Editor’s note: Monday, January 28, is the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Catholic Church and patron of students.
Readers interested in exploring the excellent videos of Bishop Robert Barron, the recipient of the Lumen Tranquillum Award from Fenwick High School this year, might start with the short presentation he gives on the man he describes as his hero: St. Thomas Aquinas. The bishop explains how it was at Fenwick, when he was 14 years old, that a theology teacher first introduced him to St. Thomas Aquinas. He describes it as a “bell-ringer” event and goes on to explain how it changed the course of his life. He seems to suggest that this seminal moment led him, through the grace of God, into the priesthood.
Besides his description of the encounter in his freshman theology class, there is another deep Fenwick link in Barron’s explanation of Aquinas. He lists three ideas, which he believes characterize the thought and teaching of Thomas. It is interesting to note how closely the three themes he describes resemble three main ideas characteristic of a Fenwick education. Many high schools talk about the “grad at grad,” or what a graduate will know and be. I would suggest that these three concepts, reflective of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, might be a good description of a Fenwick student after four years on Washington Boulevard.
Bishop Barron first explains in the video that Aquinas believed there was one truth. He explains that people of Thomas’s time (we might note of our time as well) often thought there were two truths — scientific and religious. Aquinas refused to accept that. He knew that there could be only one truth. If science and religion seemed to be in conflict, there was a problem in either the scientific or the theological method. More thought and study were required.
‘Dominicans are not afraid of reason; we embrace it.’
At Fenwick, we sometimes express this same idea as, “Don’t leave your brain at the door of the church (or the theology classroom.)” It is a characteristic of Dominican education to apply rigorous study and thought to every aspect of our education, including our religious belief. We are not afraid of reason; we embrace it. We are convinced that reason and critical examination will lead to the Creator, not contradict creation.
And so we teach Fenwick students to question, to wonder, and to apply the lessons they learn from science and philosophy to their faith. Bishop Barron reassures us that Aquinas had no fear of reason. Neither should we.
Secondly, Barron describes the Thomistic understanding that we are contingent beings. This is a fancy way of saying that we depend on something else for our existence. That thing that is the First Cause, what does not depend on anything else for its existence, is what we call God. It was this explanation of the Proofs of the Existence of God that first rang the bell of 14-year-old Bob Barron. [A Western Springs resident, he transferred to Benet Academy in Lisle.]
I often say to myself, “There is a God and it is not me.” When we recognize that we are dependent on a power beyond ourselves (12-step programs would call it a Higher Power,) we are on the path to faith. We begin this journey with the destruction of self-centeredness and ego. Christian theology calls it “death to self.” In the gospel of John, Jesus tells us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces great fruit.”
Fennwick High School received an early Christmas present in mid-December: a gift from an anonymous donor in the amount of $3 million cash! “This is the first leadership gift toward the second phase of our Centennial Campaign,” praises President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. “The money will be used to help construct the Centennial addition,” Father Peddicord explains, “and the new dining hall will be named for alumnus Arthur Dalton, Jr., who was a proud member of the Friars’ Class of 1942.” Mr. Dalton passed away in 2003 at age 80.
Who was Art Dalton? According to the ’42 Blackfriars yearbook, he was a member of St. Eulalia Parish in Maywood, IL. A versatile student-athlete in high school, Art participated in basketball, boxing and track for three of his four years at Fenwick; he played tennis (doubles) as a junior and senior and tried football and track as a freshman. He also wrote for The Wick student newspaper as a junior and was a member of the Pan-American Club as a senior.
Later in life, Mr. Dalton became a resident of Western Springs, IL. He was a husband and family man: married to Regina (nee Frawley) for 56 years; the couple had four children — Thomas, Cathie, Nancy and Daniel. The latter, a medical doctor, is a parent of three Fenwick graduates: Ryan ’03, Kyle ’05 and Katie ’06. (Art’s younger brother, Ray, also was a Friar: Class of ’44.)
