Curious Adults Can’t Read without Books!

A non-profit organization founded by a Fenwick alumnus from Oak Park is helping to advance literacy in the Chicago area.

By Franklin Taylor ’15, president and executive director of Our Future Reads

During the pandemic, I graduated from college. At the same time, I received a Fulbright Grant to go to Germany and teach English — a dream that I have had since my Fenwick German classes with Frau Strom and our German Club trip to the country. Since the pandemic pushed back this opportunity, I was able to find a job as a data analyst while I waited.

One day while working from home, I glanced around my room and pondered what to do about the giant mountain of books I had accumulated from attending Fenwick and Bowdoin College over the years. Some of the books I had really enjoyed reading, but others I would never pick up again. I thought “Do I throw these out? Who throws out books? Can I give these to someone who would enjoy them? Where can I even donate books in the area?”

These thoughts led me to reflect on the junior-year service projects we got to do as students at Fenwick. These memories motivated me to look on the Internet for places that would take in books for adult readers. To my surprise, I could only find organizations looking for children’s books. Since I was unable to find much information, I felt my Friar spirit kick in and marched down the field to do something about it. That is when the idea for Our Future Reads was born. I thought, if I have this problem, then I am sure many others share this problem, too. Instead of finding an organization to donate these books, I decided to do it myself.

Our mission statement at Our Future Reads is: For those that are curious, be curious! Through books, curiosity is born. People say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ we say it’s fine to do that, as long as you took the first step in picking it up. Our Future Reads is here to make sure those without readily available access to books get an opportunity to read whatever piques their curiosity.

Franklin played some football at Bowdoin College in Maine.

I learned many things at Fenwick, and the most important was to help others when you can; and at Our Future Reads we are doing exactly that. In just eight months, Our Future Reads has collected over 10,000 new and gently used books, established relationships with a number of other charitable organizations in and around Chicago, and donated over 2,200 books to people in need. Brian Heuss, a fellow Fenwick Football teammate and Class of 2015 alum, as well as [my brother] Jared Taylor (see below), Class of 2019, are on the board of the organization along with a good friend from OPRF. Class of 2015, Matthew Herbst. We have received amazing support from individuals and other local organizations who have conducted book drives to help Our Future Reads build its inventory to accomplish its mission to redistribute books to those in need.

Help us achieve our goal of increasing the literacy rate in the Chicagoland area by donating. If you, or your child or grandchild who is currently a Fenwick student, would like to hold a book drive to support our inventory at Our Future Reads, please reach out to me via email. For any more information, you can explore our website.

Let the Curious, Be Curious … and Let’s Go Friars!

Fellow alumnus and former football teammate Brian Heuss ’15 of Cicero, IL, serves as vice president of Our Future Reads.
OFR Board Member Jared Taylor ’19 dons a Fenwick German Club T-shirt! Jared, who studies economics at Knox College (Galesburg, IL), also played football for the Friars.

Farewell to One of Fenwick’s Biggest Football Fans

The Friars’ championship football run in November brought great joy to a loyal alumnus and American hero on his final days.

Friar alumnus Vernon Breen ’44 passed away on December 14, 2021. A year ago in the Fenwick Alumni News (FAN e-newsletter), we wrote about then 95-year-old Mr. Breen, who had been recognized by the Chicago Bears as part of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” in 2020. Sgt. Breen served in the U.S. Army during World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and helped to liberate the Dachau concentration camp — receiving a Bronze Star for his heroics.

LISTEN TO THE LATE SGT. BREEN DESCRIBE SOME OF THE ATROCITIES OF WAR IN THIS ORAL HISTORY ACCOUNT FROM THE NATIONAL WWII MUSUEM.

Vern Breen’s 1943-44 yearbook photo.

On December 13, 2021, one of Mr. Breen’s grandsons wrote via email to Head Football Coach Matt Battaglia:

Dear Coach Battaglia,

Congratulations on a very successful season and winning the state championship. Our grandfather, Vernon Cecil Breen is an alum of Fenwick high school, he graduated in 1944 and is still a die hard Friar fan. After graduation, Vernon was drafted to serve in WWII. After his service he returned home and worked at Central Ink Corporation and moved to Glen Ellyn.

