How High School Defines Us

At the Faculty & Staff Retreat earlier this month, a senior “mathlete” from Elmhurst shared a heartfelt reflection of his time at Fenwick.

By Nathan Crowell ’20

The four years of high school are some of the most influential years of our lives. Our lives change so much — from the things we learn about, to the friends we have, to our identities that we discover. High school molds us into the people we will be for the rest of our lives.

Good morning, everyone! For those of you who do not know me, my name is Nate Crowell. My story is all about finding my true identity and the role that I play in the Fenwick Community. I’m on the Math Team and the Scholastic Bowl Team. I play volleyball, I do TEAMS, WYSE, Friar Mentors and the Write Place. All the while being active in my church’s youth group. As you can probably tell, I’m what some would call “a nerd.” Now, I don’t think it is an insult at all because I love the activities that I do, and so what if I like math? It’s a part of my identity that I found here at Fenwick.

Who I am all begins with my family. I have two loving parents and two brothers: an older one named Ian and a younger one named Nolan. My family has had a big influence on the person I have become. Up until about my sophomore year of high school, I looked up to my brother for everything. From baseball to school, I always tried to do what he did. He batted lefty, so I had to bat lefty; he played the percussion, so I played percussion. He went to Fenwick, so I had to go to Fenwick. His influence on me has impacted my life more than I realize. I entered Fenwick trying to live up to the reputation he set before me. I tried my hardest to be as similar to Ian as I could. 

Other than my brother’s influence, my mom has also impacted my life a lot. From when I was young and still today, my mom and I love to do jigsaw puzzles. We would sit in the family room for hours doing these 550-piece jigsaw puzzles. It was doing these puzzles that molded the way I think, and they developed my love for problem solving. 

Family and Faith

Now, my parents have been bringing me to church for my entire life. But I never made my faith my own until middle school. It was the youth group that got me engaged in my faith, and to this day I’m very involved in my church. As my faith journey progressed and as I became more and more engaged at church, I grew to love the people in my youth group. As 7th grade began, I met one of my best friends and mentor. He was one of my small-group leaders then and, to this day, he is still my mentor, small-group leader and best friend. He has been there to guide me along my faith journey, helping me through my biggest times of doubt. 

My mentor is one of the most influential people in my life, and having someone there for you, no matter when or where, is crucial for every high schooler. The best part is, you all get that opportunity here at Fenwick. Many of the students here are going through some very stressful situations, and if you are able to be there for them, it makes a world of difference. So I encourage you to always be there for the students, because you never know what they may be going through or how great of an impact you can have on their life.

Faculty members listened intently to young Nate’s story in the library on March 6, 2020.

When 8th grade rolled around, I had to decide what high school I was going to go to. I was choosing between here and York, and the thing that sealed the deal for Fenwick was the community. The students, and especially the teachers, are all so welcoming. When I shadowed here, I felt like a part of the family already. I could tell that the Fenwick Community is there for each other no matter what. The biggest thing that I noticed was how nice everyone in the faculty was. You all are the reason Fenwick is the way it is. Without you, our community would not be as tightly knit and our students would not see Fenwick almost as a second home. You all foster a warm feeling that reminds the students of home, no matter how much we may hate doing school work.

Starting freshman year was scary. I didn’t know what to expect, especially only knowing two other kids going into Fenwick. I didn’t know what the other people would think of me. 

Now, I spent most of freshman year trying to find my place within the new school and getting to know all the new people. The only important things I remember from freshman year are being “invited” to join the Math Team (like I had a choice) and trying out for volleyball. However, the most impactful thing to happen to me freshman year was meeting THE Joe Zawacki. We met in Spanish class, where on the first day he got sniped with his phone out by Ms. Carraher. Later that day, we ended up sitting at the same lunch table. And, well, the rest is history.

Identity Crisis

When sophomore year rolled around, I found out that I had every class except two with Joe. We did everything together, and after all the time I spent with him, I thought I had to be like Joe. I “stole” Joe’s identity. I took it as my own and tried to be the person he is, not the person God made me to be. Besides adopting his identity as my own, I compared myself to him a lot, and I started to feel like I wasn’t special and that I didn’t have a place here in the Fenwick community. An emptiness started to grow inside of me. It quickly started to eat away at me. The emptiness got so bad that I almost transferred to York. I was strongly considering leaving this amazing community. I thought I didn’t have anything special that I could add to Fenwick.