Professionally, Art Dalton was president of Park Corp. of Barrington, IL, and executive vice president of Jewel Food Stores. Civically, he was Chairman of the Board at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, IL, and chairman of the Westlake Health Foundation. In his spare time, Dalton also was an avid golfer, with memberships at La Grange Country Club and the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
This $3 million gift made in honor of Dalton matches the largest gift in school history. The new Arthur T. Dalton, Jr. ’42 Dining Hall (see artist’s rendering, below) will be housed within the proposed Centennial Building addition. The new building is estimated to be a $25-million construction initiative that will dramatically expand and enhance the facilities at Fenwick. One of the most visible and beautiful of all spaces within the new building, the dining hall will provide not only a much-needed new dining area and healthier environment for students, but it will also serve as a gathering space for alumni events, board meetings and community social events.
A Fenwick father explains why his highly regarded twin daughters — student-athletes Caroline and Cecilia Jenkins ’19 — are staying put at Fenwick instead of transferring to an elite, East Coast prep school.
By Paul Jenkins ’81
I can’t tell you how I felt when the call came in. I knew it was coming, and yet I hesitated to pick up the phone when I saw the number in my caller ID. One of the country’s premier boarding schools* was calling to offer my twin daughters scholarships for their senior year. Juniors at Fenwick, they needed only to say ‘yes’ to be carried away into the ivy-covered embrace of East Coast privilege.
They’re hockey players, and the head coach at the prep school had been recruiting them for years. We’d been to visit the school several times. The coach had come to watch them play in tournaments around the U.S. and Canada. My wife and I had always said ‘no;’ we couldn’t see sending our youngest off to boarding school.
But the truth is, we all love that school. Imagine Hogwarts, filled with students who open every door; who greet every stranger by looking them in the eye and smiling; who almost uniformly go on to elite schools and then achieve greatness in life. Centuries of intellectual and athletic prowess seem to cling to the old stone walls of the place. The list of alumni reads like who’s who of American politics, literature and industry.
And we love the coach. He’s one of the most impressive people we’ve ever known. His athletes and his students adore him. We’d love to have our girls play for him.
I hung up the phone and told them it was official: They’d been tendered an offer and were on their way east. I was proud. I was sort of shocked. I was a little sad. My youngest would be moving away a year early.
But the girls said ‘no.’
They couldn’t hold back their tears. They choked on those tears and it took both of them, together, to say, “We want to stay at Fenwick.” The floodgates opened:
They named teachers they wanted to thank at graduation.
They talked about their teammates — both hockey and water polo — and what they wanted to achieve with them as seniors.
They talked about classmates, coaches, carpools, dances, school plays, lunch-table discussions, the German Club, the Write Place and all the little things they’d be leaving behind if they took the offer.
All of those things, together, are the Fenwick experience.
I didn’t need to ask if they needed time to think about it.
In half-year’s time (God willing) there will be a couple of twin girls who will earn their diplomas with their classmates in the Fenwick class of 2019. Their parents will likely continue to reflect on what might have been, but I don’t think they will. They made a mature, informed decision, and they’ve never looked back.
Fenwick is in their blood.
* The Hill School is a coeducational preparatory boarding school located on a 200-acre campus located approximately 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Annual tuition is $59,050 (for boarding students) for the 2018-19 academic year.
High achievements in academics and athletics have been intertwined at Fenwick for 90 years and counting.
By Ray Wicklander, Jr. ’55
Editor’s note: Mr. Wicklander gave this speech at the Fenwick Athletic Awards ceremony 26 years ago, on November 30, 1992. From Oak Park and Ascension, Ray was a National Honor Society student who played football for four years for the Friars. He also spent two years swimming and on the staff of The Wick.
On a night similar to this, over 60 years ago in the old Morrison Hotel in downtown Chicago, a new upstart high school from Oak Park, called Fenwick, held its first athletic awards night. Over 900 people attended – in the height of the Depression – for two basic reasons:
They were there to give recognition to the accomplishments of the first senior class – with a football record of 6-1 – who established themselves already as a force in the Catholic League.
And to make a statement: that the standard of excellence on which Fenwick was established would always reflect itself in its athletic programs.
That was the beginning of a tradition – one of excellence and leadership that has made Fenwick what it is today.
