Student Preaching

At the 90th Celebration Mass for Fenwick on September 9, a Friar junior encourages his classmates to rise above social pressures and make morally good choices.

By Will Chioda ’21

In today’s Gospel , Jesus breaks the law by healing a crippled man on the sabbath day. The scribes and pharisees become angry with Jesus, and discuss what they might do to him.

Notice how Jesus responds to them: He says “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil; to save life rather than to destroy it?” His courage to do the right thing, despite what the law says sticks out to me. This brings about some key questions and points for self evaluation. In our own Fenwick community, do we find ourselves making decisions that are more socially popular, succumbing to various social pressures; or do we choose to make courageous and morally good choices?

At the end of each day, can we say that we did, or at least tried to live and love each other as Jesus did? Can we say that we treated others as Jesus treated the crippled man? Perhaps the answers to these questions are not what we would like them to be right now. But, with the guiding hand and example of Jesus Christ, it is always possible to grow as humans, change our hearts and minds, and engage in more loving relationships with those around us in and outside of the Fenwick community. 

Currently in Mr. Slajchert’s Moral Theology class, we are learning about Socrates teaching that living a morally good life, although it might seem like a burden at times, is truly the way to lead a happy and fulfilled life. In other words, living by the rules that God has given us allows us to live happily. Applying this more closely to our own Fenwick community, let us:

> show Jesus’ courage

> be more inclusive to others

> care for the poor

> support our peers here at Fenwick

When we consistently and consciously choose to live this way, as Jesus did, it will in time create a happier and more loving community both within and outside of the walls of Fenwick High School.

VIDEO:

See and hear Will deliver his reflection.

About the Author

William “Will” Chioda, a junior from Hinsdale, IL, is a member of the Fenwick Preaching Team.

As Fenwick Turns 90, ‘We Give Thanks to You,’ Oak Parkers!

The Catholic high school’s spiritual leader does not take for granted the partnership forged with the greater, local community over nine decades.

By Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., President of Fenwick High School

Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Ninety years ago next week, the Dominican Order established a college-preparatory secondary school on Washington Blvd., bordered by East Ave., Scoville Ave. and Madison St. When Fenwick High School opened on September 9, 1929, some 200 boys ventured through its wooden, church-like doors. Many of them walked to school from their homes in Oak Park and on the West Side, while others coming from farther away in Chicago took streetcars.

Over these many years, Fenwick has survived and thrived, despite the Great Depression (which started six weeks after the school opened!), world wars and changing times, including enrolling female students in the early 1990s. However, the mission at the outset has stood the test of time: Guided by Dominican Catholic values, our priests, instructors, coaches, administrators and staff members inspire excellence and educate each student to lead, achieve and serve.

Fenwick today has a co-educational enrollment of nearly 1,150 students as well as two Golden Apple-winning teachers on its esteemed faculty. Our school’s impressive list of alumni includes a Skylab astronaut, Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, a Heisman Trophy recipient and other leaders making a positive influence locally and internationally.

Great neighbors

From our beginning, Fenwick and Oak Park always have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. “Fenwick and the Village of Oak Park have a long history of working together,” Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb has stated. “From its inception, our fortunes and our futures have been intertwined.”

As an investment in our future in Oak Park, last month we began construction on a six-story parking structure seeded with generous funding by former McDonald’s CEO and alumnus Michael R. Quinlan, Class of 1962. By next summer, some 325 cars will be taken off the streets, so to speak.

“With this new garage, Fenwick will be taking a major step toward reducing its impact on the neighborhood,” Mr. Abu-Talen noted at the August 13 garage groundbreaking ceremony. The private school “has always worked to be a great neighbor …,” and “also is a key partner in the development of the Madison corridor.

“Fenwick has been a great contributor to Oak Park in many ways,” the Mayor continued: “first, as an educational institution of national reputation; second, as a Catholic school filling the needs of a diverse and inclusive community.”

We are, indeed, proud of our racial and socio-economic diversity. More than 30% of our talented student body identifies as something other than Caucasian, and we provide nearly $2.5 million in need-based financial aid annually to our students through the generosity of many benefactors.

They come to Oak Park

As Mayor Abu-Taleb notes, “Fenwick always has been a reason why many families choose to live in Oak Park — and the reason many others visit the Village and support our local economy.” Last school year, our students came from more than 60 cities, towns and municipalities, including these top 20:

  • Chicago (191)
  • Oak Park (108)
  • Elmhurst (106)
  • Western Springs (83)
  • River Forest (76)
  • Berwyn (75)
  • Hinsdale (63)
  • Elmwood Park (58)
  • Riverside (54)
  • La Grange (32)
  • Forest Park (27)
  • Melrose Park (26)
  • Cicero (23)
  • Clarendon Hills (19)
  • Westchester (15)
  • Burr Ridge (13)
  • River Grove (13)
  • La Grange Park (12)
  • Lombard (12)
  • Brookfield (11)

Helping to revitalizing Madison Street

“Fenwick is also a key partner in the development of the Madison Corridor,” the Mayor concluded. Plans for a Centennial campus expansion 10 years from now include a quad-like green space to our south, featuring a manicured lawn and tree-lined parkway.

As our 91st academic year commences, Latin still is taught at Fenwick. Therefore, it is in this timeless spirit that we say to you, our fellow Oak Parkers: Gratias vobis agimus. (Translation: “We give thanks to you.”) Thank you, all!

About the Author

Rev. Richard Peddicord, O.P. is entering his eighth year as the President of Fenwick High School. He taught French at the school between 1986 and 1990 and was Chair of the Theology Department. A native of Howell, Michigan, Fr. Peddicord entered the Dominican Order in 1981 and was ordained in 1986.

Alumni Spotlight: Steve Twomey ’69

With his 50th Fenwick Reunion one month away, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author reflects on his days as a Friar.

By Mark Vruno

(Photo by Steve Hockstein/ HarvardStudio.com.)