Your team’s football season brought much joy to him this year. He keeps us up to date on the Friar’s athletics, though his main love is the football team. The last couple of months his health has declined, but was still able to watch the Friars win the state title game. My father in law said after the game was over, our grandfather was humming the fight song. 

We wanted to share how much he still cares about the school and football team. Thank you for bringing him some much needed enjoyment. Best of luck in the future and again congratulations on a tremendous year. Go Friars!

Jeff Spears 

P.S. – Vernon has the flag proudly hanging in his bedroom! (See below.)

The coach’s response that same day:

Mr. Spears,

Thank you for sharing! This is such a great story and really humbling for me as a coach to realize something as simple as a football game can bring so much joy to those around us.

I hope Vernon is continuing to feel better! Could you please share with me a mailing address? I would love to send him a note signed by the team.

Thanks,

Matt

Then, on December 15, Vern’s daughter, Maureen, followed up with this note:

Dear Coach Battaglia,

I would like to add my congratulations to you and the Friars as well.

The state championship did bring a lot of joy to my dad. Sadly, he passed away yesterday. But we are so happy for him that one of the last things that he was able to enjoy was the state championship. You mentioned in your email that something as “simple as football” could bring so much joy. Sports is always about so much more than a simple game, something I learned in 1960, when at 5 years old, my dad began bringing me to Fenwick football games.

We attended several games a year, and those were treasured moments that I will never forget. I remember the first game I attended, taking in the stadium, and the excitement of the crowd. I had never seen a football game before and I had a million questions. I can still see that sunny fall afternoon in my head and the very moment when he explained to me what a first and ten was.  From that day on, football, the Friars and sports in general was something that I loved sharing with my dad. I think that my family is not alone with that concept.  Football and sports creates bonds, not just among teammates, but among the fans as well.

Again, congratulations. My dad was always proud to be a Friar.

Maureen Breen Barunas

Rest in heaven, sir.

Before Fenwick, Mr. Breen attended Horace Mann School and was a St. Giles parishioner. For four years, he was an avid participant intramural athletics while he was a Friar student.


	

Why Athletes Sacrifice

Student-athlete Jordan McAdoo ’22 spoke at Fenwick’s first Fall Sports Recognition Night on November 15, 2021.

Introduction from Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99:

As my kids are getting older and almost high-school aged, there are certain Fenwick kids who I get to know and think, ‘Man, I hope my kids turn out like this one.’ Senior Jordan McAdoo is one of those. Jordan’s character, infectious personality, work ethic and team-first mentality are some of his top qualities. Jordan represents all that is great about Fenwick and Fenwick athletics.

By Jordan McAdoo ’22 (Elmhurst, IL)

I’d like to thank Mr. Thies and Ms. Bonaccorsi for inviting me to speak at tonight’s event. We are here to pay tribute to all of the accomplishments and accolades that our athletes have earned throughout the fall season. I have had the pleasure of playing with many of you since freshman year, and I have loved every minute of it.

Being a student-athlete is no easy task. Whether the grueling workouts, staying up late to finish homework assignments and studying for tests, or spending countless hours during the summer training to perfect our games, I think we can all agree that being an athlete at Fenwick can sometimes feel like a chore. So, I often ask myself, ‘Why do I continue to play?’

Like many of you, I play because I love the challenge of pushing myself to get better. The sense of accomplishment when I make a good play or overcome an obstacle; the feeling I get when my teammates, my brothers, push me to go harder and motivate me to keep going, is second to none. Knowing that each of our small steps becomes a giant leap toward our goal of playing smarter, faster and harder to get the win. The commitment to your game, the desire to win, and believing that your hard work and dedication will help you to achieve your goals is what makes the student athlete special.

Green Bay Packers’ coaching legend Vince Lombardi.

Vince Lombardi once said that perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. I challenge you all to keep chasing perfection because I know that with the lessons you have learned while here at Fenwick — commitment, teamwork, respect, honesty and gratitude — you will surely have success wherever you go in life. I am proud to call you all my family and commend you on the recognition you are receiving tonight. Not just because you won your game but because I know the effort and mental toughness it took to get that win. The same great man I spoke of earlier also said that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Keep working, Friars, and the victories will come. Thank you.

