Girls’ Water Polo Heads to IHSA Elite 8!

Senior Demi Ovalle is conference POY; alumna Liz (Perry) Timmons ’04 goes to state for first time as a head coach.

Last weekend in the pool, the Fenwick girls’ water polo team (23-6-1) defeated Northside College Prep, Oak Park-River Forest and then York High School (Elmhurst, IL) to win the IHSA Sectional championship and head to state! The Friars the Dukes of York 10-9, holding the lead the entire fouth quarter. The girls play in the state quarter-finals at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 20, at Stevenson HS (Lincolnshire, IL) against the host Patriots.

Fenwick student-athlete Demi Ovalle ’22 (Chicago) has been selected as an all-Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference player as well as a member of the All-Sectional 1st team. Teammates Linden Gierstorf ’22 (Oak Park, IL) andAnnie McCarthy ’23 (Elmhurst) also were named to the MCAC and Sectional 1st teams. MCAC 2nd-team selections are Xiomara Trejo ’24 (Chicago) and Pamela Medina ’23 (Chicago); at the Sectional Tournament, Trejo made the 2nd team and Medina was honorable mention. Additionally, Ovalle is the MCAC Girls Senior Player of the Year!

Stay tuned in, says Head Coach Liz Timmons, a 2004 alumna of Fenwick, because “we are still waiting on [the] All-State and All-American lists.”

2022 Friars are small but mighty

Both varsity and JV levels have proven themselves in the pool throughout the season, reports Coach Timmons, “even though they have played many games without or with very few substitutions.” Leading the team are seniors Ovalle, Gierstorf, Naomi Szczeblowski (Berwyn, IL), Christina Mireles (Cicero, IL ) and Elizabeth Mack (Chicago). The varsity season started strong with a win at the Naperville North Tournament and continued with wins at the Fenwick Quad and Fremd tourneys. Other notable games for included the Friars’ crushing defeat of cross-town rivals OPRF and beating MCAC rivals St. Ignatius, Mother McAuley and Loyola Academy. (Check scores for all of the Friars games throughout the varsity season.)

IN SHAPE: The few, the proud, with their conference-winning shirts!

JV also has had an incredible season, finishing 4th at JV MCAC. All players demonstrated a lot of improvement, their coach notes with a smile. There were many close games, including a tough, one-goal win against Loyola.

Pool Queen

Szczeblowski (in formal gown, below), who suffered a season-ending injury, showed up to support her team on her prom night for their 8:45 p.m. Sectional game last Friday. “It truly shows how dedicated this team is to each other and how much they want to see each other succeed,” praises Timmons. “They have set a goal and have been working toward it all season. We are excited to show everyone what we can do here at the end.”

Read the Oak Park and River Forest Wednesday Journal’s coverage.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – Sports Matter for Girls: 50 Years After Title IX

For this year’s Women’s History Month, basketball alumna and Fenwick Broadcasting Club founder shares how Frair teachers guided her along a career path to sports journalism.

By Karli Bell ’12

Two years ago, an icon in the basketball world passed away unexpectedly. Kobe Bryant’s death was something that shook the sports world and shook me to my core. I lost an icon, a coach and a hero. Then, I had to go on air and talk about this in my sportscast.

I broke down. I tried to hold in the tears and emotions. But to me, I had a hole.

I spent upwards of 10 years on the hardwood. It was the one sport that I loved to my core (and still do) for a few reasons. I loved the constant flow of the game, having constant action, the selflessness, the mental challenges.

But it’s also the only sport that is gender equal when it comes to the core of the game. The only differences in women’s and men’s basketball are the size of the ball and the number of steps allowed to travel. It was a game that I could play with anyone, anytime and, really, anywhere. Growing up as the only girl on a Northwest-side Chicago block, it was a classic staple in my alleyway.

My time as an athlete is a time that forever shaped me. It taught me discipline, teamwork, selflessness, confidence and to put in 110 percent in everything you do. Work ethic is everything. If you put your mind to it, you truly can accomplish anything you want to do. 

Sports Matter.

Karli as a young Friar hooper.