Historic Night for Female Friars
Tonight we have an equally historic moment. For it is obvious that we are now a new Fenwick, where the Black and White of the Friars is worn by both young women as well as young men. A new tradition of excellence and leadership is beginning right now. And just as at the first athletic awards night, we are here for two reasons: to recognize the accomplishments of these athletes and to make a statement that the new Fenwick is committed to excellence and leadership in our sports.
We know that sports are not the only thing that makes a school great. None of you came to Fenwick only because of its sports program. But Fenwick would not be Fenwick without these programs. In Father Botthof’s words, Fenwick is unabashedly a college preparatory program. But it is also a life preparatory program, where we come to learn the lessons of how to succeed as human beings, as Christians, as parents or spouses or colleagues, no matter what path in life we follow.
Many of the most important lessons do not come from books. Tony Lawless often reminded us: “Don’t let the books get in the way of your education.” It is on the field, on the court, in the pool – it is in competition that we learn to get up if we have been knocked down, where we learn to handle a loss without becoming a loser. It is in competition that we come to be truly honest with ourselves. For we can fool others, even parents and bosses and even some teachers, but we can’t fool our teammates. We learn that with determination and commitment, anything is possible – so the word “limits” really has no meaning.
What It Means to Compete
It is also in competition that we learn that we really don’t do that much on our own, that we need a team and that is what counts. So words like “Loyalty” and “Trust” have a special meaning for athletes. It is in this competition that we form bonds and friendships that are unique and hopefully will last all our lives. These are the lessons, the elements that create the elusive, hard-to-describe reality called School Spirit or Tradition. And it is this spirit that affects everything around you here at Fenwick.
Most 16-year-olds can’t pronounce the medical term cardiothoracic, let alone know what is means. But last summer, Fenwick student Xonhane Medina ’20 — now a junior — spent two weeks in Northern California as a cardiothoracic intern at Stanford University. (For the record, cardiothoracic surgery is the field of medicine involved in surgical treatment of organs inside the thorax — generally treatment of conditions of the heart and lungs.)
Fenwick Girls’ water polo head coach Jack Wagner has a hard enough time pronouncing Medina’s first name. He affectionately calls her “Shawn.” And anyone who knows the gruff exterior of Wagner knows that Jack doesn’t brag. Here he was, however, bragging about Xonhane – not about her MCAC All-Conference status as a sophomore last season (his Friars took second in state, by the way). He was boasting about this phenomenal internship she orchestrated.
“This kid, she set up her own funding!” he exclaimed.
Due in part to being a huge fan of the “Grey’s Anatomy” TV series when she was younger, Ms. Medina was interested in doing some type of a medical-related internship. She began her search online. Her cousin’s fiancée is a pediatric surgeon at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, so Stanford was on her proverbial radar. A similar opportunity at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, also had captured her attention.
“I knew they were a reach,” Ms. Medina admits. For one thing, Xonhane knew her family could not afford the $6,500 price tag. Yet, as the late advertising guru Leo Burnett once said: “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” So, Xonhane reached high.
Not knowing how to begin the process, she reached out to Paul Morgan, a director at the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, who became her educational sponsor. Medina is one of the Fenwick students receiving financial aid from the Murphy organization, which for 29 years has been providing high school scholarship assistance and educational support to Chicago students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
She reached higher, next asking for letters of recommendation from Fenwick teachers, including Andy Arellano (speech) and Shana Wang (English) as well as, of course, Wagner, her coach. In early March she received her letter of acceptance. Subsequently, she received $4,000 from the Oak Park-based Farther Foundation. She put that money toward the $3,000 housing fee and air fare. She had enough money left over to buy some Stanford sweaters. “That was literally the only thing I bought,” reveals Medina, who, when she’s not doing homework or working out in the basement pool at Fenwick, works weekends as a cashier downtown at Navy Pier.
The Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center Stanford Summer Internship is designed to educate high school and pre-medical students considering careers in science, medicine and public health in basic and advanced cardiovascular anatomy and physiology as well as medical and surgical techniques that will be used in pre-medical and medical school. In 2018 the two-week experience ran from June 24 – July 7.