Friar alumnus Steve Twomey ’69 is busy researching and writing, again — this time, for another book about World War II. And, he’s thinking. Twomey thinks a lot about, well, thought. Blame all that insight and thoughtfulness on Fenwick, he says.

“I took a course in high school that I loved. I think it was a religion class. Its premise was logic and explaining the rational processes by which we think,” recalls Twomey, a retired reporter/journalist and present author/freelance writer who has taught journalism at New York University. “At Fenwick we discussed the fallacies of logic and the traps that people get into with their thinking,” he relates. “This information was imparted on my brain forever.” (He also remembers classmates throwing fetal pigs on Scoville Ave. from the top window of a science classroom, while young Biology Teacher John Polka tried to remain calm. However, that’s a story for another article!)

Twomey began his career in journalism as a weekend copyboy at the Chicago Tribune as a 16-year-old kid. An uncle worked in the business office there and helped him land the summer job. “I loved being in a newsroom where people were finding out things,” he admits. Young Steve was hooked.

“I’ve distributed words for 30 years,” Twomey declared 15 years ago, upon occasion of Fenwick’s 75th anniversary. “You might not like journalism — so many folks don’t, be they of the political Left or Right,” he added then, somewhat prophetically. “But ever since Fenwick, being a newspaper guy has seemed the perfect way to sate a lust to know stuff, to see my name in black-and-white and to get paid for both.” 

Over the course of a 27-year media career Twomey traveled extensively and:

  • shook hands with Queen Elizabeth II aboard her yacht;
  • drank tea with Polish labor activist/politician Lech Walesa in his Warsaw apartment;
  • took cover in the Sahara Desert from shellfire from Polisario rebels.

In 2016 he published Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The 12 Days to the Attack (365 pages; Simon & Schuster), which traces the miscommunications, faulty assumptions and foul-ups that led to the ill-fated “day which will live in infamy” 78 years ago this December.

A critical thinker

A sweet 16 years have passed since Fenwick inducted Twomey into the its Hall of Fame. His prestigious Pulitzer recognition in journalism (feature writing/reporting category for the Philadelphia Inquirer while in Paris, France) came in 1987 for his illuminating profile of life aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. America, which had launched planes that took part in a United States’ attack on Libya in mid-1986. Twomey, who was 35 years old when he won his Pulitzer Prize, wrote about daily life for the mega ship’s personnel. He also questioned the strategic value of the U.S. military/government spending $500,000 a day (at the time, 32 years ago) to operate the massive vessel.

Twomey at Fenwick in 1969.

Twomey, a 1973 graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, went on to write for the Washington Post. He was born in Niles, Michigan. His family moved to Naperville, Illinois, and then to Oak Park.As a Friar student, he wrote for The Wick student newspaper all four years.

He attests that studying logic his senior year illuminated his path as a young man. “My experience at Fenwick was everything that education should be — because it made me parse statements, allegations and claims in ways that have served me well ever since. It was thinking about thought, and in the ensuing years most of what I have done professionally involves that. If and when I conclude that something does not make sense, I have Fenwick to thank.”

Read Twomey’s 2016 article in Smithsonian magazine, “How (Almost) Everyone Failed to Prepare for Pearl Harbor.”

Alumni, come home to Fenwick!
2019 Homecoming & Reunion Weekend is October 4th & 5th.

Details for class years ending in 4 and 9 (1944 – 2014).

Fenwick Fathers’ Club: 2019 Dr. Gerald Lordan Freshman Family Picnic

The recently retired faculty mentor addressed new Friar parents at the annual event renamed in his honor.

By Dr. Gerald Lordan, O.P.

Welcome to Pleasant Home for the 28th Fenwick Fathers’ Club Frosh Family Picnic. We started his event in 1992 to welcome Fenwick’s first coeducational class. Three of the members of that Class of 1996 now serve on the Fenwick faculty. Pleasant Home, like Fenwick, is located in St. Edmund’s Parish. The first Catholic Mass celebrated in Oak Park was held in the barn that serviced this building. 

Fenwick is the only high school in the United States sponsored by Dominican Friars. Dominicans lead lives of virtue. Humility is the greatest of all the virtues. We are humbled by the confidence families place in us by sending us their adolescents for formation. It is a teacher’s greatest joy to be surpassed by his students. We are pleased to see so many of our former students here today as parents of students in the class of 2023. We are pleased to welcome our first fourth generation Friar! We have a member of the class of 2023 with us today who follows in the footsteps of a great grandfather, grandfather and father. 

Every high school in the United States has a legal obligation to the state legislature, which charters it to train patriotic citizens and literate workers. As a Dominican school, Fenwick follows the Thomist educational philosophy. A Thomist school has an obligation to our Creator, the Supreme Being to train moral, servant-leaders of society. The late Ed Brennan, a Fenwick alumnus and CEO of Sears, was once asked what course he studied in his graduate school of business that best prepared him to be the chief executive of a Fortune 500 Corporation. Mr. Brennan replied, “Nothing I studied in business school prepared me for my job. The only class that prepared me was Moral Theology during my junior year at Fenwick High School.”

Training moral, servant-leaders

Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. (front center) joined Dr. Lordan (left) and Fenwick Fathers’ Club President Frank Sullivan ’86 at the Freshman Family Picnic.

Our freshman students will learn this year in history class that we are in an Axial Age. Everything changes in an Axial Age. We have had an Agricultural Revolution, which made us farmers. We have had an Industrial Revolution, which made us factory workers. We are entering an Information Revolution, which will make us computer scientists. We study the past to understand the present to shape the future. We do not know what challenges beyond our present comprehension the future may bring. We must be prepared to be the moral, servant-leaders of our society so we can enable others to meet these challenges. Therefore, Moral Theology is the most important subject that our students study.

The Dominicans are the Order of Preachers and have the initials, O.P., after their names. All of our students will study speech as sophomores.