When I ended my time as a basketball player, the world of sports had such an impact on me that I couldn’t just leave. Basketball and sports saved my life, in all honesty. It brought me so much confidence, empowerment and boosted my self-esteem. I couldn’t leave this space; that’s when I found sports journalism and media. 

Sitting in Mr. Arellano’s speech class is when I wanted to start working on my craft. I would ask him for advice on how to fix my delivery, my presence, if I had any nervous ticks. I wanted any and all feedback. He answered every bothersome, annoying question I had. He was the first teacher I went to when I ‘pitched’ what is now the Fenwick Broadcasting Club. 

Fenwick was training camp. I spent hours in Mr. Paulett’s basement English classroom, editing videos with makeshift software. I was in the tech office, reading a Microsoft Word script off a laptop to a small little camcorder or interviewing classmates about school events. I would post countless Facebook posts to promote viewership, as I’m now learning was maybe a bit too much. (Sorry, guys!)

I put all my effort into it, just how I used to put all my effort into basketball. Work ethic, confidence, selflessness, teamwork, discipline, communication, creativity. I learned all that on the basketball court. It all translates. Those times on the court are memories that stick.

Sports Matter.

Bell on the set.

Flash forward to now 10 years later: That work ethic translated to being in a top-three sports market before age 30. Communication transferred into networking and building a list of professional contacts. Creativity shows in countless stories, videos and photos. Discipline, teamwork and selflessness is used every day in the workplace.

CLICK OR TAP HERE TO CHECK OUT ONE OF KARLI’S VIDEO FEATURES.

Life lessons are learned on a court, field, diamond, track and mat. Sports are impactful. They have a profound influence on youth, but particularly little girls. Basketball showed I’m equal. The only thing that mattered was how you play the game. Let the work and practice speak for itself, which would be the best way for me to enter a male-dominated field.

Sports showed me a rigor and fire in myself that I couldn’t find anywhere else. They gave me a social circle and group of friends that every tomboy girl needs. They challenged me constantly, both mentally and physically. You learn respect for authority, to listen, to analyze; all of these being valuable lessons that were first learned on the court. 

READ ABOUT FENWICK’S TITLE IX-PIONEERING
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL COACH, DAVE POWER.

Continue reading “INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – Sports Matter for Girls: 50 Years After Title IX”

Fenwick’s First Female Teacher

Fifty academic years ago, Miss Janet Spingola blazed a trail for women educators at the Dominican Catholic high school in Oak Park, Illinois, where no ladies’ restroom yet existed in 1971!

By Jan Spingola Dovidio

Even though 50 years have passed, I am still very proud to tell the story of serving as the first female teacher in Fenwick’s history.

Fenwick High School was very familiar to me, as my father, two of his brothers and many cousins were graduates. Since then subsequent generations of cousins – male and female – have also earned the title of Fenwick alumni.

I attended Immaculate Conception High School (now ICCP) in Elmhurst, followed by four years at Northern Illinois University. My path to Fenwick began in the spring of 1971. I was in my senior year at NIU. I was ready to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in French with a minor in Spanish, and a teaching credential. I had always dreamed of serving as a high school teacher.

Fr. McGreevy made the call in 1971.

Fenwick notified NIU’s language department that it was seeking a French/Spanish teacher. I wasted no time in submitting my application.

About a week later I received a call from Fenwick Principal Father Gerald McGreevy that he would like to set up an interview. I was delighted when Father McGreevy offered the position to me – and my father beamed with pride.

I do recall (boldly) asking why Fenwick was hiring a woman after its decades of all-male student body and faculty. He replied that the board and administration knew that in the not-too-distant future the school would most likely have to welcome female students, in order to maintain a full student population. The administrators felt it was wise to begin with the faculty.

If you check the 1971-72 yearbook, you will see that another woman was hired as an art teacher, but she decided to leave the position after a few months. It remained to me to forge this new path for females at Fenwick.

I reported to the school several days before the first day of class for the usual teacher in-service days. The room went silent as I entered. Several friars asked how they could help me. I am not sure the good fathers believed my reply or truly accepted that I belonged there.

We need a ladies’ room!

During a break half way into the morning session, I asked Father McGreevy to direct me to the ladies room. His face turned pale and his expression was priceless.

“I failed to realize that we needed to have a ladies room!”

