This type of return will, in most cases, come as the
result of behavior patterns formed from personal contacts – benefits derived
from the regard you have for your leader or coach. No doubt most of you, presumably,
have developed this type of respect for your respective coaches.
I believe it is very timely to consider the returns we
have received from our association with the incomparable Tony Lawless. This
very unusual man had personal characteristics that are rare by any standard of
reference. His lifestyle was anything but commonplace; it was truly unique.
Father Conley’s beautiful homily reflected insight into Tony’s character in his
peak years as a coach. My forty-six years with him have given me a singular
opportunity to discern what made him tick and the legacy he has left us.
A Supreme Court justice said he learned in his youth a
lesson that remained indelible throughout his life: human happiness is not
gained from a series of pleasures but from total dedication to a goal above and
An even greater authority said: “He who loses his life
shall find it; he who finds his life shall lose it.” It is a lesson of history
that happiness comes only to those who surrender themselves to a work greater
than themselves. There is no greater delight than to feel necessary to
something you love. A young mother, even if ill herself, when walking the floor
at midnight with her sick infant, is doing what she prefers to all else in the
world. Children never understand mother until they have children of their own.
Tony would have no trouble discerning that young mother’s feelings.
Father Gainor, the founding principal of Fenwick and a
priest of exceptional talent and insight – who brought Tony to Fenwick – had a “rule
of thumb” in judging the potential value of a student or employee. He believed
that a person, regardless of his shortcomings, had value to Fenwick if he had
demonstrated love for Fenwick. Tony Lawless was close to the heart of that
Tony truly loved his work in a most extraordinary way;
he really relished coming to work in the morning. The size of his salary was of
little or no consideration with him. He filled his every day in a work he
deeply loved; being paid for it was a bonus.
Tony was a romantic at heart. While still very young, he fell in love with Fenwick and all it stood for. To the very end, that love was undiminished. What he left us came from a great heart in love with a sublime dream.
Three Fenwick senior student-athletes have made their college decisions, while Class of 2021 classmates and juniors weigh their options. Congratulations to Fenwick volleyball All-Stater Beau Vanderlaan ’21 (above): The 6’2″ senior middle blocker from Oak Park has committed to Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island) in the prestigious Ivy League!
Fellow senior and Friar swimmer Angelina Cakuls ’21 (right) from Palos Park has committed to continue her education and athletic career in the pool at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) in the MAC.
Golfer Jake Wiktor ’21 (River Forest, IL) has committed to North Carolina State. Jake earned All-Conference honors for the third consecutive year and also is the Chicago Catholic League’s Lawless Player of the Year!
Basketball All-Stater Bryce Hopkins ’21 is expected to make his decision soon. The much-sought 6’6″, 220-lb. power forward, who de-committed from Louisville this past summer, has narrowed down his top nine college choices: Cal, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, Providence and Texas.
To date, 26 colleges have verbally offered athletic scholarships to seven Fenwick football players: three seniors and four juniors. Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana) offered the four members of the Class of 2022 on the same day in early September!
Junior QB Kaden Cobb ’22 now has nine D1 scholarship offers (and counting): Ball State, Boston College, Bowling Green, Howard University, Northern Illinois, Mizzou (University of Missouri), Toledo, Vanderbilt and West Virginia!
Junior center/offensive lineman Jimmy Liston ’22 (No. 64) has been offered by Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), Ball State and Central Michigan so far. “Jimbo” also is a heavyweight wrestler for the Friars.
Junior slot receiver/tight end Max Reese ’22 has five offers from Alcorn State, Arizona State, Ball State, Bowling Green and Kansas. Reese also plays basketball for the Friars.
Lanky, junior wide receiver Eian Pugh ’22 now has seven offers, from: Ball State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Howard, Indiana University, Toledo and the University of Kansas. Pugh also is a Fenwick basketball player.
Senior wide receiver Jonas Capek ’21 has offers from Roosevelt University (NAIA, Chicago), Lake Forest College (D3 in Illinois), St. Ambrose (D3 in Iowa), St. Norbert (D3 in Wisconsin) and St. Olaf (D3 in Minnesota).
Senior running back Isaac Novak ’21 has offers from Wheeling University (D2 in West Virginia) and St. Norbert (D3 in Wisconsin).
Senior offensive lineman Jamie Moran (No. 70) has a pair of D3 offers from Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) and North Park University (Chicago).
The Fenwick Girls’ Golf Team (8-1) had a great week last week with wins over DePaul Prep and Chicago Latin School, reports Varsity Head Coach Mike Trankina ’84. Earlier this month, the Friars bested Providence, Resurrection and Montini by wide margins.