The lessons we learn in class are important or we would not bother to teach them. Even more important, however, are the lessons we learn inside our building but outside of the classroom.  Three of the Dominican Pillars are Prayer, Community and Study. Once a month we assemble in our Auditorium to celebrate Mass. It is appropriate that we meet in community to pray before we study. 

The most important lessons we learn at Fenwick are taught outside of the building. All of our students will make a Kairos religious retreat during their senior year. This is the most important thing we do at Fenwick.

3 takeways

I am going to identify three activities that will enhance our Fenwick Experience. The first is for adults. The second is for adolescents. The third is for families. These suggestions are based on educational research. They are neither my opinions nor intuitive thoughts. Pedagogy is the science of education. These suggestions come from empirical pedagogical research and enjoy a measure of scientific certitude.

  1. Adults should be active in parent associations. Vibrant parent associations are in indicator of excellence for a school. Do not just join. Do not just pay dues. Get active. Make a difference.
  2. Adolescents should participate in student activities. This does not mean just sports. It includes all manner of student clubs such as speech, drama, student government, art and music.
  3. Families should eat dinner together. They should shut off the television. They should put down the smart phone. They should talk with one another. 

If, and only if, adults join parent association, adolescents participate in student activities, and families eat dinner together, we can have social capital. Social capital is the quality of the families who send their adolescents to sit next to our adolescents in the Student Cafeteria.  We rise and fall to the level of our peer group. We want our adolescents to belong to peer groups of friends from functional families with similar values to our family. Social capital is the single greatest determinant of excellence in a school. It is more important than the faculty, the facility and the curriculum.

If, and only if, we have social capital we can enjoy collective efficacy. Efficacy is the ability to get things done. If we have collective efficacy, we can shape the future in our Axial Age.

Editor’s note: Dr. Lordan also is a member of the Dominican Laity.

Faculty Focus: August 2019

Getting to know Science Instructor and alumna Elizabeth Timmons ’04, who is entering her ninth year of teaching at Fenwick.

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Ms. Timmons spends a big chunk of her summer down in the Friars’ pool, coordinating swimming lessons for the Oak Park community.

What is your educational background?

I have a B.S. in Environmental Science with minors in Spanish and Anthropology from Santa Clara University. I also have a MAT degree in Chemistry from Dominican University.

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

I completed several outdoor education internships that included working at a National Wildlife Refuge in CA, an outdoor education center in Northern Michigan (through the winter!) and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in Dundee, IL. I also subbed in the elementary schools in Forest Park and River Forest while I was getting my Master’s and teaching credentials.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

Sadly, it has been a while since I have read anything other than parenting articles online, but my goal is to finish Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming this summer. We will see how that goes with a one-year-old running around!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

I like to spend time with my family and be outside as much as possible. I love to go to the Morton Arboretum or the zoo, especially with my one-year-old. I love to swim and play water polo, even though I know I’m not very fast these days.

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

I was a member of the Varsity Swimming and Water Polo teams. I was also a member of NHS.

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

I am the moderator of the Environmental Club and I have been involved in the all of the Aquatics programs in various ways over the years.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

The quality that most stands out to me in our Fenwick students is their resourcefulness. Our students here are very ambitious and constantly looking to successfully meet objectives and expectations. They will find extra resources when they need them and are willing to put in the hard work required to excel in the classroom.

Fenwick students also look out for each other. The Fenwick Community is a place that is always welcoming, regardless of how long ago you were a student. The Fenwick Community is strong, and I have always felt that we pull together to celebrate the triumphs and work through the trials. The statement, “Once a Friar, Always a Friar” is definitely true.

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

I like to say that I went into the family business, but I guess that’s not technically correct since we don’t own a school or anything. Both of my parents were teachers, so I got to see some incredible examples of what it means to be passionate about what you are doing every day while I was growing up. My dad [Hall of Famer the late Dave Perry] taught at Fenwick and my mom taught at Morton East for most of their careers. I started babysitting, teaching swim lessons and coaching at a young age, so I always wanted to teach in some form. As things worked out, I made my way back home and am now enjoying teaching at Fenwick.

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

I have a desire to see those around me happy and successful. I work really hard to make my class a place where each student can experience successes that they can be proud of, even if they are not going to continue to study chemistry.

I am also a perfectionist, so I work really hard to foresee issues that might arise before they happen and try to do whatever I can to prevent those issues. This can definitely work against me, though, as I can get stressed when things don’t go according to my plan. Having a one-year-old is definitely helping me decrease my perfectionist ways and the stress I allow this to have in my life, because nothing ever goes according to my plan these days!

What are your favorite classes to teach?

I have loved teaching chemistry at the CP (college prep) and Honors levels for the past eight years. I have learned so much from my students and love to see how far they come during the course of the year. That being said, I am really excited to take on the new adventure of teaching AP Environmental Science this year. I majored in Environmental Science and it has always been my greatest passion (with Chemistry a close second) so I can’t wait to start this new journey with my students.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

My biggest successes are always when I get to witness that ‘ah-ha’ moment in my students. This is especially cool for students who have been struggling through a topic and then it just clicks all of a sudden. I also love to see the transition for a student who comes into my class and doesn’t really enjoy science, but leaves wanting to study more science. Those are the most powerful experiences in teaching for me.

What challenges face students today?

The ease at which they can get information. Google is an amazing thing, but sometimes it takes the work out of doing research and, if we are not careful, we might stumble upon information that is not peer reviewed or is based on opinions/emotions instead of facts. We must always remember to have a critical eye when researching and make sure there is enough evidence provided. In addition, we must remember that the most important things are the ones worth working for, so push through when the going gets tough!

MEET MORE FENWICK FACULTY MEMBERS!

Collegiate Friars: July 2019

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OLIVIA EVANS

Fenwick Graduation: 2018
Hometown: La Grange, IL
Grade School: St. John’s Lutheran
Current School: The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Current Major: Animal Science (Pre-Vet)

Summer Internship: I do not have a formal internship through the university this summer, but I work as a groom for a few Argentine polo pros. I gain experience through working with the horses as well as by assisting the vet when the horses need treatment. I am also involved in a biomedical research lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This lab work will extend through my entire undergraduate schooling.