But, preparing for junior year soon consumed my thoughts because I had a lot of decisions to make. What classes would I take? What activities would I do? How can I make myself look the best for colleges? 

“Our culture today puts so much value in doing.

Nate Crowell

As the school year began to pick up pace, I was bombarded with assignment after assignment. My day consisted of waking up, going to school, going to any after-school activity I had that day, going home, barely finishing my homework, then straight to sleep. My daily routine was jam-packed, and God slowly transitioned from being a part of my life to an afterthought, then to the point where I would go entire weeks without even thinking about Him. Our culture today puts so much value in doing. I especially felt that this year, as I wrote college apps. I had to do every after-school activity, be a part of every club I could; I never had time to slow down and connect with God. One thing I have learned is that we all need a break. We can do this by just spending time alone, without distractions.  It can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as two hours. 

On an annual trip my youth group would take, we would go to Arkansas and spend a week on houseboats, living on the lake. One thing that we did every year was, on the third morning, we would start the day in total silence. We woke up silently; we made breakfast silently; then we spent about another hour and a half in silence. We were supposed to just sit there and look out over the lake. Now, as a freshman and sophomore that task was DAUNTING. Being silent for two hours? I could barely stay quiet for a meal. Now, as a young freshman and sophomore, the challenge wasn’t being quiet for an hour and a half, it was staying awake for that hour and a half. I ended up asleep both times, but as successful as I was at being quiet, I totally missed the point of the activity. 

Being vs. Doing

The whole point wasn’t to torture us but to refect on life, and take a MUCH needed break from the busy-ness of today’s society. When I went before junior year, instead of taking a nap, I was actually able to stay awake the whole time! I just sat on the back of the boat, looking out across the lake. It was after that hour and a half that I realized I feel most at peace in nature. I was able to forget about all of the stresses of everyday life and just breathe. Now, whenever I need a break from the world, I’ll go out into nature and just take a walk. I now know about the importance of just being. There is so much doing in our world, that we forget to just BE. We all just need to take a break from the constant hustle and bustle of our lives.

First semester of senior year was full of constantly filling out this application, writing that essay, and just stressing about my future. But a quote I read last year said to: “Never let fear decide your fate.” I had to put my trust in God and His plan for me and my future. God is always here with us, whether we feel His presence or not. As the great Mr. Mulcahy said, “Our oneness with God is realized not created.”

Throughout my journey at Fenwick, I have wanted to make a huge impact here. I thought that when the time came, I could do some great action. When I reflected on how foolish that thought was, I was reminded of a quote from Mother Teresa that my mom keeps on her desk at home. It says: “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” 

Continue reading “How High School Defines Us”

Optimism and Reality

By Eva Szeszko ’20

As a junior last school year, Eva Szeszko became the Illinois State Champion, representing the Optimist Club of Oak Park.

“Is there a fine line between optimism and reality?” The band Queen took the world by storm during its reign in the 1970s. They introduced the world to a new type of rock and produced hit songs that are still celebrated and sung today. Of these songs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is perhaps the most well-known. The six-minute song is an unlikely source of optimism, but upon listening to the mere first verse, I was struck with the lyrics’ undiscovered potential. In these lyrics, I found the metaphorical line between optimism and reality.

Freddie Mercury begins the song by asking, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” His rhetorical questions are the same that we must ask ourselves. Are we approaching situations realistically? Are we optimistic in setting our goals? We must ask ourselves these questions before reaching a decision. It is not enough to approach every situation with a singularly realistic point of view. With no optimism, life becomes dreary. However, on the other hand, we must make certain that optimism does not overpower our decisions and goals. Further along in the first verse, Freddie Mercury also sings the line, “Easy come, easy go.” Through this assertion, he perfectly embodies the relationship between realism and optimism. One must be able to handle any situation accordingly, but the person must also have hope that the situation will get better. Not only did Queen release an American icon, they also unlocked the secret to optimism and realism.