The typical morning (9:30 a.m. – 12 noon) was dominated by lectures, according to Medina. Anatomy of the entire body was led by a pair of third-year medical students. Then, discussions on different types of surgeries were led by senior scientist Paul A. Chang, co-founder of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center. She learned that there are two main heart surgeries: 1) valve replacements and 2) coronary artery bypass grafts.
After lunch came four full hours of hands-on, laboratory time. “This was my favorite thing,” Xonhane offers, enthusiastically. Each day, she and her lab partner received a new pig heart on which to slice and clamp. They learned how to use several cardiovascular, surgical instruments, such as:
forceps: a pair of pincers or tweezers used in surgery or in a laboratory.
Debakey forceps: a type of atraumatic tissue forceps used in vascular procedures to avoid tissue damage during manipulation. (They are typically large, and have a distinct coarsely ribbed grip panel, as opposed to the finer ribbing on most other tissue forceps.)
Gerald Tissue Forceps: a light- to intermediate-weight instrument with very narrow tips specifically used to handle delicate tissue. They are often used in cardiothoracic procedures. About seven inches in length with serrated tips, Geralds feature 1 x 2 teeth to securely grasp the tissue, but also have a stop peg to prevent an overly harsh grasp that may crush the tissue.
Mayo: Straight-bladed Mayo scissorsare designed for cutting body tissues near the surface of a wound.
aortic cross-clamps: surgical instruments used in cardiac surgery to clamp the aorta and separate the systemic circulation from the outflow of the heart.
She and her partner even had to apply sutures or stitches to aorta-dissected hearts. “We had competitions [with other interns] to see who could stitch the fastest,” Medina reports. “We also competed to see how fast we could ligate six [blood] vessels on the aorta.” The athlete in Xonhane liked the contests, but the fierce competitor is quick to point out that she came to Fenwick for academics — not for water polo.
As 2018 draws to a close, an alumnus shares his personal story about the importance of all alumni Friars giving back to their beloved high school alma mater.
By Jack Flynn ’51
When I graduated from Fenwick in 1951 and moved on to the University of Notre Dame, I discovered that I was better prepared for college than many of my classmates. I also thought that I was at Fenwick during their Golden Years with almost a complete staff of Dominican priests in every position except athletics.
When my son, Michael, graduated from Fenwick in 1977 and went to Michigan, he also found that he was much more prepared for college than most of his classmates. He also discovered that he had such a wonderful group of Fenwick classmates that it was great to get a job in Chicago and be socially engaged with the same pals he had in high school, plus some from grammar school.
“Young men and women with strong learning skills, faith and discipline can succeed even during these difficult times.” – Fenwick Friar Jack Flynn
Now I have four grandchildren who have graduated from Fenwick and seem to be on a path to do better than the parents or their grandparents. [One grandson presently is a junior.] Young men and women with strong learning skills, faith and discipline can succeed even during these difficult times. It takes great leadership and strong support from alumni and friends to keep Fenwick at the top of its game.
High school is very important in the development of young people, and I would guess that 80% of the students are indebted to Fenwick for a good portion of their success in college – and that carries forward. Close to 100% of the students that were serious about doing well in high school are probably delighted by the outcome.
We should all step forward to support Fenwick with a meaningful gift. Fenwick is not asking you for a great sacrifice, but at least to do something that indicates you feel good about the education you received.
Poet, biographer and Fenwick alumnus Tom Clark ’59 died tragically in mid-August. Mr. Clark, 77, was struck by a motorist while walking in his hometown of Berkeley, CA, on August 17th, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) reported. He died of his injuries the next morning.
Clark was born in Oak Park in 1941. “Many Fenwick men from our class attended Ascension grammar school with Tom. I was among them,” writes Tom Maloney ’59, who resides in Chicago. Mr. Maloney remembers his classmate’s artistic abilities. “No one could draw like Tom Clark,” Maloney recalls. “He was a great artist.”
Writing, however, became Clark’s forte. “He is considered one of America’s finest poets,” Maloney continues. “He was an accomplished and knowledgeable baseball writer. Add to his literary achievements a biography on Jack Kerouac,” the 1950s’ Beat Generation novelist and poet (portrayed at left).