Career aspirations: I aspire to go to go to vet school.

Fenwick achievements/activities: I was a member of the National Honors Society, Tri-M Honors Society, Friar Mentors, was an Illinois State Scholar, a Eucharistic minister and was on the State Team for WYSE. I also ran track for three years and was in choir for four years.

Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Mr. Kleinhans had the most influence on me. I learned a great deal in his physics class, but most of all I learned from his example as a role model, teacher, mentor and WYSE coach. Some of my favorite class memories are from his “feel good Fridays” where he connected life experience to prayer and the importance of being a genuine person while working hard and enjoying life.

Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: AP Biology with Mr. Wnek was one of my many favorite classes. Mr. Wnek is a fantastic teacher, and what I learned set me up for success in college biology and other lab work.

Fenwick experience you would like to live again: I would relive the whole experience. From classes, sports and clubs, to friends, I had a great experience at Fenwick. I am extremely grateful for the community and for the way it set me up for success in college and in the future. I am thankful for the relationships I formed with teachers and the way that impacted my growth as a student and as a person.

Fenwick experience that changed you the most: My entire time at Fenwick changed me. Living by four pillars — community, service, spirituality and study — set the atmosphere for success and encouraged me to be my best self. I will never take for granted the opportunity and special community at Fenwick.

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JAKARIE GATES

Fenwick Graduation: 2016
Hometown: Chicago
Grade School: St. Malachy
Current School: Morehouse College (Atlanta)
Current Major: English
Summer Internship: Steans Family Foundation – North Lawndale Reads
Career Aspirations: Public Relation Specialist/Social Media Manager

Fenwick achievements/activities: Honor Roll, Poetry Club, Kairos Leader, Kairos Rector

Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: The teacher who had the most influence on me was Raymond Kotty. I never had a class with him, but every week after school of my sophomore year he would help me study for my math tests. If my grades slipped I risked losing my scholarship, but Mr. Kotty made sure that never happened. I was beyond insecure in my ability to comprehend certain concepts, but he saw something in me I did not see in myself. Mr. Kotty helped make me feel like I belonged at Fenwick.

Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: Mr. O’Connor’s English Class my senior year had the most influence on me. He was a tough grader and even gave me an F on a project for not citing my sources correctly. At the time I was really upset, but it was the greatest thing he could have done for me. His class taught me how to think critically and was the foundation of my passion for English literature.

Best Fenwick experience: My best Fenwick experience was the day I was sick in Spanish class. My teacher was writing notes on the board, and I was taking notes in my notebook. I asked to go to the nurse’s office and the teacher said, ‘After you finish taking notes.’ My classmate, Abbey Nowicki, saw me struggling and took my notebook from me and said, ‘I will take your notes for you. Go to the nurse’s office.’ When I came back after the bell, my notebook was on my desk and it had all the notes written in the notebook. It was the sweetest gesture anybody had done for me at Fenwick. It always stuck with me. 

Fenwick experience that changed you the most: The experience that changed me the most at Fenwick was Kairos. It taught me not to take the important things in life for granted: love and appreciation. Kairos made me appreciate time more.

MORE COLLEGIATE FRIARS

What a Father Means to Me

In a post-Father’s Day reflection, a Fenwick senior remembers his late father – and thanks his big brother.

Fenwick soon-to-be senior Patrick Feldmeier wrote this essay for the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Patrick was honored, along with his older brother, Danny (Class of 2018), on June 6 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

“One, two, three: Hi Daddy, we love you and we miss you.” (Mom always adds, ‘You’re in my heart, Sweetie.’)

Patrick (left) and Danny Feldmeier with their Dad, Bob, before his untimely death seven years ago.

These are the words my family says after grace every time we sit down for dinner. And simultaneously look at the open seat at the head of the table. Our hearts yearn for the man that God called up to Heaven seven years ago: Dad. It sends a shiver up my spine saying the word out loud, yet his presence still resonates in my family.

Every once in a while, his cologne can be smelled from his closet. His faded blue Ralph Lauren hat still hangs on the wall in my mom’s bedroom. His 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee may have finally been towed, but his K-Swiss “dad shoes” rest untouched in our mudroom. To say that Bob Feldmeier is a role model to me is an absolute understatement. Words will never express how much I miss him; how much I need him in my life; or how much I love him. Through my actions, I attempt to be like him every day.

Their father’s faded cap and “dad shoes” still can be found in the Feldmeier’s Western Springs home.

As a partner at Schiff Hardin, long hours seemed to swallow his work-week. Yet, somehow, someway, he always had time to play catch or take us to watch a White Sox game. After little-league games, my dad would take my brother and me out to “men’s dinners,” where he would teach us lessons such as, “It’s ok to admit it is cold, but it is not manly to complain about the cold.” He was also an avid Notre Dame alumnus and taught us the essence of hard work. The impression he left on me is what is most important. Through watching the way he treated my mom, my siblings and me, and kept God as a focal point in his life, I truly learned what it meant to be a father. His etiquette, manners and gentlemanliness are values I strive to model because I want my children to look up at me the way I look up to my Dad.

My father’s ultimate goal was for his family to live a life like his, which includes strong family bonds and an excellent, Catholic education. He continued to set an example of how to be a father and how to find strength through tragedy by protecting us until the very end.

Dad’s Gift of Peace

Robert Feldmeier
(1965-2012)

When he was first diagnosed with melanoma, he told my mother, “Do not tell the kids about my disease. I want to give them the gift of peace.” He truly was the perfect role model for a dad. It was more important to him to keep us happy and successful in life than for us to crumble under fear. His ultimate goal was for his family to live a life like his. Instead of succumbing to anger after his death, I honored his memory by achieving goals and setting the bar high for myself. I aspire to attend the University of Notre Dame, like him, and to provide for my family the same way that he did. His spirit lives on in my heart every day, and every day I thank God for one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me: my Dad. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from my Dad was that a man is not solely defined by his career and accomplishments, but by his display of love to his family. Perhaps that was why he was able to stay strong during his last days, because he truly had reached his ultimate goal of success in life: to love and be loved by his family.