The team captain is junior Lillian Bateman (Western Springs, IL), who “has become a leader both on course and off,” Coach Trankina praises, adding how consistent, reliable, and often dominant she has been throughout the year. “Lillian’s worst rounds have still been solid posts for the team,” he says, “and she has had two rounds in the 30s. She is coming into form as her putting is starting to come back.”
Ms. Bateman is joined by her sister, Charlotte, who is a sophomore and “is definitely the most improved golfer on the varsity,” according to Trankina The team is rounded out by newcomers but experienced competitive golfers sophomore Jordan “JoJo” Wiktor (River Forest) and freshman Kathryn Sweeney (Hinsdale).
On September 22nd vs. DePaul (at Willow Crest), the Friars had their first-ever match against the Rams’ new girls’ golf team. Fenwick was led by Bateman with a 41 and helped by a 42 from senior/varsity newcomer Blaire Lepore (Chicago), a 44 from Sweeney and a 45 from Wiktor.
“We had a collective 46-stroke victory over the promising young DePaul Prep team,” says their coach. Last Thursday came a “huge victory” over a very experienced Latin School team that returned a few state-experienced players from last year, he added. “We were led with an unbelievable par score of 35 from frosh Sweeney, followed by a 39 from Wiktor, 41 from Lillian Bateman and 42 from Charlotte Bateman.”
Mid-month, Fenwick had another great week with wins over Providence and Trinity. “The Providence match was noteworthy because we had all six varsity players score in the 40s for the 9-hole match,” explains Trankina. Sweeney, the frosh, led with a 40, and Lepore shot a 48. Junior Maeve McEnery (Elmhurst) had a personal best 45 in competition. The Bateman sisters and Wiktor were all in the low-mid 40s, forming the core of a strong and balanced team. Against Trinity, the girls had an equally consistent game with Wiktor breaking the 40 barrier with a 39. Fresman Kathryn Sweeney (Hinsdale) had another 40 and is proving to be a consistent scorer for the varsity.
“We have a very young team that is only going to improve over the next few years,” Trankina adds. “I see a huge future with this team. And our JV team is unbeaten so far this year also!”
The varsity squad is rounding into form for the upcoming postseason. They have Senior Day vs. Mother McAuley today, a final full-team match vs. St. Ignatius on Wednesday and the big GCAC Conference Championship on Thursday at White Pines.
Their only loss to date in 2020 is to Loyola Academy, “only by 6 strokes,” Trankina points out. “The Ramblers are a team that perennially goes downstate and also wins conference. We will meet them again in the conference championship.” GO FRIARS!
It should come as no surprise that lacrosse is one of
the fastest-growing sports in the United States. The sport’s participation
numbers have been on the rise for the better part a decade. Nationally, more
than 210,000 high school student-athletes now played organized lacrosse (as of
2018), according to statistics tracked by the National Federation of High
School Associations. Some 113,000 of those
participants were boys, while nearly 97,000 were girls. At the youth
level, more than 825,000 children age 13 and under now play “LAX,” reports US
People from the East Coast know lacrosse; most of us
from the Midwest, not so much. More than 30 years ago, some college boys were
playing catch — with nets on sticks — an hour north of Chicago. “What is that?” asked a local, curious observer
while his friends from Boston, New Jersey and New York looked on and laughed.
“Lacrosse is a great game,” attests new Fenwick Boys’ Head Coach Dan Applebaum, who grew up in Oak Park, IL, playing baseball as a kid since the age of six. Applebaum worked at New Wave Lacrosse in Naperville and assisted the staffs at Oak Park-River Forest (his alma mater) as well as Lyons Township high schools in La Grange. He was a Friars’ varsity assistant coach for several seasons before accepting the boys’ head coaching job at Northside College Prep in Chicago (2018-19). Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 tapped Applebaum as the Fenwick boys’ head coach earlier this year.
Applebaum first picked up a lacrosse stick as a
freshman at OPRF in 2005-06. “I wasn’t good enough to play baseball in high
school,” he admits, adding that perhaps he had outgrown America’s so-called pastime,
which was beginning to bore him as a young teenager. What he liked most about
lacrosse is that it is “such a skill-based sport,” the coach explains. “You
don’t have to be the biggest, fastest or strongest [athlete].” The blend of
athleticism and physicality appeals to many boys. It may sound overly
simplistic, but “if you can pass and catch, you can be on the field,” he
Molly Welsh ’20, a senior leader on this coming season’s team who hails from Elmhurst, has been a member of East Ave. for the past two years. “I started lacrosse when I was in fourth grade but quit because I had other sports,” Welsh explains. She picked up a stick again as a freshman and has “loved it ever since. Lacrosse is very different from other sports,” she says. “It is one of the fastest and most competitive sports I have ever played.”