Football State Champs!

Fenwick won its 1st ever football state championship in DeKalb, IL, on Saturday.

Fenwick Head Football Coach Matt Battaglia (from left), All-State center Jimmy Liston, edge rusher Suleiman Abuaqel, All-State QB Kaden Cobb, All-State (Honorable Mention) WR Max Reese and RB/game MVP Danny Kent pose with their state-championship hardware after dominating in the big game on Nov. 27th.

The Friars (12-2) beat Kankakee 34-15 on Saturday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb to claim the Illinois Class 5A State Championship! Our talented boys dominated, jumping out to an early, 28-0 lead in the first half and never looked back. It was a total team win highlighted by stellar catches (Bryan Hunt, Jr., Eian Pugh and Max Reese), spectacular throws and runs (QB Kaden Cobb), hard-nosed blocking (Jimmy Liston, Rasheed Anderson, Will Rosenberg, Pat Durkin, Aaron Johnson, Lukas Mikuzis and the rest of the offensive line). Defensively, the Paris twins (Conor and Martin) stood out, as usual, as did Suleiman Abuaqel, Den Juette, Mirko Jaksic (junior), Harry Kenny, Conor Stetz (junior), Aden Vargas, Jacque Walls, Quin Wieties, sophomores Luke D’Alise & Will Gladden and freshman Nate Marshall. They executed defensive coordinator Coach Titcus Pettigrew’s game plan to near perfection.

Running back Danny Kent (above) rushed for more than 200 yards on 28 carries and was named Player of the Game. This marks Fenwick’s first state title in football since the IHSA first introduced the playoff system in 1974.

“It has been amazing how I have been fully embraced as a Friar, and I could not be happier to have helped deliver this first-ever football state championship to Fenwick High School and the community,” says Head Coach Matt Battaglia, who joined Fenwick in late 2019. “Special thanks and congratulations to all the players and coaches who made this possible, especially our seniors! Thanks, and Go Friars!

Athletic Director and alumnus Scott Thies ’99 adds: “Congratulations to Coach Battaglia, our student-athletes and all who contributed to Fenwick’s first state championship in football! It was so awesome to see generations of Friars come out in support of this team. We are all super proud!”

Video highlights from the championship game:

READ THE COVERAGE IN THE OAK PARK WEDNESDAY JOURNAL

READ THE COVERAGE IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE/OAK LEAVES

Watch the post-game press conference (above) from DeKalb/NIU.

Remembering the 1945 ‘Kelly Bowl’ Football Classic

More than 80,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldier Field saw the Fenwick Friars (8-1-2) defeat the favored Tilden Tech Blue Devils by a final score of 20-6.

By Jack Lambert ’46 (written in 1996)

This marked the 12th game of the All City Championship between the Public and Catholic league schools. Fenwick had last played in the city-championship game in a 19-to-19 tie with Austin High in 1936. Tilden lost to Leo in 1941 and 1942 – and then beat Weber 13-7 in 1944.

Tilden was a one-point favorite for the 1945 game with Fenwick. The largest crowd in Kelly Bowl history was the 115,000 which saw Austin (with Bill DeCorrevont) beat Leo in 1937. In 1939, the north end of the stadium [at Soldier Field, Chicago] was shortened to make room for a building to house the Park District offices, so the 90,000 expected to see the Fenwick contest was tremendous for a high school football championship.

Mike Swistowicz (left), of Public League champ Tilden, gains a mere two yards against a stingy Fenwick defense in late 1945. No. 29 for the Friars is Bill Crowley, 32 is Frank Duchon and 48 is Coleman Caron. (Chicago Sun photo.)

In 1945, a state football championship was not yet in existence, so for a Chicago city or Catholic League team, the All City game was the biggest championship available.

Four of the two teams’ starters at the beginning of the season were out of action because of injuries – Tilden’s end Tom Kernan, tackle Emil Ciechanowicz (6’4” 220 lbs., which was gigantic for a high school player in 1945), guard Ed Dembuck and Fenwick’s halfback Bill Barrett.