After my Dad passed away from melanoma, great responsibility fell on my mother’s shoulders. With three children still in grade school and one daughter in high school, my mom devoted her time to making sure we would stay on track.

Dan the Man

College sophomore Danny Feldmeier ’18 is an Evans Scholar at the University of Notre Dame.

Being the youngest, and only in fourth grade at the time, I desperately needed another father figure in my life. This was when my brother, Danny, stepped up to be the man of the house. He may only be two years older than me, but after watching the way our father raised us, Danny knew exactly how to be a father figure. He raised me to act like a man — more specifically, to act like our Dad. When Danny entered his freshman year last year at the University of Notre Dame, it was my turn to be the man of the house.

To answer the question, what does a father mean to me? A true father is one that can be depended on in times of sorrow and in times of joy. My Dad taught me everything I need to be a man and a good father in the future by the way he loved his family. Due to the lessons learned from my Dad during our time together, and my brother’s ability to fill his shoes, my Dad and brother ideally exemplify what a father means to me.

About the Author

Pat Feldmeier ’20

Patrick Feldmeier is entering his senior year at Fenwick High School, where he is an Honor Roll/National Honor Society student and president of the Class of 2020. “Feldie” also plays on the Friars’ football team (he is a tight end) and rugby team. He lives in Western Springs, IL (St. John of the Cross Parish & School) and is hoping for acceptance this coming fall into the University of Notre Dame, where his Dad went and his Evans Scholar brother, Danny ’18, will be a sophomore. Their older sisters, Kelsey ’14 and Meghan ’16, also are proud Friars. Kelsey is an alumna of ND (Class of 2018; CPA ’19), and Meghan is on pace to graduate from Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana) next spring.

A Mother’s Legacy of Caring

A Fenwick alumna’s post-Mother’s Day reflection on how being a good neighbor means loving your neighbor as yourself.

By Quiwana Reed Bell ’96

The author’s mother, Jacqueline Reed, founded the Westside Health Authority in 1990.

I was born the snowy winter of 1979 in Maywood, Illinois, to Jacqueline and Ronald Reed. My father, Ronnie, was born and raised a tough bi-racial kid from the west side of Chicago, near Pulaski and Roosevelt. My father never knew his mother.

My mother, Jackie, was born and raised in 1950 Natchez, Mississippi — a famous plantation town near the ports where slave-produced cotton and sugar cane was once exported. She is the oldest of seven children and grew up on family-owned land that also included homes for her grandparents (both paternal and maternal), aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors, who were like family. Her father, Oliver, was a handyman and janitor with a stuttering problem and a heart of gold; and her mother, Josephine, was a stern yet dignified seamstress who also worked for more than 20 years at the pecan factory. Her family of nine lived in a two-bedroom/one-bathroom house. They went to church on Sundays. They socialized and cared for each other. They didn’t have much but never felt poor. They were a community. And they were happy. 

Natchez, Mississippi, is about 850 miles south of Chicago.

My mother left Mississippi after high school, after having a child out of wedlock with a man who was unwilling to marry. She came to Chicago in the summer of 1969 to visit her Aunt Mavis, her dad’s older sister. She lived on 13th and Pulaski in a brick two-flat building on the west side of Chicago. Aunt Mavis had 10 children of her own with her entrepreneur husband Ed, who ran an auto mechanic shop. Although they owned the entire building, they lived in only one of the units which had two bedrooms, one bathroom and a back sun porch. Ten kids, two parents and now visiting cousin Jackie from Mississippi all in one unit. The block was lively. People sat on their stoops in the evenings for entertainment. The kids would play loudly up and down the streets.  Neighbors knew each other; supported each other; fought and gossiped about each other. It was a family. A community. And they were happy. 

During her summer-time visit, Jackie met Ronnie, who was a friend of her cousin Roger. They quickly fell in love and married only three months after meeting on February 14, 1970.  Jackie never returned to Mississippi to live. In Mississippi still was her infant son, Derek. He had stayed with her family while she traveled to Chicago. This was not a big deal. The family was seen as a unit. Jackie’s son Derek was not her property, but a member of a larger family unit where everyone contributes, supports and belongs.

Sharing brings happiness

This was a sentiment taught to my mother very early on in her childhood. She was born in segregated Mississippi where black people were still forced to live separately. This separation, however, was not all bad. Black communities had viable businesses — bakeries, dentist offices and insurance companies. It was a community where people looked out for one another. I would often hear stories of how if one person on the block killed a cow, then everyone on the block would have meat. Similarly, during my summers that I spent in Natchez, MS, I would often hear my grandmother say, “Go run this pot of greens that I picked and cooked over to Ms. ‘So and So’s house.” It was natural to share. It was natural to help others. It brought happiness. My mom never felt poor. She didn’t have a lot of fear and anxiety. Her family lived in peace. Even amid all the stuff going on in the world — they were shielded in “their community.”

A riverboat lights up the Mighty Mississippi near Vidalia, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi.

Black folks have always had to be communal with each other in America in order to survive: 

  • We had to help each other as we were packed like cargo at the bottom of slave ships.
  • We had to help each other as we sang songs together in the long days in the hot cotton fields in Mississippi.
  • We had to help each other as we navigated our way through lynching and rape and beatings.
  • We had to support each other in demonstrations and boycotts fighting for equal rights.
  • We had to support each other through redlining/housing and employment discrimination.

Today we still have to support each other through families being ripped apart as a result of mass incarceration, disinvestment of neighborhood schools and economic opportunity, and the resulting crime that plagues our communities.

One of Quiwana’s older brothers, Morris, graduated from Fenwick in 1992.