Even though the school had an all-male faculty and student body, there were two female secretaries working in the office. Over the years, they went over to the adjoining rectory to use its restroom. That arrangement just wouldn’t work now.

The administration quickly prepared a sign saying “WOMEN” and attached it to the door of a first floor bathroom. For the first few days, several of my fellow lay teachers valiantly guarded the door while students adjusted to the change and did not walk in unexpectedly. The restroom was also remodeled to remove the urinals and install more stalls to make it a true ladies room.

As a rookie teacher at the school, I did not have my own classroom, but instead used other language department rooms during fellow teachers’ preparation periods.

I taught French and Spanish to freshmen and juniors. What a pleasure to teach students serious about their education and dedicated to doing well.

There was a period of adjustment for about the first week. The young men were not only taller than me but also were not quite sure how to react to a female teacher. It was a new experience in those hallowed halls. I appreciated that they all remained seated during class so that no one towered over me. More than that, many students became more than
cooperative to “earn points” with this new teacher and others were very shy about answering at all. We all settled into a very appropriate teacher/student connection within a few days.

The adjustment among the faculty also presented challenges at first. My fellow lay teachers were always welcoming and helpful, especially as I learned my way around the halls for my various classroom locations. Most of the friars were very polite and hesitant at first but they soon grew to accept the idea of a woman in their midst. The adjustment was hardest for the older friars who had served the school for decades without changes.

Who were the Alognips?!

A group of my freshman students formed a team for the winter basketball intramural tournament. The boldest among them asked if they could name their team after me. While I appreciated the compliment, I wasn’t sure how this would go. They decided to name the team by using my maiden name backwards – from Spingola to Alognips. I proudly supported them at their games.

I had the best possible experience as a first year teacher – dedicated and serious students, always polite, phenomenal history and alumni at the school and the full support of the faculty, parents and administration. The fact that this also forged a new path for Fenwick – they hired six women the following year and soon became a coed student body – made me very proud to have contributed to the beginning of the new journey.

Sadly, I only spent one year at Fenwick. I was engaged to be married when I accepted the position. My soon-to-be husband Tom, who graduated from Notre Dame Law School that May, was job-searching that year. He ultimately accepted a position in California.

How blessed I was to have my Fenwick experience. I will always be grateful for the students, the faculty and the administration for welcoming me and embracing such a major change at Fenwick.

GO FRIARS!

Mrs. Spingola Dovidio

My special thanks to the current Fenwick administration for allowing my extended family to offer the Spingola Family Scholarship each spring to a deserving junior. It is an honor to continue our connection to Fenwick.

What Does It Mean to be a Catholic School Student?

Thomas wished for “Nothing but You, Lord:” Father Chris shared this homily today with Fenwick students at an all-school Mass.

By Fr. Christopher Johnson, O.P., Fenwick High School

Let’s pretend for a moment that you stumbled across a magic lamp in the attic of your grandmother’s house.  A magic lamp seems like a probable thing to find among other mementos and items from yesterday.  After finding this lamp, you rub it, a genie pops out and offers you one wish.  What will you ask for? All “A’s” for this semester and every semester to come? Admission into your dream college? Fame? Wealth? The opportunity to play or perform your favorite activity at the professional level? A successful marriage with perfect children?

What about a relationship with God?  

There is a story about St. Thomas Aquinas that describes him as fervently praying in the chapel of his priory one evening, in front of the crucifix. The crucifix suddenly began to speak, and Jesus tells Thomas that he has written well of Jesus and the faith. Jesus then asks what Thomas would like as a reward.  Thomas responds, “Non nisi te domine.” “Nothing but You, Lord.” 

Think about that. St. Thomas could have asked for anything he desired — a long life, good health, to be well known and well liked by people, to become the smartest person in all of human history, you name it.  Yet he says that he simply wants to be known and loved by God.  

Isn’t that amazing?

Can we honestly answer that God is the number one priority in our lives? 

Does he rank ahead of our desires for success — be it academic, extracurricular, familial, career?

Does God rank ahead of all our relationships? Whether they be romantic, familial or friendship?

Does he rank ahead of our desire for fame, wealth and esteem? 

Nothing but You, Lord. 