Fenwick’s first-string center, Coleman Caron, had contracted an infection, which caused him to drop from 165 lbs. to 145 lbs., the weight he played at the rest of the season. Coleman was the youngest starter in the history of Fenwick football when he started at quarterback at the age of 14 years, 8 months in the fall of ’43. He was also first-string QB on the 1944 North Section championship team and switched to center for the 1945 season.

In 1995, former freshman football coach and athletic trainer Dan O’Brien ’34 (left) reunited with Coleman Caron ’46. Mr. Caron, a former QB who started at center for the Friars’ mighty 1945 Chicago City Championship team, passed away in 2013.

Coleman was the twin to Justin, ‘Dud,’ who was a halfback on the team, which had a second set of twins: first-string guards Frank and Bill Duchon. Bill went on to win Little All American and small college honors for two years at Wabash College. Bill would go on to coach at Glenbard West from 1961 through 1976, bringing his team to the 1976 state championship finals. Bill was Athletic Director from 1977 to 1988, and the stadium was named after him.

Fenwick’s Dick Martin, captain and right halfback, would go on to win Look magazine’s first-string All American honors as defensive safety in his senior year at the University of Kentucky, and he placed on Bear Bryant’s all-time team as defensive safety. Dick was voted the Catholic League’s Most Valuable Back in 1945.

Fenwick’s Roger Brown, Bill Barrett and Bud Romano would go on to Notre Dame. Joe Bidwell, first-string tackle, would attend Notre Dame for two years before entering the Dominican Seminary.

Ed Reidy, the other first-string tackle, would go to the University of Dayton, and Bill Crowley, the fullback, would play at St. Norbert College.

Late alumnus Fr. Joseph Bidwill, O.P. ’46 (1995 photo) started at left tackle on the offensive line for Fenwick’s 1945 All-City Championship football team.

Father Joe Bidwell celebrated the Mass at the 50th Reunion for the senior members of the ’45 team at Florence and Bud Romano’s home on December 16th [1995]. Bud, a right halfback on the team, has been hosting a dinner for the senior members of the team and their wives for a number of reunions over the years. [Mr. Romano passed away in 2017 at age 88.]

A number of years later, Bill Barrett, Dick Martin and Bill Duchon would be inducted into the Chicago Catholic League’s Hall of Fame along with their coaches, Tony Lawless and Dan O’Brien.

At their 50-year football reunion, late alumnus Don Romano, Sr. ’46 held a sign recalling Coach Tony Lawless’s motto: “It’s not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that counts!” Teammates Roger Brown and C.J. Berrigan, Jr. are to Buddy’s right.
Jack Lambert’s 1946 Blackfriars yearbook portrait.

About the Author
Alumnus John “Jack” Lambert, a proud member of Fenwick’s Class of 1946, was among the 80,000 fans in attendance at the big game on Saturday, December 1, 1945. Lambert had played football for the Friars his sophomore and junior years. He also boxed those years, played intra-mural basketball and was on the Debate Team. He would go on to become a securities broker at Peregrine Financials & Security, Inc., passing away in 2013.

Fourteen Friars from the ’45 team gathered 50 years later (bottom row, from left): Dr. Bob Huspen, guard; Fr. Joe Bidwell, O.P., tackle; Frank Duchon, guard; Cole Caron, center; Bill Duchon, guard; and Ed Reidy, tackle. Middle row: Ralph Davis, guard; Dud Caron, left halfback; Bud Romano, right halfback; Dan O’Brien, trainer; Bill Darley, swim team captain; and Dick Martin, captain/right halfback. Back row: Roger Brown, left halfback; Bill Crowley, fullback; Clay Berrigan, tackle; and Dick Jordan, end.

Kairos Came at the Right Time for Members of Fenwick’s 2021 Class

While students continued to endure the pandemic’s negative effects, the senior retreat personified the Dominican Pillar of Community.

By Nick Polston ’21

The iconic Fenwick atrium is my favorite part of the entire school. In the morning, walking through this part of the building signifies an exciting day ahead. In the afternoon, the speckled, marble floor glints in the sunlight that shines through the glass entrance, and I contribute to the after-school commotion as I joke with my friends. For over three years, however, I often failed to acknowledge an integral piece of this room’s welcoming beauty.