Jackie and Ronnie had three more children together: Ron Jr., Morris (Fenwick Class of 1992), and me. They left the West side of Chicago in 1978 and moved to Maywood. Ronnie found work as an engineer on the railroad and later as a CTA bus driver. Jackie completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois – Chicago in social work. She worked for several agencies, including Lutheran Family Services and Bethel New Life. She was even awarded Illinois Social Worker of year in 1986 by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. In 1990, on full scholarship she received her Master’s Degree from the prestigious School of Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago.

Give your gift

Working at social service agencies like Bethel New Life, Lutheran Family Services and Westside Holistic Family Center taught my mom an important lesson: People are empowered when they are allowed to identify and give their gift away to benefit the whole. Too many times in social services, well-intending providers victimize people. When the social program is over, many people are in worst shape than before.

Jackie Reed

Growing up in Mississippi, there was no welfare for my mother’s family to depend on. People had to depend on each other. In Chicago she noticed that, although people seemed to have “more,” they felt more deprived and hopeless than the people down south. She also recognized that people are happier when they are allowed to give whatever little bit they do have, back to help somebody else. This is also what builds strong, sustainable communities.

Oftentimes in low-income communities, people are fed the narrative that they live in a bad or undesirable neighborhood — even though most of these communities sit on very valuable real estate. In 1990, at the height of some of the most violent days in Chicago, my mom came up with the organizing strategy “Every Block a Village” (EBV) and sought to understand what it takes to create a village-like atmosphere on a block-by-block basis in the Austin community on the west side of Chicago. This premise comes from the African Proverb: “It takes a Village to Raise a Child.”   

“It takes a Village to Raise a Child.”   

African Proverb

Grassroots rooted in Mississippi

Westside Health Authority
COO Quiwana Reed ’96.

While outside university researchers and sociologists were busy studying violence-reduction strategies from across the country, compiling “data” and studying the issue, my mom decided not to focus on the deficiencies but rather to focus on what assets existed in the community and how to leverage those assets to bring about sustainable change. Understanding that the solutions and the resources largely already existed on these blocks, my mom sought to organize networks of resident support, block-by-block.  In the summer of 1990, she started the Westside Health Authority, under the premise that the community was the “authority” on what was and how to create a healthy community.

With a team of three volunteer organizers, she went house to house on 68 blocks and established the EBV network. Each block identified a “citizen leader” to address the concerns and solutions for the block and represented the block in council and strategy meetings with other resident leaders. This strategy took off like wild fire. Residents were so engaged and inspired by the wins they saw on their individual blocks that they started to believe that they could do even bigger things together — like building a new health clinic to serve their own neighborhood so they could stop traveling to health clinics farther away.

The Austin Wellness Center opened its doors 15 years ago.

They were successful.  In 2004, resident leaders saw the erection of the Austin Wellness Center, which was a brand new, state-of-the-art health and wellness center built on the grounds of a vacant parking lot on Chicago and Cicero Avenues. This $7.4 million center was built with 85% minority contractors and was seeded from monies raised by those same neighbors that were organized under EBV.

In 2016, the EBV model morphed into the Good Neighbor Campaign, which is different from other violence-prevention models. The Good Neighbor Campaign seeks to connect like-minded residents in civic-engagement strategies that allow them to be able to use their gifts and skill sets to make a difference in an environment they can immediately effect — namely, their own blocks. Unlike many other social-service initiatives, the mission of the Good Neighbor Campaign is not to provide programs and services to deficient community members, but to seek out and identify the gifts and talents that already exist on our blocks and to support and leverage those gifts/talents/skill-sets to allow others to support each other.

The Good Neighbor Campaign got rolling three years ago.

Since launching in October 2016, the Good Neighbor Campaign has connected with more than 600 residents from 31 blocks. Volunteers/organizers have provided support on eight troubled blocks, including:

  1. assisting residents with establishing block clubs;
  2. sponsoring an eight-team baseball league for 9- to 13-year-olds in conjunction with the 15th District Police at Columbus Park;
  3. holding more than 30 block canvassing/interventions response to violence and or potential violence and to stave off retaliation;
  4. providing reward incentives for the capture of shooters;
  5. providing weekly service, education and recreational activities for youth, seniors citizens and men in the community;
  6. providing coordination of resources for residents in need in the community;
  7. assisting residents in securing troubled vacant property;
  8. improving the narrative of the community with art projects and cultural events that evoke community pride;
  9. publishing weekly Good Neighbor News. Austin residents communicate with one another through established social media pages and a text-alert system, allowing for a coordination of support and service opportunities. 
Today, Morris Reed ’92 is chief executive officer of Westside Health Authority.

Our mom retired from Westside Health Authority in 2011, leaving my brother/CEO Morris, and myself to manage operations. Today WHA employs 38 full-time staff and nearly 150 part-time/contractors in fostering health and wellness activities in the Austin community serving more than 20,000 people annually. Although retired, she now serves as a Good Neighbor volunteer and team lead for the Good Neighbor Women’s Group.

What she has planted in me and my brother is a legacy of service built out of love. Together, we are all better. The greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself; in that is where you find lasting peace and true fulfillment.    

WHA on Facebook.

Good Neighbor Campaign Austin on Facebook.

Good Neighbor Meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at 5437 W. Division Street, Chicago 60651. (773) 378-1878

About the Author

Qui Reed Bell is Westside Health’s COO.

Quiwana Reed Bell is chief operating officer of Westside Health Authority. Under her leadership, WHA become an organization that serves more than 25,000 residents annually through grassroots community organizing, youth development, and re-entry and employment services for the residents of Chicago and Cook County. With her vision WHA has grown to also serve as an economic development engine in the Austin community with commercial and residential real estate development projects that have provided restoration to long-time blighted areas while securing millions in contracts to local contractors over the past nine years.  In 2011, Quiwana and Morris Reed were integral in negotiating a community-benefits agreement with US Bank and secured over $2 million in support of community restoration projects in the areas of East and West Garfield Park, Austin, North Lawndale and Maywood.