It’s Catholic Schools Week

This week the U.S. Catholic Church celebrates Catholic Schools Week. It is fitting that we celebrate our brother, Thomas, today since he is the patron saint of students.

What does it mean to be a Catholic school student? What does it mean to be a Catholic school? It means more than just wearing uniforms, or celebrating Catholic Schools Week each year with pajama day, field trips and class parties, as you may have done at your Catholic grade school.

St. Thomas Aquinas: the patron saint of students.

Catholic education is more than that. As Carl mentioned, St. Thomas was known for both his deep intellectual knowledge, but also his spiritual wisdom. We are called to pursue the same thing as Fenwick Friars. May you not only learn about math, science, writing, reading, history, economics and so forth during your time as a Friar. I pray that you also learn what it means to love God and to be loved by Him.  

Any student at any school can learn to add, subtract, read, write and memorize. That should be a given for anyone who has the opportunity to attend school. But most students do not have the opportunity to learn as Carl did — to ask the big questions — “What is the meaning of life?” “Who am I?” “What is my place in the world?”  The questions that reason and intellect alone cannot answer.

I pray that you have the opportunity at Fenwick to not only learn math, business, economics, science and the like, but to consider how people are to be treated. After you graduate from college and begin to work in business or any other industry, may you view the world through a Catholic lens. Consider the questions of:

I hope that you do not leave Fenwick simply glad that you got into a good college; won a state championship in your activity; were involved with some successful organizations; and proud of all you learned. 

Success inside the classroom and in the community is a good thing. Likewise with setting oneself up for good opportunities in the future. But that cannot be it. 

Keep God in your life

I hope you leave Fenwick with an understanding of who you are in light of your relationship with your Creator. God loves you and has given you an immortal soul. He has formed you in His image and likeness, and nothing can change that.

He has also made all your classmates and loves them more than you can imagine. They too share in God’s image and likeness.

Look to your left … to your right ….

All the people you see are God’s beloved children and deserve respect, compassion and love. The same goes for all those you encounter throughout the rest of your life. Treat them as such.

To listen to Father Chris’s homily, please click or tap the above video link, then fast-forward to the 15:40 time stamp.
Continue reading “What Does It Mean to be a Catholic School Student?”

Knowledge, Wisdom and Faith

By Fenwick Student Preacher Carl Lukas ’22 (Riverside, IL)

Good morning everyone. My name is Carl Lukas, and I am a member of the Class of 2022. We gather here today to honor Saint Thomas Aquinas, who is a highly revered Dominican friar and scholar. He is probably the best-known Dominican in the Catholic Church, and his influence is seen throughout Fenwick. There is a statue of him on a staircase, he is depicted on stained glass in the chapel, and his image appears in numerous classrooms. 

It is evident that Aquinas is important in the church, but it can be difficult to see how his life is relevant to us in the 21st century. Thomas Aquinas lived in the 13th century and spent his life composing philosophical and theological works. He wrote of improving our relationship with God through our intellect, and he is instrumental in clarifying the teaching of the Catholic faith in a concise and systematic manner as well as promoting the importance of the Eucharist. Through Aquinas’s teachings, we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us, allowing us to strengthen our faith. 

I recently finished my first-semester World Religions course with Mr. Mulcahy. I was fascinated by the different religions across the world and what they believed. I learned about how different world faiths seek to guide their members in living a good life. I learned about Islam’s solution to the problem of pride, and how Hindus work towards breaking out of a cycle of rebirth. Through this class, I discovered that from the start of human history, we have always been searching for answers that cannot be found through the use of our senses and reason. The use of our senses and faculty of reason are useful in coming to understand the world around us. However, there are some questions that cannot be answered with human intellect alone. Rather, to make sense of the dilemmas we need something different, which we call wisdom. 

Wisdom and knowledge are usually mistaken. The two words are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Knowledge can be gained somewhat easily. We go to classes every day and gain new knowledge on a variety of topics. We are then tested on these topics and sometimes let them slip out of our minds. We can know many different things, yet it is hard for us to understand why we need to know them. 

This is where wisdom comes in. Having wisdom is being able to apply your knowledge in your life. We can go on autopilot and learn new knowledge without having to truly understand why we are learning it. 