Four large banners hang above the atrium’s second set of doors, each one embroidered with a pillar of the Dominican faith: Community, Service, Study and Prayer. I learned about these values extensively in my theology classes and read about them in Fenwick newsletters; however, with all the time I spent in that Fenwick atrium during my first three years of high school, I surprisingly never took the time to stop, look up and reflect. Of course, there were plenty of mornings when I walked into school with my head down, going over some mental notes for a first-period test or simply tired from homework and football practice the night before. Only Mr. Ritten’s cheerful emphatic “GOOD MORNING!” was enough to lift my gaze. Yet all the while, those banners hung there, watching over me. It was not until my Kairos experience senior year that I truly recognized the importance of those four pillars.

Fenwick student-athlete Nick Polston ’21 (Riverside, IL) “starred” in the classroom as a Friars’ President Award recipient. He plans to study finance and business at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO.

It is difficult to write about my Kairos experience without giving away the activities and traditions that make the retreat so impactful, but I will do my best. Arriving at Fenwick for the three-day retreat was scary at first, even as I sat in the comfort of the atrium. I was surrounded by classmates whom I did not know well, much less with whom I could see myself sharing in the intimacy that I believed Kairos engendered. However, once we boarded the bus that would take us to the Bellarmine Retreat House, we began to talk with each other about the colleges we were attending, the sports we played and some of our favorite Fenwick memories.

After arriving an hour later, we were placed in our ‘small groups.’ Admittedly, I was nervous once again after my group assignment; it was comprised of classmates with whom I had not had a conversation since freshman year history class, and I nearly regretted my decision to attend Kairos without my close friends. Over the course of the next three days, however, my small group truly became my family. It is still shocking to me how 72 hours with a group of people I had only seen occasionally in the halls of Fenwick could turn into a support system that I know I can count on forever. Being with my small group gave me the courage to express myself and listen to others, because I knew that I was in a trusted, safe environment.

The Pillar of Community

As cliché as it may seem, Kairos gave me the perspective to truly appreciate not only the similarities between myself and others, but also the differences that make us all so unique. It was at Kairos that I began to understand the importance of Community in the Dominican faith. Judgement, shame and negativity were left at the door of Bellarmine House and replaced with courage, love and support. Kairos created a bond between my classmates and me that has yet to fade and may just remain with me forever.

Polston played baseball and football all four years at Fenwick. As a senior during the historic spring football season of 2021, he was a team co-captain and earned All-Conference honors as a defensive back and quarterback. (Photo courtesy of Oak Park Wednesday Journal.)

I once read that praying with others is an amazing way to grow spiritually, as you carry the burdens and intentions of others with you as you pray. Kairos was especially unique in this manner. After sharing stories with classmates and internalizing the struggles and triumphs of peers, praying together at the end of the day was yet another way my Kairos group became closer as a community. I realized that prayer should not only serve as petition and intercession but as praise and thanksgiving for the blessings God gave me in my life.

One of my Kairos leaders told me, “You get out of Kairos what you put into Kairos,” and I certainly found this to be true over the three days we spent at Bellarmine Retreat House. Everyone is affected differently by their experience at Kairos; however, if you put effort into participating in the activities, expressing your feelings and listening to others, this retreat will be one of the best times of your life.

My advice to future students who will attend Kairos is to treat the experience with respect. Respect the courage of fellow students, teachers and leaders. Respect the amount of trust they have in you, and you, too, will find the courage to express yourself. Kairos is a refreshing, life-changing three days that changed my perspective on life. When I return to Fenwick, I will never fail to look up and see the four banners that hang above the atrium entrance. Living my life by incorporating the four Dominican pillars is to inherently “live the fourth.” Those who have been on Kairos know what I mean, but to the future students who are waiting to go on their Kairos retreat, I guess you will have to wait and find out.

HIS STORY: Tackling Race at Fenwick

A former class president and Oak Parker writes about trading his orange-and-blue colors of the Youth Huskies football program for the Friars’ black and white in 2011 – and never looking back. But what about that other “black-and-white” issue?