Clark was, indeed, a prolific writer, compiling two dozen collections. He once said that his literary influences came from Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, leaders of the rebellious “Imagist” poetry movement in the 20th century.
He graduated from Fenwick and went on to the University of Michigan, where he was a student of former U.S. Poet Laureate (2006-07) Donald Hall, Jr. Last year before his own death, Hall called Clark “the best student I ever had.”
After earning his under-graduate degree in 1963, Clark became poetry editor of the Paris Review. A glowing recommendation from Hall convinced Editor-in-Chief George Plimpton to hire the then 22-year-old. Fifteen years ago Clark told poetry publication Jacket magazine that his “sole stipulated condition [at the time] was that I be allowed to send out rejection notices to all the poets who’d lately had verse accepted by my immediate predecessor, X.J. Kennedy.” Plimpton embraced the rebel in Clark, who would stay on for 10 years and bring to the Paris Review’s pages the work of so-called New York School poets, including Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest, Amiri Baraka, singer-songwriter Lou Reed and, later, Ron Padgett.
Beatniks in England
While studying for his master’s degree in 1965 at Cambridge University under a Fulbright scholarship, Clark had a chance encounter with Allen Ginsberg. He ran into the Beat poet at a pub in Bristol, and the two men proceeded to hitch-hike to London. He then enrolled at the University of Essex for two years.
In the New York Times, peer poet Padgett has described Clark’s subtle work as “music to the ear” that always left readers feeling “elevated.” Billy Collins, another poet laureate, called Clark “the lyric imp of American poetry” in a Boulder News article. (Clark once resided in Boulder, CO.) In reviewing Clark’s 2006 poetry collection, Light & Shade, Collins wrote: “Tom Clark … has delivered many decades’ worth of goofy, melancholic, cosmic, playful and wiggy poems. I can never get enough of this wise guy leaning on the literary jukebox, this charmer who refuses to part with his lovesick teenage heart.”
From 1987-2008 Clark taught poetics at New College of California in San Francisco. More recently, he wrote regularly on a personal blog, “Beyond the Pale,” even hours up until his death.
“Tom and I were married for 50 years,” writes his widow, Angelica Heinegg. “It’s a time of shock and sorrow for me and my daughter, Juliet. But we are slowly adjusting to the new reality.” They scattered his ashes on September 9th.
JQ: I started at Fenwick in 1988 as Assistant Dean of Students. I took over as Dean of Students from ‘89-’92. I was Associate Principal for Academics from ‘92-’93 and from ‘93-2009 I was Principal.
What were you most proud of accomplishing in the time?
JQ: Enrollment increased quite a bit during that period and we did some major renovation projects. The new gym, pool, library and annex were built. We also replaced the space that had been the old the pool with computer labs, a wrestling room and a teachers’ lounge. Test scores improved (ACT and SAT) and the number of National Merits increased. We added sports like lacrosse and had a lot of success athletically. Academically we won state and national championships with the JETS and WYSE teams. Our Arts program also grew quite a bit. It was an awesome period to be here.
Where have you been working since Fenwick?
JQ: I served the Archdiocese of Chicago for two years as the Associate Superintendent of Schools. I was responsible for curriculum, instruction, professional development and was the government liaison for the Archdiocese. I went to Washington, D.C. and Springfield as a representative of Catholic schools. After two years of that service, I went back to a school and became the Headmaster of Marmion Academy [in Aurora, IL]. From there I went to DePaul College Prep [formerly Gordon Tech] and was the Principal there for the last five years.
What did you learn at your last few jobs, especially at Marmion and DePaul Prep, that you will apply to Fenwick?
JQ: You know, they had some interesting approaches to education at Marmion. They are really locked into doing certain things a certain way. They are great listeners and they are able to focus well in the classroom, so some of the things that they did there I think would translate well to Fenwick. At DePaul we converted to one-to-one and took some different approaches in the classroom as far as doing more problem-solving activities and group work. I know that Fenwick has been moving along in that regard. I need to get caught up with what has been happening with the Friars. When I was at the Archdiocese, I was doing a lot of research on a lot of different things that can apply to almost anything in the curriculum, so I think we can incorporate some of those things to help.
Why did you decide to return to Fenwick?