Wisdom is different from knowledge

However, to gain wisdom we must understand the world around us to apply our knowledge. This is why it was important to me to learn as much as I can about the world, including the beliefs of other traditions. All traditions are seeking an answer to a similar question but approach it differently. The desire to seek knowledge outside of simple academic knowledge is naturally sought after throughout the world. Now that I understand more about what others believe, I can strengthen my own beliefs by understanding the impact we have on each other. I am able to strengthen my faith by questioning the essence of my beliefs. 

To listen to Carl preach, please click or tap on the video link above, then fast-forward to the 1:27 time stamp.
Continue reading “Knowledge, Wisdom and Faith”

Alumnus Spotlight: Mike Kelleher, M.D. (Class of 1975)

A Friar student-athlete turned pediatrician reflects on the ‘formative influence’ of Fenwick’s teachers and coaches.

By Mark Vruno

In the fall ’21 Friar Reporter (page 16), we reported that alumnus Dr. Tord Alden ’85 was hired into informatics at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (Chicago) by fellow Fenwick Friar Dr. Michael Kelleher ’75, a pediatrician who spent 17 years at Lurie (Children’s Memorial).

In 2020, Dr. Kelleher became the chief medical officer of Amita Health (Mercy Medical Center, Aurora, IL). For 11 months he chaired the COVID-19 Vaccine Steering Committee, which administered more than 50,000 doses to area health-care workers, first responders and patients.

“I had Roger Finnell for four years,” remembers Dr. Kelleher. “Roger [Fenwick Class of ’59] was a young man when I was at Fenwick. He is a wonderful math teacher and a great human being! I still remember what ‘e to the pi I’ equals.” [Euler’s formula: e^(i pi) = -1]

Kelleher also ran track and cross country for Coach John Polka for four years. “Mr. Polka was my biology teacher, too. These two men had a formative influence over me,” he notes, adding that, in the early 1970s, he was taking “regular and honors classes, which they now call AP [advanced placement], I think.”

Sneezing into med school

Graduating in three years from Northwestern University (Evanston) with a B.A. in biology, Kelleher went on to the University of Minnesota to earn a master’s degree in ecology. His study emphasis was on population genetics and statistics, but severe allergic reactions forced him to change his mind. “I had terrible allergies and couldn’t do the field work,” the doctor recalls.

Kelleher had thought about pursuing medicine in the past, and he received his M.D. in 1986 from the University of Illinois College of Medicine (Urbana and Rockford, IL). His post-graduate training took place at Wyler Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago, where he competed a residency, became chief resident and was a Pediatric Critical Care Fellow (1990-93). He also served for five years on U of C’s faculty.

Before coming home to Chicago, Dr. Kelleher spent five years in Iowa City as the head of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Once at Lurie (Children’s Memorial), he progressed up the ranks, first handling electronic medical record implementation and ascending to chief medical officer from 2003-19.

“My values were formed at Fenwick High School,” Dr. Kelleher insists, citing the service ‘mission’ of Catholic education as being integral to his experience. “There, our teachers inculcated us to provide service to others. They said that it should be a goal in life.” It’s no coincidence, he says, that several of his ’75 Friar classmates also went into the medical field.

Read the Full “Friar Med” Story

Giving Thanks for Fenwick

In November, Friar alumni, faculty, parents and students were asked why they are thankful for Fenwick High School. Here are some responses.

A few current students chimed in, as did a Fenwick parent: “I am thankful for the wisdom and knowledge that is shared at Fenwick … [and] that, even though we may come from different backgrounds, we all share in the love of Christ,” writes Cybelle Miranda, mother of Alejandra ’25 of Chicago. “May God continue to bless us all!”

Senior Rasheed Anderson of Elmhurst believes that “the quality of education is second to none. Fenwick teachers truly care and want students [to] reach their potential. Fenwick is a positive part of my life … and has shaped me into a better man ….” Classmate Pam Martinez ’22, of Berwyn, adds: “Fenwick has challenged me academically … and helped me learn my potential.”