By Aaron Garland ’15

Growing up, I hated Fenwick as a kid. I believe it was because I always imagined myself in an orange and blue uniform at OPRF High School. Playing under the lights on Lake Street was a dream of mine.

I remember in grade school, I went to watch OPRF play Fenwick in a basketball game. The energy was crazy! It was standing room only at the field house. Iman Shumpert [now with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets] was the star at the time, and I felt like he embodied what OPRF was about. Another reason I was attached to OPRF was because I played for the Oak Park Youth Huskies and looked forward to continuing the sport together. A few guys who were a part of that team were Lloyd Yates [OPRF & NU, see below], Christopher Hawthorne [Fenwick ’15] and Antonio Cannon [OPRF & Augustana College].

Huskies and Friars: Offensive lineman Adam Lemke-Bell (from left) and QB Lloyd Yates both went on to Northwestern, while CB Garland headed to UConn and DT Hawthorne to Illinois Wesleyan.

My journey to Fenwick began with my Mom. Around sixth grade, she would always say, “You’re going to Fenwick.” I didn’t think she was serious until she made me take the Fenwick entrance exam. I didn’t want to do it but, in my heart, I knew it was the best thing for me. The academic expectation at Fenwick scared me. Growing up, when Fenwick High School came up in conversation, the academic prestige was mentioned. I knew Fenwick would challenge me academically. A piece of me wanted to take the easy way out and leave the exam blank on test day. That wasn’t my style, though. I liked challenges!

When it came to test day, I remember it was early on a Saturday morning. I had a basketball practice shortly after, so my plan was to take the exam as quickly as possible so I could go hoop! As I took the test, I hoped that Fenwick would not accept me.

While waiting on my results, I continued my regular routine playing sports and hanging out with friends. Growing up in the Oak Park-River Forest area was special. For the bulk of my childhood, I hung out with mostly white guys and girls with a sprinkling of blacks and Latinos.

Garland was a three-year starter on the Friars’ varsity, which won IHSA playoff games all three seasons and advanced to the 7A quarter-finals in 2014. As a senior, the cornerback had four interceptions and two pick-sixes. ESPN ranked him a top-75 CB prospect nationally.

I finally got my test results, and I was in! Two of my close friends received letters of acceptance as well. So the three of us were headed to Fenwick. During our first assembly, Mr. Borsch told us to look to our left and right. He went on to say that the person next to us would not be here in four years. I was shocked that he said that and wondered why people didn’t finish. Was it the tough academics? The dress code? Or the rules? As I looked around at the freshman class, I was hoping that I would be one of the few to remain. Sadly, after one and a half years, both my friends were gone. I won’t go into detail on why they didn’t remain; let’s just say Fenwick was not the right fit for them.

I had a couple close calls at Fenwick myself that could have gotten me kicked out. I am grateful for the mercy that was shown by Wallace Pendleton [Fenwick Class of 2005], our Dean of Students at the time. Wallace was a former Division 1 athlete [Akron football] and he is African American. I believe being black in that situation actually helped me and he saw something in me. Thank you, Wallace. At this point, I was tested to expand my friendships beyond the friends I came in with. That same year, my sister transferred to Fenwick from Trinity, so that was a plus. [BONUS BLOG: Read how alumni Maya Garland ’14, Aaron’s sister, defied the odds.]

AG (5’11” and 193 lbs. in college) eventually did become a Husky again — at UConn.

I played basketball, football and baseball my first year at Fenwick. I later switched to only playing football. I always believed I was a great baseball player, but I knew football was going to be the sport that sent me to college for free. I later switched to only playing football. The summer before my junior year, I received a full-ride scholarship to play at the University of Connecticut.

Playing sports at Fenwick made it easy to be accepted by others. I had some good teammates like Keshaun Smith [Class of 2014], Robert Spillane [’14], Chris Hawthorne ’15 and Richard Schoen ’14, but the list goes on and on. Along with good teammates, I had some great coaches: Gene Nudo (football), Mark Laudadio ’84 (basketball) and Titcus Pettigrew (football). However, I felt bad for the minorities who were not connected with others through sports.

I would be lying if I said racism did not exist at Fenwick. I also wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said everyone there was racist. There was definitely a disconnect between minorities and whites.