Realism is the tendency to accept things as they are. Optimism, at its core, is just realism interspersed with hope. An optimist must be able to look at reality with positivity and hope for a better future. Because of their relationship, optimism and realism co-exist. Being too realistic can be harmful to one’s outlook on life. Imagine a doctor telling someone that they have been diagnosed with cancer and have a slim chance of overcoming the disease. A realist would accept the diagnosis and understand that the survival rate is very low. Yet, is there not more? How can we just accept a dire situation like this, and not hope and work for a better outcome? Because of this, being too realistic is not beneficial to one’s life. One must also sprinkle in a little bit of optimism in every situation encountered. The Optimist Creed states that we must “talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person [we] meet.” In other words, every situation can use a bit of optimism. Through this codependency, one can find the blurred line between optimism and reality.

Freddie Mercury and Queen rocked out in the 1970s. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in 1975.

The stereotypical idea of an optimist is one who never stops smiling, no matter the circumstances. However, this is not an accurate description. True optimists use both optimism and realism to their advantage. They use realism to accept the situation that has been handed to them. They then use optimism to make the situation better. They are able to overlook the negativity and work for a better tomorrow. These optimists may not always be sporting a smile, but they remain hopeful for a better future. They do not solely rely on realism; nor do they solely rely on optimism. Similarly, we all must find the balance between these two philosophies in order to better ourselves.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” although an unlikely source, has been my inspiration for optimism. This example goes to show that optimism is all around us, we just need to be willing to notice. Simply put, we must look at each situation realistically. Then, just over the horizon, the shining rays of optimism must be found. At that intersection, we all will find the “Fine Line Between Optimism and Reality.”

Optimist International is an international service club organization with almost 3,000 clubs and over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries. 

Continue reading “Optimism and Reality”

Finally at Full Power: Fenwick 2019-20 Girls Basketball

As the Friars’ young, female hoopers get healthy and march toward maturity, a Hall of Famer — with 40+ years of coaching experience — smiles at their timing.

By Mark Vruno

Chalk up another 20-win regular season for Fenwick girls’ basketball Head Coach Dave Power. But he says his young team (23-8, 3-3 in the GCAC) is not finished. In fact, the once injury-plagued Friars finally may be gaining momentum heading into post-season play.

She’s back: Senior guard Sheila Hogan (knee) recently returned to the Friars’ starting rotation.

Two weeks ago “marked the first game all season where we had every player fully healthy,” reports alumna and Assistant Coach Erin Power ’07, Dave’s daughter and once a stellar point guard for the Friars. “Sheila Hogan returned from an ACL [rehab]. Lily Reardon was out for several weeks with a separated shoulder. Mia [Caccitolo] had her knee injury. Mira [Schwanke] and Audrey [Hinrichs] both were out with ankle injuries at certain points. Katie Schneider was out for a few games with the flu.”

While their head coach isn’t in the habit of making excuses, he can confirm the busier-than-normal athletic training room traffic. “We’ve had at least nine players out for something,” a frustrated, elder Power says, lamenting that his squad lost games last month that they probably would have won at full strength. “We’ve had about 15 different starting line-ups this season. It’s hard to prepare for opponents when key, position players are out,” he explains, “be they rebounders or shooters.”

The strength of Fenwick’s sometimes-daunting schedule did not help matters. During a particularly difficult stretch in January – one that Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 referred to as “the gauntlet” — Fenwick lost badly to Montini and then dropped consecutive games to four more Catholic-school rivals: St. Ignatius, Benet (which was close), Mother McAuley and Marist.

Buzzer-beaters: 6’1″ forward Audrey Hinrichs is one of five sophomores on the varsity. She and fellow soph Elise Heneghan (6’0″) combined for 41 points vs. Evanston on Feb. 4.

The Powers know, as experienced coaches do, that they can control only certain factors when it comes to their teams. Injuries, while preventable, are not necessarily controllable. Age is another element out of their control. Make no mistake: the Friars are young (five sophomores and four juniors). However, the youth is buoyed by strong leadership from upper-classwomen, Dave Power points out, giving a nod to his quartet of seniors, who all are guards: Hogan, Stephanie Morella, Reardon and Schneider.

Welcome distractions

Like most coaches, the Power duo dislikes distractions. But how do good Catholics say “no” to the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago? When Cardinal Blase Cupich informed Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. last Thursday that he’d like to attend the next evening’s girls basketball game, the scramble began! But Power really didn’t mind. His Eminence’s presence was icing on the cake for the Friars’ Senior Night. The Cardinal sat on both sides of the bleachers, cheering for the Catholics. Our team was victorious, 58-50, over the Carmel Corsairs of Mundelein (18-8, 3-3).