JQ: Fenwick is one of the best schools in the country. I have been around a lot and have seen a lot of different things, and it is a very unique place. I think it is very special. They take their tradition of excellence seriously. The students get a great education in the Dominican tradition and really learn to express themselves. I don’t know of any other school that requires speech or four years of a foreign language. Students really learn how to write.
Three of my children graduated from Fenwick and were well prepared for life. I am proud of how successful they have been and how they go out of their way to help others. Fenwick played an important role in their development. They have also made true friends for life. I just want to be a part of a great school.
What is your new position in Student Services going to be?
JQ: I’ll be working down in Student Services with the deans, the counselors and the learning specialists. I’ll also be helping with enrollment and admissions. I use to do a lot of work with admissions at Fenwick, and I did a lot of work with admissions at DePaul. On top of that, I’ll be teaching a A.P. U.S. History course. My first job as a high school teacher was at Lake Forest Academy [Lake Forest, IL] and I began teaching A.P. U.S. History there in 1982. Finally, I will be helping coach [sophomore] football.
What are you looking to bring to Fenwick?
JQ: I really respect the traditions of the school. I understand the history of the school and appreciate the way things are done and why things are done. I was very fortunate to have worked at Fenwick when there were still some people around who actually knew the people who helped found the school. They told me why certain things were done a certain way and what the philosophy behind those approaches were. There are a lot of great people at Fenwick — like Mr. Borsch, Mr. Finnell, Mr. Arellano and Father LaPata — who have been there for many years. They understand that, too. The student’s educational experience at Fenwick will be wonderful when we follow what the original founding father were there to do. I want to help carry on those traditions as much as I possibly can.
Where do you see Fenwick in the next five years?
JQ: I think it has a very bright future with some wonderful plans about many different things. I know they started a Capital Campaign, so within five years I would imagine we would see some of the fruits of that labor.
With Fenwick being more and more plugged in, like with the Class of 2018 being the first class with iPads, how do you think technology at Fenwick will change?
JQ: I’m interested to see where it is going to go. Other countries have not used traditional paperback or hardcover books for years in schools. Around the world, test scores indicate iPads have been used effectively. You gain some skills from using iPads, but there are other things I think are lost as a result from using them. We have to consider what everyone is doing with technology, assess what is working and what is not working, and study the data on it. It is a tool and not the whole driving force within itself.
I can tell you that 20 years ago we were doing a lot of great things with technology at Fenwick, and Fenwick has always been at the forefront of it. Fenwick also has some really talented people working with it.
I think the biggest problem with iPads is just keeping students on task and not getting distracted, because students have so much more of an opportunity to get distracted now than they did before. That’s always been an issue, so it is important that teachers are up and moving around and making classes interesting so the students are really engaged.
With you being at Catholic schools for most of your career, what do you think sets apart a Catholic education, especially at the high school level?
JQ: I really believe in faith-based education. One thing that the Dominicans have always stressed is that learning is accompanied by moral and spiritual growth. Classroom discussions at Fenwick are conducted on a much higher level than at other schools because the theology at Fenwick is strong. Is it moral? Is it the right thing to do? There are not limitations one finds in public schools so you can really get into some heavy issues, which causes you to think at a higher level.
Fenwick students historically have scored high on standardized tests because they are all able to solve problems and think on a higher level. I think they are learning those skills in a Catholic environment. I really do not know of any other school that does it better than Fenwick. I really don’t. Their classes are so solid and they are so tied together with what everyone is doing with each other. You could be discussing the concept of “a just war” in Theology when talking about the Mexican War in history class.
Do you have a favorite memory or tradition at Fenwick?
JQ: I like the Fenwick sense of humor. I could give you a million examples. Many people who attend Fenwick are really clever, and there’s an environment where there is a certain amount of cleverness and humor that I have never seen at any other school. Three of my four children went there, too, so I have great memories of them being there and the great experiences they had there. I see their friends from Fenwick often and there’s a bond that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s really a special place.