The biggest voices praising their beloved alma mater came from alumni, of course. Here’s what some members of Friar Nation have to say:

“I’m thankful to Fenwick because of lifelong friendships,” writes Dr. Lia Bernardi ’99, assistant OB-GYN professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She is pictured (at left) on a 40th-birthday trip to Mexico with classmates Colleen Ryan, Katie Moore, Lauren Dillon, Rachel Fitzpatrick, Julie Wilkens and Caitlin McKiernan.

Jim Grant ’87 adds: “Fenwick exposed me to a completely different academic, athletic and social world than I had known. Every step challenged me and made me a better student, athlete and person. When I went to college, I truly felt like I had an advantage having been through the rigors of Fenwick and all the lessons I had learned. Nothing in my life, before or after, shaped me as much as my time at Fenwick did.”

Timothy Fitzpatrick ’71 says it’s “very difficult to put what Fenwick did for me into words, as reflecting on the experience brings back so many memories.” Major Fitzpatrick, now retired (U.S. Army) articulated his feelings:

“I would say first that Fenwick welcomed me into an experience of challenge from day one in a very Catholic environment,” he continues. “If you look at the Holy Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit I think that is how we were approached as individuals.  If expressed as Logos, Ethos and Pathos or as the cognitive, physical and spiritual/affective aspects of human dimensions, each was challenged and deliberately developed with great care. 

“In education the classic logic and rhetoric provided a life time foundation in reason and the ability to formulate and express ideas. The emphasis on physical development provided the greater understanding of self and how the physical affected our cognitive ability and our spirit.  The emphasis on math and science further developed reason. Math developed an ability to see the world in more than its surface, but in all dimensions, which saved my and others lives later in my career. 

“Forever thankful for Fr. Aschenbrenner’s German language program and his methods. Going to Germany, Austria and Switzerland was an incredible experience that showed me a world beyond what popular culture portrayed.  The contrast between good and evil experienced at the Berlin Wall between freedom in West Berlin and oppression in communist East Berlin was stark, leading me to make the decision to join the U.S. Army in order to defend freedom.

“Finally, I am thankful for Fenwick’s emphasis on prayer, Mass and Eucharist. This has been of great comfort to me in peace, under duress and at war.”

Alumni and Faculty

Not to be outdone, alumni-turned-faculty members took time out of their hectic schedules to share some thoughts. “Fenwick has always been a prominent part of my life,” writes World Languages Chair and alumna Samantha Carraher ’96. “It all started on the sidelines of a football game when I was about five years old. It was there that I met my dad’s former teacher and a man who would become such a positive influence in my life … My dad told me, ‘You should get to know this man because you will be attending Fenwick some day, and he very well may be your teacher, too.’ And my dad was right.

“I am grateful to Fenwick for going co-ed and giving young women an opportunity to become a part of the experience and the tradition,” Ms. Carraher notes. “I am grateful to the teachers and coaches who always looked out for me and had my best interests at heart, especially … Mr. Arellano, Coach Power and Mrs. Megall. I will forever appreciate the phone call from Mr. Arellano urging me to apply for a position teaching Spanish right after I graduated college. I am now in my 21st year of teaching at Fenwick and can honestly say I love my job. I am grateful to our supportive administration, tremendous colleagues (many of whom are dear friends) and our phenomenal students who make coming to work every day such a wonderful experience. Thank you, Fenwick, for being a place I consider home.”

Learning Resource Coordinator and alumna Grace Lilek David ’08 (at right) can relate. “I’m thankful for a school that I’ve called ‘home’ for the majority of my life!” she says. I’m thankful for our students, who genuinely want the best for those around them. They support one another through the highs and lows, and it’s truly special to witness. And, I’m thankful for my colleagues who work tirelessly to make Fenwick such a wonderful place.”

“I am grateful to be surrounded by colleagues and students who have a passion for learning, a genuine care and concern for one another, and a desire to achieve at the highest level,” says Science Teacher and alumna Brigid Baier Esposito ’96.

Fellow alumni, English Teacher and Head Boys’ Water Polo Coach Kyle Perry ’01 offers a two-word reason as to why he’s thankful for Fenwick: “the pool!”

Tracy Bonaccorsi, Athletics Administrative Assistant and Girls’ Lacrosse Head Coach, concludes: “I’m thankful for Fenwick because I’m blessed to come to work each day and work with three gentlemen that I’m lucky enough to call friends, not just my co-workers. Just like our sports teams here at Fenwick, we make a great team as well in Athletics!”