Go, Catholics: On January 31, Cardinal Cupich received a Fenwick sweatshirt from the Friars. (Photo courtesy of Scott Hardesty/Fenwick.)

Another welcome distraction came this past Tuesday night, as Power’s girls capped a four-game winning streak by defeating top-ranked Evanston (20-4, 9-0) in their regular-season finale. A thrilling, half-court buzzer-beater by 6’0″ forward Elise Heneghan (24 pts.), one of the sophomores, sealed the deal: 45-43 in favor of the Friars.

The Wildkits fourth-year head coach is Fenwick alumna and All-Stater Brittany Johnson ’05 (Chicago). Johnson, who played at Boston College, averaged 18 points per game, six rebounds and five steals as a senior for the Friars. “I’m so proud of Britt,” Power beams. “She had a great career at BC and got her master’s degree. Hers is a great success story!”

In a pre-game ceremony, after Power hugged his former-player-turned-opposing-coach, the school officially named the locker room in its Fieldhouse Gym after him. Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. was in Florida visiting with alumni, but he sent a statement from afar: “It is a privilege to honor Coach Power’s commitment to our community with this dedication, along with a corresponding, generous gift of $500,000. The donor family wishes to remain anonymous, but their gesture truly is heartfelt.” (Read more.)

27 seasons at Fenwick: Coach Power posed with 21 of his basketball alumnae who showed up for the Feb. 4th ceremony. How many can you name, Friar fans? (Photo by Peter Durkin ’03/Fenwick.)

In Father Peddicord’s stead, President Emeritus Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50 stepped onto the Fenwick hardwood, talking about Dave Power’s legacy and their friendship, which now spans three decades. AD Thies also spoke, sharing stories about how Power has made an impact on his life and continued to pursue excellence relentlessly. “Coach Power [has] impacted so many lives, so many who have gone on to be successful in life,” Thies said.

Of The Power Locker Room naming and half-million-dollar donation, the coach himself says: “The generosity of this person – and I really don’t know who it is – is beyond overwhelming. I’m blown away that someone would be so generous – not for me, but for all the success the program has had; all the wonderful coaches and girls who’ve played for me … all their successes. I think of it as a dedication to them. It’s a great thing for Fenwick!”

One of the coaches sharing Power’s legacy is his late brother, Bill, who passed away in 2018. Another faithful assistant is Dale Heidloff, a science teacher at Fenwick who also is the head coach of the girls’ track team and an assistant coach for boy’s golf. “When I first started coaching with Dave 20 years ago, I had a much different view on the game of basketball,” Coach Heidloff shares. “I always believed strongly in playing defense, but Coach Power’s philosophy has always been to just ‘score more points than the other team.’ This simple philosophy has won him nearly 1,000 games, so I’ve learned to trust the methods, the madness and the magic of Coach Power.

“Beyond the X’s and O’s, however, I’ve been able to share unforgettable memories with a man who has become like a brother to me,” Heidloff continues. “We have both been fortunate enough to share in winning a state championship with our daughters [Kristin ’04 in 2001 and Erin in 2007] and have had the opportunity to coach the next generation of Friars alongside our daughters. His coaching legacy speaks for itself, but his true legacy is the impact he has had on his players and coaches, the fierce loyalty he has towards those he cares about, and his unwavering commitment to the Fenwick community.” 

Power acknowledges that coaching with daughter, Erin, at his side these past four years has been quite special. He adds that her title of assistant coach really is a disservice. “Erin’s role goes way beyond that,” he says. “She can relate to the young girls and is the definition of a role model: strong, intelligent and demanding. She demonstrates [techniques] in practice on the court, which I can’t do so well anymore. Plus, she knows how to do all that social media stuff!” he laughs.