“Qui” is a member of Fenwick’s first co-ed graduating class in 1996.

Faculty Focus: Science Teacher Mr. Tom Draski

Science Teacher Tom Draski retired earlier in June. The biology fanatic, tennis coach and longtime Catholic Leaguer has spent the last 21 years of his career in education at Fenwick.

190412_Tom_draski_0014_sm

What is your educational background?

TD: I have a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences [from Southern Illinois University] and a master of science degree in biology [from Chicago State University].

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

TD: I have always been a teacher and coach. I began my teaching/coaching career at St. Laurence H.S. where I taught biology and human anatomy/physiology. I started as the frosh/soph boys’ tennis coach and six years later became the varsity boys’ tennis coach. I came to Fenwick in 1998 where I have taught amazing students in biology and human anatomy/physiology. I have had the pleasure to coach both the boys and girls’ frosh/soph tennis teams. I was the Varsity Scholastic Bowl coach at Fenwick from 1999 to 2011. I have coordinated the Fenwick Quetico trip and the Fenwick Willis Tower stair walk fundraiser.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

TD: I tend to do more reading in the summer. The books I have read in the last few summers that I have enjoyed have been The Devil in the White City, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Shack, Mrs. Magrady’s book Lines and The Alchemist.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

TD: I love to do things outside. I enjoy gardening, camping, visiting state and national parks, and playing tennis. I also enjoy the creativity of cooking. I never use recipes.

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

TD: As a student at De La Salle, I was involved in intramurals, the camera club, student government and, naturally, the Science Club.

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

TD: I have for 21 years, and still, coach the girls and boys’ frosh/soph tennis teams. Each year they provide excitement and great satisfaction. I have been able to bring the Quetico trip experience to Fenwick. Over the years I have taken hundreds of Friars to experience true nature.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

TD: I have been so impressed with Fenwick students. They strive for excellence in the class and in athletic competition. Students learn the great traditions of Fenwick. I have enjoyed my time with Fenwick students who are friendly, teachable and receptive to change.

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

TD: Interestingly, a freshman in one of my classes asked that question a few months ago. My reply was that I thought teaching would be fun. There was no follow up question to my answer. Later, I relayed this story to Mr. Groom. He asked me the right follow up question. “Has it been fun?” My answer was a big “YES.” I have always enjoyed the stimulation of teaching in the class, in the labs, and on the tennis courts. I still do. When students and athletes can see you have a love and passion for what you do they respond with the effort they need for success. If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life. Teaching and coaching have been magic.

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

TD: I love to get excited for every topic I teach and coach and show passion in my teaching. Every class, every year, has been a chance to teach and coach a new story, to an inquisitive audience. Some days have been diamonds, some days have been stones. I strive to be fair, and teach for success.

What is your favorite class to teach?

TD: Definitely biology! It is what our lives are about. I want my students to understand they are citizens and stewards of our planet. We can control our health and affect the health of others around us. I hope my students understand that we are not alone on our planet, but together we make up a beautiful tapestry of life.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

TD: When my students have experienced success when I encouraged them to think. I ask many questions in class as I teach. The answers to those questions are not as important as having my students think about possible answers. My students should not be afraid of a wrong answer, as they should know they can learn with a right or wrong answer. I encourage my students to reach conclusions on their own, then they can experience success on their own. I love and appreciate the personal notes I have gotten from students and athletes over the years. Whenever I read them, they inspire me and remind me of my humanity.

What challenges face students today?

TD: I believe my students face a challenge and crisis involving technology. I hope they can find a balance between the benefits of information and the potential negativity of social media. They need to not lose the value and importance of interpersonal communication skills. They need not be afraid to have a willingness to lead rather than follow. They should never be reluctant to challenge themselves.

Since you are retiring from teaching this year, are there any thoughts or words you would like to share with the Fenwick community?

TD: Over the years, I have met amazing students, wonderful parents and caring faculty. Being able to work with two of my closest friends, Mr. Arellano and Mr. Sullivan, has been a thrill. I appreciate all the support and help I have gotten from the parents of my tennis teams and parents of my students. Being able to teach and coach girls after spending decades at an all-boys school has been a highlight of my teaching and coaching career.

I have shared with various groups what I think are the most important seven words we can say. Use them often in your life. I share them now with you. “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for any time that I have wronged you. “Thank you.” Thank you all for the wonderful memories you have given me about Fenwick and its community. “I love you.” I love you all for making my life such a happy one. And from my favorite poem, “The Winner:” “… sooner or later the person who wins, is the person who thinks they can.”

READ ABOUT OTHER FACULTY MEMBERS

Catching Up with Former English Teacher Peter Bostock

Retired for more than 10 years now, Dr. B looks back with fondness at the three decades he spent at Fenwick.

Peter_Bostock_1

Dr. Bostock and his wife in Sorrento, Italy.

DHow many years were you at Fenwick (and when)?

I was at Fenwick from 1979 until 2008: 29 years. When I arrived at the hallowed halls I thought I’d dropped into heaven (compared to the previous two years of my teaching life).

What was your role / what classes did you teach?

I was assigned to teach freshman English in ’79. Mr Duane Langenderfer (‘Derf’) and I shared the freshman English between us: four classes each in Room 1 with about 30 students in each class. The emphasis was on grammar, writing and English literature.

Much to my disappointment, the Head of the English Department assigned me to teach two sophomore and two senior classes the following year. I was disappointed because I’d had such a wonderful year I figured my ‘heaven’ would continue with freshmen. (Ah, man proposes and God disposes!)

From then until my retirement I was ‘stuck’ with two soph and two senior classes; those two latter eventually becoming two AP sections of English. However, for several years after Fr. Landmesser’s retirement I was Head of Department, so I can blame only myself for my schedule.

Were you involved with any extra-curricular activities? (If so, which ones?)