COMMENT ON THIS BLOG (SEE BELOW) OR EMAIL US TO TELL US WHY YOU ARE THANKFUL FOR FENWICK (communications@fenwickfriars.com).

UPDATE: Fenwick Alumni Who Teach

Students-turned-teachers help to advance the Friars’ mission.

By Mark Vruno

Why is it that such a surprisingly high number of former students return to Fenwick to teach future alumni?

Presently, there are approximately 140 teachers, administrators and staff members at Fenwick High School, and 32 of them have walked the hallowed halls in Oak Park as students. Over the course of the school’s nine decades in existence, many more former pupils have returned to work and serve. “People come back to Fenwick because of the impact the school had on their lives,” believes Social Studies/History Department Chair Alex Holmberg ’05. “Whether that impact was inside or outside the classrooms, Fenwick leaves a powerful impression on everyone,” says Mr. Holmberg, who doubles as the school’s clubs/activities director.

Raymond Moland ’96

“The opportunity to shape how future students approach the rest of their lives is incredibly powerful,” he notes, “and that potential draws so many people back into the building. Thinking about that opportunity to help prepare and motivate future Friars is what brought me back to Fenwick, and that thought is what motivates me to continue to help the school in whatever way I can.”

Principal Peter Groom, who has taught Friars since the 1980s, reports that many of the Fenwick graduates he has hired, he had in the classroom. “We get to know our students during their time here,” Mr. Groom explains. “We get to know their intelligence, their values, their passion and their work ethic. Typically, our graduates are also committed to our mission. When we hire people who are committed to our mission, we hire people who want to remain a part of our community for a long time. One of the keys to building a mission-based school is to have teachers who are committed and who demonstrate the aforementioned values.”

Roger Finnell ’59, a Fenwick mathematics instructor for nearly six decades, concurs with fellow alumnus Holmberg:  “Many alumni teach here because they remember their experience at Fenwick as being something special and want to contribute towards continuing the traditions here,” reflects Mr. Finnell, who is Math Department Co-Chair.

Roger Finnell in 1968.

“I knew I wanted to teach math when I started college,” shares Finnell, who also is the man behind the scenes of Blackfriars Guild stage productions. “In my senior year at Loyola, after I finished student teaching at Lane Tech in Chicago, I heard about an opening at St. Ignatius, so I made an appointment for an interview. But then I thought I might as well also inquire at Fenwick. I did my Fenwick interview and was offered a position here, so, seeing this as a great opportunity, I quickly cancelled my St. Ignatius interview and the rest is history!”

Representing the Classes of 1959 to 2012

Holmberg and math/computer science teacher Kevin Roche ’05 are two of thousands of Friars taught by Mr. Finnell over the past 58 years. “I think that there are a large amount of Friars returning because they had a great experience at the school, believe in what the school does, and want to be a part of ‘steering the ship’ for future generations,” chimes in Mr. Roche, who also coaches cross country. “We have Friars in different aspects of the school (operations, administration, faculty and development) who all had different experiences here yet all want to give back. I believe that this influx of alumni teachers is also a sign of our generation: Millennials have a great desire to find meaning and purpose in their work. That is their highest motivator and education is a career that offers immense purpose and validation for the work through strong relationships.”

Grace Lilek David ’08

Learning Resource Coordinator Grace Lilek David ’08, who is in her sixth year of teaching at Fenwick, captures the sentiment of many of her colleagues who also are alumni: “I was inspired to pursue a career in education based on my experiences at Fenwick,” says Mrs. David. “I think experience is the first reason so many of us have come back to Fenwick to teach. You will not meet two Fenwick graduates who had the exact same experience. You can be an athlete or a thespian or participate in academic competitions, and always find your niche. You can also take on all three of those roles and thrive. It is an honor to come back to Fenwick as a teacher and share these experiences with our students.