Continue reading “Finally at Full Power: Fenwick 2019-20 Girls Basketball”

God, Honor, Country: Fenwick Alumnus Leads U.S. Intelligence Community Counterterrorism

Protecting and serving is a way of life for this Friar and decorated military son who fights international terrorism.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick’s Friar Files blog has reported on an “intelligence community alumnus [who] prays the Rosary every morning at 5 a.m.” This Friar spoke last semester with students at Fenwick, and the U.S. government has cleared the school to share the following, somewhat random facts about this mystery person:

  • He works for the National Counterterrorism Center‘s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in Washington, D.C.
  • For counterintelligence reasons, he stays off of social media. (See below).
  • He also has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as a strategic advisor and, before that, for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
  • He held a leadership position at U.S. Central Command (Department of Defense) before retiring from the U.S. Army in 2001.
  • He graduated (general engineering) from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations.
  • He served his country in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War (Iraq, 1991), where he earned a Bronze Star. (See photo.)
  • He managed crises teams during Rwanda’s civil war in the mid-1990s.
  • He followed and reported on coup attempts (in Paraguay and Suriname, South America) and refugees (from Cuba and Haiti).
  • He worked in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and briefed POTUS, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Security Council on military matters.
The Bronze Star: awarded for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Describing such a vitae as “impressive” might be considered a gross under-statement. When he visited Fenwick history and government classes in October 2019 to talk about counter-terrorism and the U.S. “intelligence” community, the former Army infantry officer challenged students to a search contest on finding information about him. “Try to find me on Google. You won’t. I’m off the grid,” he said. “There are other people with my name, but they’re not me. If you do find me online, please let me know!”

Intel expert

In military and national-security contexts, so-called “intelligence” is information that provides an organization with decision support and, possibly, a strategic advantage. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines intelligence as “information that has been analyzed and refined so that it is useful to policymakers in making decisions.” According to the FBI, intelligence is the information itself as well as the processes used to collect and analyze it.

Slogan on a CIA T-shirt that our friend brought with him to Fenwick: “In God We Trust, All Others We Monitor.”

“What they teach here at Fenwick sets the foundation for your futures.”

“Our job is to tell truth to power,” the alumnus told Fenwick students in an attempt to explain the role of the United States’ intelligence/ counterterrorism communities. The absence of truth leads to abuses of power, he warned, quickly adding that truth and integrity are moral values which align with Fenwick High School’s mission. “What they teach here at Fenwick sets the foundation for your futures,” he assured them.

Continue reading “God, Honor, Country: Fenwick Alumnus Leads U.S. Intelligence Community Counterterrorism”

Pediatrician Trades in Stethoscope for Dry-Erase Markers

New Fenwick Science Teacher Jennifer Riggs, M.D. no longer practices pediatric medicine, but she still works with children.

By Mark Vruno

“I don’t want to go to anatomy class today,” a Fenwick junior was overheard last month, lamenting in one hallowed hallway of Fenwick. “Why not?” a staff member inquired. “Who’s your teacher?”

“Dr. Riggs,” the student replied. “Her class is so hard! She’s smarter than all of us.”

The 17-year-old has a valid point: Jennifer Riggs was a pediatrician before she embarked on a career change to become a teacher. Riggs earned her M.D. in 1995 from Rush Medical College at Rush University in Chicago. (Her B.S. in psychology came from Indiana University.) For three years, she served as a resident pediatrician at Rush Children’s Hospital on the Near West Side. For the next five years, she commuted northbound to Shriners Children Hospital on Oak Park Ave. In early 2004, Dr. Riggs left the field of medicine to don her “mom hat” and raise her four children.

“My career has transitioned from pediatrician to science teacher: my true calling,” Riggs explains. After deciding to enter the field of education, Riggs went back to school to pursue a master’s degree in teaching, which she earned locally at Dominican University in River Forest almost five years ago. “My decision stemmed from a desire to develop sustained relationships with young people that affords me the opportunity to have a significant impact on their lives.”

After completing her student-teaching assignment at Josephine Locke Elementary School (Chicago), Dr. Riggs taught math, science, technology and religion for one year at St. Edmund Parish School in Oak Park, then moved on to Visitation Catholic School in Elmhurst to teach junior-high life/physical science and religion classes for the next three years. As a sponsor of the Illinois Junior Academy of Science “Science Fair,” she guided more than 100 students in planning, researching and conducting their projects. She also served as the Science Olympiad Head Coach at Visitation.

Dr. Riggs joined the faculty at Fenwick, where she is teaching five classes this academic year: two sections of Accelerated Anatomy & Physiology and three sections of College Prep Anatomy & Physiology. “I am one of the faculty moderators for the Medical Club,” she adds. 

A different kind of impact on young lives

As for her decision to become a teacher, “I could not be happier with my career,” Dr. Riggs reports. “Teaching has given me the opportunity to get to know my students on a much deeper level than I knew my patients when I was practicing as a pediatrician. I look forward to coming to school each day because of the energy and enthusiasm shown by the students.