Junior teammate Maggie Chudik (Western Springs) had a similar experience. “I had tried lacrosse in elementary school, but it wasn’t until my freshman year at Fenwick that it became my main sport,” she says. “The Fenwick lacrosse team is such an amazing, supportive group of girls that I feel so lucky to be a part of. “
Fellow junior Declan Donnelly ’21 adds: “Lacrosse has been a large part of my life at Fenwick. My lacrosse experience started at a young age playing for the local lacrosse team,” says Donnelly, a two-sport student-athlete (he started at linebacker this season for the Friars’ varsity, playoff football team) who lives in Berwyn and attended St. Mary’s School in Riverside. “Not only has lacrosse helped me to make the transition into high school, but it has allowed for me to develop skills that would be helpful to me in other sports,” the defenseman points out. “Being a lacrosse player has allowed me to develop skills that have helped me greatly while being on the football field.
“The summer of seventh grade I decided to attend the Fenwick Lacrosse Camp because I was hoping to play for the Friars,” Donnelly recalls. At the end of the camp, Jerry Considine (then coaching at Fenwick) asked whether Declan might be interested in playing for the combined youth and high school lacrosse [U14] team that he was putting together. This was the start, in 2015, of the East Ave. program, which added a girls’ division two years later headed up by Tracy Bonaccorsi, who now is the new girls’ HC at Fenwick (see below). Donnelly plays for Fenwick and East Ave., the latter of which he describes as “a thriving program with teams of all ages, for both boys and girls hoping to play lacrosse for sport or fun. The best part about having an elite, club program in the local area, notes Coach Bonaccorsi, is that it gives kids “the opportunity to improve their game and play more than just the three-month high school season.”
Donnelly credits the East Ave.
program and coaches for most of his high-school lacrosse success. “When I came
to Fenwick I was nervous to play lacrosse,” he admits, “but once I met the team,
I never looked back. I was on varsity my freshman year when we made it to the
Super Sectional Round. To this day, I am friends and stay in contact with many
of the guys on that Super Sectional team. Fenwick lacrosse is a family and
always will be.”
“Lacrosse is fast-paced,” adds Coach Applebaum, who helps
to direct the East Ave. club program (he is one of three founders), now in its
fifth year. “There is a lot of running up and down the field. Guys [and gals] get
gassed, even in practice! The game is engaging and exhausting, which is partly
why parents love it,” he laughs.
All kidding aside, Applebaum notes that the sport’s creativity
was a lure for him. Lacrosse is “a very individual team sport.” What does he
mean by that paradox? “What I mean is that every person on the field has his or
her own style of play – but there still is a team around you.” He acknowledges
that much of the game’s strategy is similar to basketball. However, the skill
set is very different. “I didn’t need anyone else to go out with me to
practice,” he continues. “I figured out ways to make wall-ball fun.”
He expects to see as many as 45 Fenwick boys out for the two teams (varsity and junior varsity) this coming spring. The girls’ squad has even bigger numbers: “There are 70 [female] names on my list for JV and varsity,” reveals new Head Coach Tracy Bonnacorsi, who comes to the Friars by way of East Ave. and Trinity High School in River Forest, where she built up the Blazers’ program over the past three seasons. Five of her players have gone on to play collegiately.
The girls’ version of the game features more finesse and less body checking. (The boys wear helmets.) “We have 20 to 30 girls consistently showing up for [weight] lifting and open gyms,” Coach Bonaccorsi says. One of those players is junior Caroline Finn(Western Springs), who was an All-Conference selection last season as a sophomore.
“I have played with Coach ‘Bono’ [at East Ave.] since I was a sophomore,” Welsh notes. “She is a very encouraging and determined coach. I believe she will push us more than we have been in the past in order to go far in playoffs.” Teammate Chudik adds: “Coach Bono brings a positive energy to the field that I think drives my love and my teammates’ love for lacrosse.”
Bonaccorsi was a multi-sport athlete who graduated from Montini Catholic in Lombard. She became interested in lacrosse when her older sister, Annie, instituted the first-ever lacrosse team at the high school in 2005-06. After playing for the Broncos, the younger Bonaccorsi played and studied at Concordia University in Irvine, CA. Before returning to the Chicago area to take the job at Trinity, she coached at Beckman High in Irvine for two years (while still attending college) and with the Buku club team in Southern California. Her degree is in business administration with an emphasis in sports management. At Fenwick, Tracy’s full-time role is as an assistant to the athletic director.