Meanwhile I was engaged in a variety of extra-curricular activities, the most bizarre of which was when I was asked to run the computer club for a year (in those days computers were few and far between; there were no computer labs in the school, and the so-called ‘club’ had one old Apple C and an old mainframe kind of machine that no one knew how to use. As for the moderator of the club, he/I was totally computer illiterate anyhow.) I think that was in 1985-86.

In ’79-’80 I was the moderator of the Debate Team, another area where I was ‘somewhat’ competent.

Fortunately, Dan O’Brien, Master i/c Athletics and Sports, invited me to start a soccer program in ’81. And my extra-curricular career took off! Much to the chagrin of the head of cross-country, [as] almost all his runners opted to play soccer. So Fenwick had a varsity soccer team; we didn’t belong to the Catholic League, so all our games were ‘friendlies.’ We tied one game and lost all the others. But we had fun. In year two a volleyball coach was assigned to help me with the program, and we joined the League. I think we won one game and tied another, so we made huge progress.

Then Fr. Bernacki allowed me to give up extra-curriculars so I could write a dissertation for my PhD (Fordham University had informed me that I had to write a diss or ‘get lost.’ So I wrote.) Thereafter (’82 thru 2008) I became a jack of all trades: back to frosh soccer for a while, several years moderating the year book, several the student newspaper, and finally girls’ frosh soccer. To say I had a blast would be an understatement. The many girls and boys with whom I was lucky enough to come in contact graced my life in ways that they will never know. But I thank God and Fenwick for the privilege of having been with them and known them.

For a couple of years in the early ’80’s I organized the Easter UK literary jaunt, staying in London, Bath and Banbury. A good time was had by all. And I hope we appreciated the historical and literary sights and sites.

How do you describe the Fenwick Community to other people?

Talking with others, including former students, Friars I meet who were at Fenwick years before I arrived, I always mention the ‘aura’ of the place. It’s the feeling that the Dominican Order, the teachers, the students and the parents have created over the years. It’s not simply one element. It’s an awareness that all at Fenwick have: we may not be able to pin it down in words, but it’s a kind of excellence of spirit — intellectual, athletic and spiritual.

What do you miss (most) about Fenwick?

I miss learning; MY learning. I learned much from my students. A small example: one day we were reading Hamlet in class, the students taking the actors’ parts. A female student reading the part of Gertrude emphasized a line of her speech in a way that shed a completely new light on Gertrude’s character. It was an insight I had not witnessed in any of the famous dramatizations I’d ever seen (not even in the play directed by Derek Jacobi and starring Kenneth Branagh in the title role that I saw in Manchester; Jacobi was in the audience four seats to my left). I forget the name of the student, I forget the line, but I have never forgotten the experience.

I also miss reading English literature. In 10 years of retirement I find that I’ve taken to reading a lot of science and mathematics: The Calculus Diaries, Fermat’s Last Theorem, Six Easy Pieces, In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat, The Fly in the Cathedral, The Emperor’s New Mind, etc. I’ve just gone where my interests have taken me, and I suppose after 49 years of reading ‘literature’ my mind needed a break from poetry and fiction. But I do miss Keats, and Chaucer, and Bill.

Funniest Fenwick moment?

I was coaching the frosh girls’ soccer team at the Priory. The field was sodden, it was raining and I attempted to show the players how to chip the ball. Only wearing smooth sneakers, I took a quick run at the ball and landed flat on my back in the mud. Girls rushed forward to ask ‘Are you okay, coach?’ Of course I was okay. But later going over the incident in my mind, I thought, ‘If that had been the frosh boys’ soccer team, they’d have stood there giggling at me.’

Fondest Fenwick moment?

At the final Commencement in 2008 when Dr. Quaid announced my retirement, the whole senior graduating class rose to their feet applauding. Sitting among them, I was shocked, amazed, surprised, flabbergasted, not to say embarrassed. But it was a fine feeling to be honored thus.

Do you have any words of wisdom for current students?

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero = “Be the best you can be;” all the rest is fruh.

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

Far be it from me to preach, but … teaching is the process of opening minds, not (force) feeding them.

And Fenwick is a Christian institution, so follow Christ’s rules: Love God and love your neighbo(u)r. Period. Shibboleths from the Old Testament should have no part in a Christian community.

What are you doing now? How do you spend your time?

Good question. Nothing. I’m trying to do nothing, and I’m becoming very adept at it. Other than that, I try to ride my bike about 15 miles daily in the forest preserves that surround us here in Wheaton. And as a member of Morton Arboretum I can cycle there, though the “hills” are a real challenge to my beer belly. Our local church has a cycling group called the Holy Spokes and I ride with them every Saturday in summer (Chicago weather permitting) — about 20 miles.

Bostock_canoe

Dr. B (left) canoeing with a friend last summer on the Kishwaukee River.

DI obviously read, not a lot. But we do attend the monthly lectures at Fermi Lab (a couple of miles down the road), which delve into the more arcane aspects of quantum physics and science in general. Much of the science is “above my head,” but I like the challenge to think (especially outside the box).

We have memberships to the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble (they perform on the stage at the College of DuPage where we go with Pat Foys, who also used to teach at Fenwick, though for only a few years); to the Chicago Symphony (we joined them on the picket line a couple of weeks ago and shook hands with Maestro Muti, my Italian/American wife’s hero); and to the Chicago Art Institute. And I’m a fanatic Manchester City fan (which many of my former students know, having bought for me a Man City poster when they were in London with Mr. Finnell in ’08), so have been able to watch them play on the telly these last few years. Needless to say “sky blue” is my favo(u)rite colo(u)r. Coz God made the sky, right?

So, I guess I’m busier than I thought. “Ciao” to all my former students, players, Friars. I miss you, though I do have some contacts on Facebook or via email. And remember, if you meet me in a bar, the first ‘pint’ is on me (as the Brits say).

PS – The original meaning of fond, English scholars? Don’t tell me you don’t remember!