“I see my current position teaching Anatomy and Physiology at Fenwick as the perfect fit for me,” the doctor adds. “From my perspective, the biggest drawback to practicing medicine was the lack of time to really get to know my patients. My appointments tended to be relatively short and I often did not see that child again for a significant period of time (some I never saw again at all). Through teaching at Fenwick, I am able to build meaningful relationships with students. What I find unique about my particular position is that I am able to form those relationships through focusing on a topic I am passionate about: the human body.

“Many of my students are planning careers in the medical field,” Dr. Riggs concludes. “I find nothing more satisfying than sharing my knowledge with them and seeing their enthusiasm about the workings of the human body.”

Continue reading “Pediatrician Trades in Stethoscope for Dry-Erase Markers”

Catching Up with Former Counselor and English Teacher Thomas Egan

“The positive, eager attitude of the students and the camaraderie of my fellow teachers and staff were an important chapter in my life.”

How many years were you at Fenwick?

TE: 28 years, arriving in the fall of 1985. I retired in the spring of 2013.

What was your role/what classes did you teach?

Mr. Egan in 1987 (Blackfriars Yearbook photo).

TE: The majority of my day was spent as one of the class counselors, but I also taught Freshman English. Sophomore Honors English, along with cafeteria supervisor, were my duties in the later years.

Were you involved with any extra-curricular activities?

TE: At various periods, I was in charge of the National Honor Society, the Yearbook, the Video Yearbook, the Financial Aid Committee and the Fenwick Summer School. I also worked with Mr. Arellano in the Teacher Mentor Program.

How do you describe the Fenwick Community to other people?

TE: What comes closest to a core description is the term and idea of family: a close-knit group of distinct personalities, ages and backgrounds working together toward shared goals.

What do you miss most about Fenwick?

TE: The positive, eager attitude of the students and the camaraderie of my fellow teachers and staff were an important chapter in my life. I do miss these and treasure the memories.

Funniest Fenwick moments?

TE: There are many. Especially clear in my memory are the hilariously creative skits that were performed each year as part of our Homecoming rallies. Also, dress-ups during that whole week added to the fun.

Fondest Fenwick moments?

TE: On a personal level, the joy and lessons I learned from reading all of the students’ essays (both in-class and on college applications). Their dreams, their insights, their struggles-all were special.

With a school-wide focus, I was especially proud of the way the transition from all male to co-ed was handled. Faculty, teachers and students all made the new, lady Friars feel welcome and motivated. And what a success the change has been!

Do you have any words of wisdom for current students?

TE: We all know that at this point in your lives, one of the most powerful influences upon you are your peers — and you upon them. Associate yourself with those who have your best interests at heart; be a force for the good with your friends.

Any wise words or advice for the present faculty, staff or administration?

Tom Egan in 2013.

TE: While I was at FHS, our principal, assistant principal, counselors and others all taught at least one class in addition to their other responsibilities. The policy kept us in touch with the basics of our profession; this should continue.

What are you doing now?

TE: With a position on our Condo Board, visits to L.A. Fitness three times per week, travel, volunteer work at PADS and other commitments, I’m kept busy. Some contacts with former students and co-workers add to my enjoyments.

CATCHING UP WITH PETER BOSTOCK

Learning about the Big 3: Facts, Ideas and Values

A Forty-Niner alumnus and former Fenwick teacher reflects on the heels of his 70th class reunion.

By Jack Spatafora, PhD. ’49

In addition to reforming curricula, Fenwick alumnus Jack Spatafora, PhD. was a White House speech writer.

Everyone agrees that a good education is good for the nation. It gets thornier when it comes to defining a ‘good education.’ For 90 years, Fenwick High School has been addressing this issue the best way it knows how: by graduating hundreds of students each year equipped with both the academic and moral gifts needed to become the kind of citizens our complex times’ need.

From Aristotle to Aquinas to Jefferson, the ideal citizen is one who knows not only what to think but also how to think: clearly, logically, passionately. I experienced this at Fenwick, first as a student and then as a teacher. The day General MacArthur was accepting the surrender of Japan in September 1945, I was entering the old Scoville Avenue entrance as a freshman. Seven years later, I returned to teach U.S. History. That is experiencing Fenwick from both ends of the classroom!

Jack Spatafora as a Fenwick junior in 1948.