As for Applebaum’s LAX “pedigree,” after his
All-Conference senior season at OPRF, he played junior-college lacrosse in
Pennsylvania — and then at Mars Hill University (NCAA Div. II) in North
Carolina. As a midfielder there, he garnered second team All-Conference
recognition. Applebaum also has played internationally at the Indoor World
Championships, coming in fifth place as a member of Team Israel.
Increased media visibility is aiding lacrosse’s popularity
among American youth, Applebaum believes. Fifteen years ago, “there were like
four games on TV all year,” he remembers. “Now, they broadcast college games
four to six times per week! You just have to know where to look for them.”
Like ice hockey, lacrosse has a reputation of being an expensive sport to play: Buying a new helmet, stick, gloves, elbow and shoulder pads can cost upwards of $500 per player. However, organizations such as US Lacrosse are making it more affordable, especially for rural as well as inner-city kids. (US Lacrosse is the national governing body of men and women’s lacrosse in the United States.) Its “First Stick Program” grants sticks and protective gear for up to 20 field players and one goalie. Heading into its ninth year, First Stick has leveraged the support of generous individual, foundation and corporate donors into $10 million worth of equipment to give more than 22,000 kids on 760+ teams (448 boys, 320 girls), in every region of the country, the opportunity to play lacrosse — many for the first time.
Locally, Coach Applebaum cites the OWLS sports-based, non-profit youth development organization, which creates opportunities for underserved youth in Chicago. With lacrosse as its foundation, OWLS provides impactful mentorship and access to scholarships, improving the academic and social outcomes of the youth it serves. Bonaccorsi serves on its executive board.
Did you know that lacrosse has its origins in a tribal game played by eastern Woodlands Native Americans and by some Plains Indians tribes in what is now the United States of America and Canada? European colonizers to North America extensively modified the game to create its current collegiate and professional form.
Friars in 2020
“I am excited for this upcoming lacrosse season and highly
recommend anyone who is considering playing, even in the slightest, to come out
and try it,” Donnelly encourages. “There is always room for new players, and
all are welcome. You won’t regret it, and I know this because I didn’t.”
Donnelly says he is eager to see how Applebaum
plans to take the Fenwick program to an even higher level. “I have now known Coach
Dan for many years,” Donnelly concludes. “He is a great coach who I know has
the skills and ability to lead us on the right path. I have great faith in him
and the coaching staff that he is bringing in to help him. Coach Dan … is
a large reason why I have become the player I am today.
“If you would like to play, don’t be shy, contact me or any
of my fellow teammates.”
The mom of five Friars addressed fellow Mothers’ Club members at the 2019 Fenwick Senior Mass & Brunch celebration earlier this month.
By Susan Lasek
Good afternoon Fenwick mothers, guardians, the Senior Class of 2019, Father Peddicord, Mr. Groom and Faculty. I am honored to be here speaking to you about my family’s Fenwick experience: a faith-filled journey that began in August of 2009 and will end on May 24 of this year.
Boy, 10 years go by quickly, especially with five
children, all with different personalities and interests who participated in a
variety of clubs and sports offered at Fenwick. Why did my family choose
Fenwick? Well, I go back to two very precious gifts that were given to me and
the gift of family and parenthood
the gift of faith
Both Mark and I were lucky enough to grow up in
families that were very close and where family was always #1. We also feel the
gift of faith is immeasurable — one that our families value very deeply. This
is why Mark and I decided to send our kids to a Catholic high school. After
researching all the private and public schools, Fenwick was our first choice,
hands down, no questions. We felt that it was important for our kids to be
reminded of their faith every day. We felt they would have an excellent
education that would prepare them for college. Bottom line, as a mother: It was
most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.
Why Fenwick? “It was most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.”
What made Fenwick unique in our mind was the entire Fenwick community. You are not just going to high school; you are joining the Fenwick family. You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life. Whether you are the class of 2019 or the class of 1990, it doesn’t matter because you are all part of the Fenwick family.
Some of the things that make Fenwick unique and stand
Prayers are included in every aspect of a
student’s life, from the start of the day, to sporting events, theater and
How beautiful it is that Father Peddicord
greets everyone by name after school and wishes them a good rest of the day?