‘East Kids’ and ‘West Kids’

I mentioned earlier that I grew up with mostly white guys and girls and a sprinkle of blacks and Latinos. So attending Fenwick, a majority white school, was not new to me. No matter what school I attended growing up, minorities always stuck together.

Naturally, we all feel more comfort when we are around the same race. However, I never wanted to put limits on friendships based on race, so I made an effort to be friends will all races. Personally, I can’t remember anytime that someone called me the ‘N word’ or was openly racist towards me while at Fenwick. I was the class president my junior year, so I guess I had won the hearts of my classmates the first two years. I would have been class president two years in row if I had decided to run my senior year, but I wanted to give someone else the opportunity to add the position to their high school resume. I enjoyed being class president, it gave me a sense of purpose outside of sports. It also helped me get rid of the stereotype that blacks attended Fenwick only for sports. I am not sure if I was the first black class president at Fenwick, but I’m sure I was one of the few.

Racism has been talked about for centuries. Here is my take on it: I believe it starts at home. Kids do outside what they are taught at home. In Fenwick’s situation, a lot of kids come from the western suburbs, such as Burr Ridge, Western Springs and Hinsdale. We called these people “west kids.”

AG returned to the Priory in 2018 to coach Fenwick defensive backs at the freshman level. Those players are now juniors.

Those neighborhoods lack diversity. So, due to the lack of diversity in those neighborhoods, it leads to kids being awkward around minorities. I remember going to parties in the west suburbs and feeling like I was being “watched” by the parents a little more closely than others. I am not saying everyone from the west suburbs is racist. I believe the interaction is just different with them. It’s not their fault that they grew up in a neighborhood that lacks diversity.

At Fenwick, you had two types of white kids — those who fit in with the minorities and those who didn’t. The kids who fit in seemed to have grown up in the Oak Park, Elmwood Park and Chicago area. Also known as the “east kids,” these students seemed to be more familiar with minorities due to their environment. So, it was not a problem of race but rather with environment.

I am grateful for the experiences I had at Fenwick. My classmates and teachers all made it a unique experience. Of course, academically we learned a lot and were challenged. Fenwick prepared me for college courses at UConn. Honestly, I felt like Fenwick was harder than college academically. I believe this is the reason I was able to graduate from college in three years and serve on the leadership board of the college of liberal arts and sciences.

Aside from the books, it was the people I appreciated learning from, especially Gene Nudo and Rena [Ciancio ’00] McMahon. Coach Nudo told me to be the kind of guy that colleges want to put on the front page of their advertisements. Nudo was my favorite coach throughout my sports career. He loved his players. Ms. McMahon was my counselor. She always believe in me and knew how to listen when I needed someone to talk to. If I wasn’t in class or practicing, I was talking to Rena or Nudo in their offices.

I learned how to be a young man at Fenwick, how to speak, how to treat people and, most importantly, how to keep God in your life. One of the statements we heard at Fenwick was “Everything in moderation,” which has stuck with me until this day!

Graduation Day at UConn: Aaron and his Fenwick alumna sister, Maya Garland ’14. READ HER BLOG.

My first job when I came back from college was with state senator Don Harmon, who is now the president of the Illinois Senate. This job came from the help of Fenwick alumnus Sean Harmon [Class of 2004], Don’s cousin. While working with Senator Harmon, I started coaching freshman football at Fenwick. I am currently working at the Cook County Board of Review as an appeals analyst. I say this to show that Fenwick opened up doors for me when it was time to join the “real world.” I am confident that the prestige of Fenwick will continue to do that. Moving forward, I am going to be a helping hand in bringing diversity, equity and inclusion to Fenwick so that more minorities will have the opportunity to attend one of the best schools in the state.

I encourage students to love one another and find things in common with people who don’t look like you. Whether it be academics, hobbies or sports, we all can relate somehow. Also, make time to have conversations with the adults in the building. There are many great minds in that building, whether it is the lunch ladies or those working in administration, from whom you can learn something.