Fenwick was much smaller and less equipped during the 1950s, and yet it was already sending some of the best and brightest into post-World War II America. Young men equipped and motivated with three of the academic tools most required for good citizenship: 1) facts, 2) ideas and 3) values:

  1. As a faculty, we had this funny notion that there were facts, not alternative facts, be it science, math or history. Facts are stubborn, objective things that the student needs to confront, process and use in reaching conclusions. 
  2. When properly assessed and connected, facts become the essence of ideas. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
  3. There is a third feature to good citizenship: values. If facts and ideas are essential as a foundation, values are the super-structure to the edifice — including respect for truth, honor, country and God. The ideal citizen embraces each, both profoundly and efficaciously. For as Alexander Hamilton put it: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
Mr. Spatafora’s Fenwick Faculty photo from 1957.

Gazing back over these last 70 years, this is some of what I proudly remember. Both as a member of the Fenwick student body and later the Fenwick faculty. You might say I was twice blessed. Frankly, I say it all the time.

Continue reading “Learning about the Big 3: Facts, Ideas and Values”

Fenwick Student Stands Against Childhood Cancer

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been the backbone of the family of Sadie Briggs ’20 for four generations.

By Sadie Briggs ’20

Editor’s note: Long-time Fenwick Speech Teacher Andy Arellano reports that Sadie Briggs presented this past summer to the St. Jude Leadership Society in Memphis, TN. “She began crafting her speech last April,” Mr. Arellano says proudly of his protégé. Sadie made the trip from River Forest with her grandfather and her mother, who knew nothing of about her presentation and really didn’t want to “waste the weekend.” During the speech, her surprised mom “broke down and cried,” Arellano says.

Today, I would like to thank everyone who has made this experience possible. This is my second time being able to come to this event, and even though I am up here again, this experience truly leaves me speechless.  

Sadie’s great-grandpa, Joe Shaker, Sr., in 1951.

Many people ask me why St. Jude means so much to me and, honestly, when I was little, I felt that my amazement was obvious. Everywhere I went, from my grandparent’s homes, to dinners, events, and more, St. Jude was always present. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to meet my great grandfather, Joseph Shaker, who explained the importance of this great hospital. My great grandpa was one of the co-founders of the hospital along with Danny Thomas. Being first generation Lebanese, with five children and a wife to support, my great grandfather decided to join Danny’s dream. Today, I am the oldest of 20 of Joseph Shaker’s great-grandchildren. Only my brother and I ever got the chance to meet my great grandfather, but trust me, all of the little ones hear enough about him to make them feel as if they had met him too. They also know that they have the duty to carry on his St. Jude legacy. 

“Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine.”

– Danny Thomas’ prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus
Alumnus Joseph G. Shaker ’68 (now retired) was President/CEO of Shaker Recruitment Marketing.

My great grandfather’s son, Joseph [Fenwick Class of 1968], my grandfather, has also played a major role in my love for this hospital and the St. Jude mission. He still actively participates on the St. Jude/ALSAC board. My grandfather is a person who is often described as one of a kind. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him, and there is nothing that makes him happier than helping St. Jude and teaching his five grandchildren about this hospital. Because of him, we all keep St. Jude so very close to our hearts. 

St. Jude’s Mission Statement

The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.

I first participated in the St. Jude Leadership Society when I was a freshman in high school. I was one of the youngest students present, and visiting the hospital for that first time changed everything for me. I became more grateful for all of the work that my family has done to support this wonderful facility. At that time, I also learned that everyone can play a role in helping St. Jude, no matter one’s occupation or college major. Even though I have no clue as to what I want to do when I am older, I do know that with God’s help I will always stay involved with the St. Jude mission. 

Continue reading “Fenwick Student Stands Against Childhood Cancer”

Teaching Morals and Values to Teenagers

The theology curriculum at Fenwick brings together all students to ponder important issues.

By Brother Joseph Trout, O.P.

Determining the “best” is a notoriously complicated task. Is the best team the one with the most wins? The one with the most potential? The one that wins the last game? The one that won the most consistently?

This is no less challenging in classes. Are good students the ones with the best scores; with the clearest understanding of the material; or with the most original thought? What of those who ask the best questions? The list goes on. 

Brother Joseph Trout, O.P. engages junior theology students in a morality discussion.