Kairos is one of the most emotional,
faith-filled experiences that touches every student. The three-day retreat
brings students together who may not know each other very well and provides an
opportunity for support and friendship.
Fenwick is truly a college-prep school.
Every one of my children that went off to college thanked us for sending them
to Fenwick because they felt so well prepared for their college education and
What is Friar Nation: “You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life.”
To sum it up, we are thankful for the leadership that
helped guide our children from being impressionable kids to strong,
independent-minded young adults. We are grateful for their experiences that
provided a strong base of faith and knowledge that will carry them into the
next phase of their lives. We are appreciative of the entire leadership and
staff at Fenwick for genuinely caring for each and every student. Teachers at
Fenwick forge great relationships with their students, providing support,
guidance and instruction.
Overall, Fenwick instilled a sense of tradition in our
kids that make them feel as though they are a part of something bigger. I’d
like to close with the following phrase our kids hear during the morning
announcements at the beginning of every school day:
our experiences are defined by our choices. Today, make great choices. Make
today a great day or not, that choice is yours!”
Fenwick is forever in our hearts and minds. God Bless
About the Author
Sue Lasek and her husband, Mark, reside in Hinsdale. All five of the couple’s five children have attended Fenwick. A quick update on each one:
Mark II, a current graduate (Class of ’19), will attend the University of Wisconsin – Madison this fall and study physics with a minor in finance.
Josephine ’18 just finished her freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is studying nursing.
Charlotte attended Fenwick from 2011-13. She will graduate from DePaul University on June 15, 2019, with a degree in neuropsychology. Charlotte had the opportunity to work with DePaul/NASA on a project that involved researching astronauts’ brains.
Chris ’14 is currently working on his degree in architecture at College of DuPage and is working on a few projects with area architectural firms.
Rich ’13 graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2017 with a degree in economics. He is employed by Core Spaces, one of the country’s top leaders in student housing. Rich manages the Ambassador Program across the United States and conducts market research for the firm; he also is involved with business development.
High achievements in academics and athletics have been intertwined at Fenwick for 90 years and counting.
By Ray Wicklander, Jr. ’55
Editor’s note: Mr. Wicklander gave this speech at the Fenwick Athletic Awards ceremony 26 years ago, on November 30, 1992. From Oak Park and Ascension, Ray was a National Honor Society student who played football for four years for the Friars. He also spent two years swimming and on the staff of The Wick.
On a night similar to this, over 60 years ago in the old Morrison Hotel in downtown Chicago, a new upstart high school from Oak Park, called Fenwick, held its first athletic awards night. Over 900 people attended – in the height of the Depression – for two basic reasons:
They were there to give recognition to the accomplishments of the first senior class – with a football record of 6-1 – who established themselves already as a force in the Catholic League.
And to make a statement: that the standard of excellence on which Fenwick was established would always reflect itself in its athletic programs.
That was the beginning of a tradition – one of excellence and leadership that has made Fenwick what it is today.
Historic Night for Female Friars
Tonight we have an equally historic moment. For it is obvious that we are now a new Fenwick, where the Black and White of the Friars is worn by both young women as well as young men. A new tradition of excellence and leadership is beginning right now. And just as at the first athletic awards night, we are here for two reasons: to recognize the accomplishments of these athletes and to make a statement that the new Fenwick is committed to excellence and leadership in our sports.
We know that sports are not the only thing that makes a school great. None of you came to Fenwick only because of its sports program. But Fenwick would not be Fenwick without these programs. In Father Botthof’s words, Fenwick is unabashedly a college preparatory program. But it is also a life preparatory program, where we come to learn the lessons of how to succeed as human beings, as Christians, as parents or spouses or colleagues, no matter what path in life we follow.
Many of the most important lessons do not come from books. Tony Lawless often reminded us: “Don’t let the books get in the way of your education.” It is on the field, on the court, in the pool – it is in competition that we learn to get up if we have been knocked down, where we learn to handle a loss without becoming a loser. It is in competition that we come to be truly honest with ourselves. For we can fool others, even parents and bosses and even some teachers, but we can’t fool our teammates. We learn that with determination and commitment, anything is possible – so the word “limits” really has no meaning.
What It Means to Compete
It is also in competition that we learn that we really don’t do that much on our own, that we need a team and that is what counts. So words like “Loyalty” and “Trust” have a special meaning for athletes. It is in this competition that we form bonds and friendships that are unique and hopefully will last all our lives. These are the lessons, the elements that create the elusive, hard-to-describe reality called School Spirit or Tradition. And it is this spirit that affects everything around you here at Fenwick.