I want to give thanks to the following people who were not mentioned above. Mrs. Nowicki (math teacher); Mr. Arellano (retired speech teacher); Tony McCormick [’78] and Becky (athletic trainers); Mr. Ruffino (friend, former coach and facilities director); Mr. Ori (admissions director, ’03) and Mrs. (Morris) Ori (English teacher, ’06); Mr. Schoeph (English teacher, ’95); the ladies in Student Services, Ms. Rowe and Ms. Shanahan; Kita (lunch lady); Mark Vruno (football coach); Mrs. Carraher (Spanish teacher, ’96); Mrs. Megall (retired Spanish teacher); and Coach Heldmann (RIP). Lastly, thank you to my Mom and Dad for sending me to Fenwick. I am sure a left a few out … thank you all!

IN ADDITION TO INTERCEPTIONS, HARD-HITTING TACKLES AND ACROBATIC PASS BREAK-UPS, AG’S SENIOR HIGHLIGHTS FROM FENWICK FOOTBALL FEATURE SOME ELECRIFYING KICK RETURNS, TOO!

BONUS BLOG by Maya Garland ’14 (Aaron’s sister):

Read why “west kid” Jack Henrichs ’22 thinks his commute from La Grange, IL, to Fenwick was worth the adjustment his freshman year.

MORE FRIAR BLACK HISTORY
Also read about:

The Fenwick Journey of Alumnus Michael Black ’09

Fenwick’s First Black Student in 1955

Why Marlon Hall Left Fenwick in the Early 1970s

Eulogizing Fenwick Athletic Legend Tony Lawless (1903-1976)

His 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)

Editor’s Note: In 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 beyond oneself.

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 tradition.

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.

Photo album of Coach Tony Lawless:

What Fenwick Means to Me

By Johnny Lattner ’50 (originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, May 30, 2007)

Growing up on Chicago’s West Side near Cicero and Madison, I could have gone to St. Mel, St. Phillip, Austin or St. Ignatius. I decided on Fenwick because I knew it was a good academic school and I had heard about the football program coached by Tony Lawless.

I was a big kid in eighth grade, 6-1, more recruited for basketball than football, and I almost went to St. Phillip because of coach Bill Shay, who later coached at Fenwick. But I wanted to see if I could play football at Fenwick. It was a challenge.

Lattner, who passed away in 2016, was an All-State football player for the Friars in 1948 and ’49 and won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Notre Dame in 1953.

At the time, I didn’t know if I would go to college. Neither of my parents nor my older brother and sister went to college. They couldn’t afford it. At Fenwick, I learned a lot. I wasn’t dumb, but it took me a year to acclimate to the school. And Lawless taught me so much.

Fenwick had won the city championship in 1945. I went to the game at Soldier Field and was impressed. I knew Lawless was a hard-nosed coach who taught the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. He was a winner, a legendary figure on the West Side.

He taught me persistence and fundamentals, not to think of today but of tomorrow, how to compete, to keep improving.

“[Coach] Lawless taught me … persistence and fundamentals, not to think of today but of tomorrow, how to compete, to keep improving.”

the late, great John Lattner ’50

Lattner (left) with Coach Lawless and John Carroll ’54.

I never regretted my decision to go to Fenwick.

Learning to play both ways – I also was a defensive back – helped me to win the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame. I went there because, like Fenwick, it was a challenge. Some people said I wasn’t fast enough and never would play at Notre Dame, that I’d just be another number on the roster.

But Lawless taught me to stick to my books, to hang in there, to play when you’re hurt.

It helped me to get through Notre Dame. I was in awe of the program … Frank Leahy, Leon Hart, Terry Brennan, Johnny Lujack, George Conner.

They were unbeaten for four years. I hoped to make a name for myself.

READ MORE ABOUT MR. LATTNER

“Fenwick Community Gathers to Say Goodbye to Johnny Lattner.”

Colleges Are Calling Friar Athletes

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!

Cakuls

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.

Wiktor

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!

Hopkins

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.

Gridiron greats

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!

Cobb

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!

Liston

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.

Reese

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.

Capek

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).

Novak

Senior running back Isaac Novak ’21 has offers from Wheeling University (D2 in West Virginia) and St. Norbert (D3 in Wisconsin).

Moran

Senior offensive lineman Jamie Moran (No. 70) has a pair of D3 offers from Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) and North Park University (Chicago).