As a teacher of morality, the task becomes even more complicated. Some students are standouts, not because they always get the questions right on the tests, but because they have lived through difficulty and grasp immediately the significance of moral issues. Others have a deep, personal commitment to faith and justice: They innately grasp what it means to be good and raise the level of discussion, but can’t always explain their convictions perfectly. Others still have a nuanced grasp of ideas and ace the tests but demonstrate no real commitment to enacting justice in their lives. Which of those is the best?  

The great equalizer

Dominican Spirituality: Mr. Patrick Mulcahy instructing senior theology students last March.

All of this is to say that a theology class remains a great equalizer in Catholic education. Everyone, regardless of personal beliefs and upbringing, needs to wrestle with the big-picture questions of life. Does God exist or not? If so, who or what is God? What is a just world? What counts as a life well lived? No one can afford to live the “unexamined life.”

Because the subject matter is usually beyond all of us (God), everyone needs to reach beyond themselves and question their assumptions about reality. Yet it is also deeply personal — who am I? What does it mean to be me? What is my relation to God, neighbor, society? How will I know that I have lived well? Some of the highest achieving students struggle tremendously with that kind of introspection, while some of the lowest achievers soar. 

Father Thomas Saucier, O.P. holds “court” with Class of 2020 theology students.

At the end of the day, theology is an excellent subject to help develop humility because you face an unconquerable task. Calculus and grammar can be mastered, but not theology. Its subject is a transcendent God who is infinitely more complex than the human mind can understand. We can learn many truths about God and come to a deep understanding of and relationship with God, but we cannot tame God. No matter how brilliant, good, insightful, original or articulate we are, we remain equal as short-lived creatures before the one who simply is.

Perhaps the students who grasp this, who know precisely what it is that they do not comprehend, are the best ones of all.

Fostering moral servant/leaders

All Fenwick students, regardless of religious affiliation, study four years of Theology:

  • Theology I: Scripture
  • Theolgy II: The Mission of Jesus Christ and Sacraments
  • Theology III: Moral Theology
  • Theology IV:  Interreligious Dialog (may be taken for college credit) and Dominican Spirituality

READ ALSO:

“How Fenwick Students Minister to Others” (Fall 2018 Friar Reporter, beginning on page 6).

“The Myth of Science vs. Religion”

“Summer of Service”

Freshman students from the Class of 2023 get a lesson on scripture.
Continue reading “Teaching Morals and Values to Teenagers”

U.S. Pilgrims in France Explore Their Christian Faith

As autumn dawns, a Fenwick faculty member reflects on a special summer journey abroad with President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

By Korin Heinz, Fenwick French Teacher

Fr. Peddicord, O.P. with Ms. Heinz in France this past June.

On June 26th, 28 people from all over the United States came to the village of Fanjeaux, France, to spend 10 days together exploring faith. What drew us to this beautiful and remote region of Southwestern France was the Dominican Spirituality Pilgrimage: “Deepening the Dominican Spirit.” Organized by the Sisters of St. Dominic and Fenwick President Father Richard Peddicord, O.P., this trip traces the footsteps of St. Dominic. He began his mission in the 13th century in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in Fanjeaux. 

We stayed in the convent of Ste. Dominique. Our days were comprised of day trips, talks on Dominican life and spirituality, mass, reflection, free time and daily communal meals of delicious French food. The places we visited included:

  • Toulouse, the city where Dominic gathered the first friars.
  • Carcassonne, the walled medieval city where Dominic preached.
  • Montsegur, the mountain refuge of the Cathars.
  • Prouilhe, the first convent founded by St. Dominic in 1206 and still running today.
  • Sorèze, the village where Father Lacordaire established a Dominican school. 

Fr. Peddicord led the talks, including “Truth as a Motto of the Dominican Order,” “Art as Preaching” and “The Life of St. Dominic.” We learned that Dominic was a holistic thinker who valued the quest for truth and believed in contemplation, prayer and sharing one’s knowledge. I was impressed by his faith, his commitment to truth and his compassion for all people. Dominic’s vision for spreading the gospel led to the creation of the Order of Friars in 1216.

Fun fact: Do you know the difference between a friar and a monk? A friar goes into the world and shares his faith through preaching and good works, while a monk is cloistered. 

The Fanjeaux pilgrims of 2019.
Continue reading “U.S. Pilgrims in France Explore Their Christian Faith”