“Faith is another reason we come back,” Lilek surmises. “It is very easy to feel more connected to God at Fenwick. When I consider the fact that the Dominican Order was founded over 800 years ago and couple it with the fact that Fenwick is the only high school in the United States run by the Dominican Friars, I am compelled to keep the tradition alive and the school thriving. And even though not every Fenwick student is Catholic, there is a respect for the faith that built this school. There is also a type of faith that goes along with calling yourself a Fenwick Friar.

“Finally, the greater Fenwick Family, is another reason we come back, David concludes. “Whether you connect with one teacher/staff member/counselor or several, or one friend or several, someone in this building always has your back. And then, when you come back to Fenwick and nervously enter the building for an interview, you are greeted with a smile from Mrs. Tartaglia, who remembers you from the time you were a student, and you know you are home. I simply do not think you can find that anywhere else.”

Here is a breakdown of who the alumni are and what they teach/do:

Continue reading “UPDATE: Fenwick Alumni Who Teach”

Friar Golfers Finish 6th in “Tough” Sectional

Two team members earn GCAC All-Conference honors for 2nd consecutive year!

Season Recap by Mike Trankina ’84, Girls’ Golf Head Coach

The post-season started with our conference championship at White Pines in Bensenville. Fenwick finished third – behind Loyola and St. Ignatius. Lillian Bateman and Kathryn Sweeney each made all-conference for the second year in a row.

For the State series, Regionals were held at St. Andrews, and Fenwick tied for first with St. Ignatius — we finished first in the Regional for the third consecutive year. Sectionals were held at The Bridges of Poplar Creek in Hoffman Estates, which is a very difficult course that earns its name because of water throughout the entire course. Fenwick finished sixth out of 14 teams in the toughest Sectional in the state. That is far better than we have done in the time that I have been around!

And even more impressively, Lillian and Charlotte Bateman both qualified individually for state! Lillian finished tied for second and one shot away from first for the entire Sectional. She posted a 75 on a ridiculously tough course! Charlotte shot 83. The whole team played well! 

The state championships were crazy! The top 40 and ties make it on into Saturday. Both Lillian and Char did that with some drama. The second day was one with much less stress and the girls both put up even better scores. Lillian finished 86-80, and Charlotte scored 86-82. To have two girls qualify for state is a great accomplishment. To have those two players both make the cut is amazing!

Faculty Focus: October 2021

October 1, 2021

Now in his twelfth year of teaching Friars, Mr. Alex Holmberg is a Fenwick alumnus (Class of ’05), Social Studies Department Chair and the school’s Activities Director.

What is your educational background?

AH: I grew up in Oak Park and attended St. Giles School. I then went to Fenwick High School and Illinois Wesleyan University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics. I completed my master’s degree and teaching certification at National Louis University in Chicago, and I recently finished my Administrative Licensure at Concordia University in River Forest.

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

AH: Before teaching full time at Fenwick, I was completing my master’s degree at National Louis University, substitute teaching around the Chicagoland area, coaching at Fenwick (football and wrestling), and driving school buses for Fenwick. 

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

AH: Leadership: In Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Nudge: The Final Edition, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

AH: I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, especially my two children, Ryan (3) and Nora (1). I am a big sports fan (Bears, Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks), and I enjoy staying active in my free time. 

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

AH: At Fenwick, I was a captain of the football team and a wrestler. I also participated in the NHS. At Illinois Wesleyan, I was also the captain of the football team. 

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

AH: At Fenwick, I am our Clubs and Activities Director as well as the Social Studies Department Chair. 

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

AH: A Fenwick student is able to balance grit and determination with a profound empathy for others. Fenwick students are known to accomplish a lot during their time here, but the lifelong relationships that are formed in the halls of this place really start with the empathy students are able to show towards each other. 

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

AH: I had always wanted to be a teacher, but I originally envisioned that as a path later in life. After graduating during the 2008-09 financial crisis, I had a decision to make about whether to try to wait out a struggling labor market without great employment prospects, or to take action and pursue the opportunity to work with students. I chose the latter, and I have not regretted my decision in the slightest. I always knew I wanted to work in a highly engaged setting with like-minded and mission-driven individuals, and working at Fenwick has given me an opportunity to do just that. 

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

AH: I believe resilience in the face of the past two years has helped me to refocus my energies within the classroom on relationship building and the importance of creating a strong community to support student development. 

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: October 2021”