About the Author
Before she graduated this past May, Fenwick Broadcasting Club member Katie Bodlak conducted a telephone interview with past-principal Dr. James Quaid, who — before this summer — had not been back at the Oak Park Catholic school in nine years. Ms. Bodlak soon is enrolling as a freshman at Millikin University in Decatur, IL.
Mary Marcotte, Barb Shanahan and Lucy White leave big shoes to fill.
New retirees (from left): Lucy White, Mary Marcotte and Barb Shanahan.
Some 80 former students, parents and colleagues past and present gathered in the Fenwick Courtyard on Tuesday evening, June 19th, to share stories and bid a heart-felt farewell to a trio of retiring female faculty and staff members:
English Teacher Mary Marcotte has spent her 44-year career educating youth and sharing a passion for literature and writing. Colleague John Schoeph ’95 was a student in one of Ms. Marcotte’s first classes at Fenwick and later would succeed her as Chair of the English Department. Mr. Schoeph fondly remembers his mentor stressing not to take her tough editing and rewriting suggestions personally. “She would say, ‘You are not what you write,’” he recalls. “The best teachers are the most critical,” Schoeph believes.
She administered her last final exam earlier this month, after 23 years of teaching Friars’ students. Marcotte, who has worked in private and public-school settings during her 44-year teaching career, came to Fenwick in 1994 when the once all-boys institution went co-ed and began admitting female students.
“Mary Marcotte is among Fenwick’s greatest teachers both past and present,” praises Fenwick Principal Peter Groom. “Mary has excellent communication skills and cares deeply about her students. She has taught English at multiple levels, most notably English II Honors, English IV Honors and AP Literature. Countless students were inspired by Ms. Marcotte to continue their love of all things related to English and were also inspired to become better people. She will be missed.”
In addition to teaching in the classroom, for more than two decades Marcotte also has worked with the Fenwick Speech and Debate Teams and served as a Write Place Advisor, Yearbook Moderator and Director for Student Publications. She also has been an excellent mentor for new teachers over the years, Mr. Groom points out.
Schoeph adds: “Mary launched Touchstone, which hadn’t existed prior to our class’s founding it under her leadership,” he recalls. Touchstone is an annual magazine that features student writing and artwork, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and drama as well as multimedia forms of creative expression. “She has been a valuable resource for teachers new to Fenwick,” Schoeph adds, “cheerfully handing over file folders of her materials, not to copy but to use as springboards for original assignments.”
Marcotte also has been instrumental in fostering superior writing skills among Fenwick’s students. “She often helped out in the Write Place, at one time working with a few others to bring our writing center’s program to the attention of other schools,” Schoeph notes.
Of her students at Fenwick, “I am constantly in awe of their potential,” says Marcotte, who resides in Elmhurst with her husband Paul, an attorney. “I have been privileged to help them realize that potential. I like to think that I’ve taught with my students. Lively discourse and enlightened essays ensue when they become confident in their opinions. It truly is gratifying to hear about their successes at and beyond Fenwick.”
She is particularly proud of the work she has done with numerous juniors and seniors while constructing their college essays. “This has been such an enriching personal experience, from the drafting to the final copy,” Marcotte notes, “whether the essay is just part of the college application or for awarding scholarship monies. I got to see and appreciate the core values of many of our Friars, and I am humbled to have had these experiences. We truly have remarkable young men and women among us!”
Marcotte also takes pride in her other teaching awards, which include:
Innovation and Creativity in Teaching Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago (2006)
Golden Apple Finalist (2001)
Rev. George Conway, O.P. Outstanding Teacher Award (1997) – voted on by peers
Interestingly, Marcotte was not a natural-born teacher. “I actually wanted to be a nurse, but life takes mysterious turns,” she explains. “In the summer before college, I was in a car accident and suffered several broken vertebrae. I could not meet my college commitment for nursing, so I became friends with a wonderful librarian who kept giving me lists of literary classics. Along with my mother, this librarian inspired me to major in English, particularly World and British Literature. I also have certifications in World Religions and Church History.
“Today one of the influences I want to have on my grandchildren is to value the opportunities presented by local libraries,” she continues. “We are so fortunate to live in a country where these services are provided, and we can never take them for granted.” She also frequently attends Shakespeare plays at Navy Pier in Chicago and enjoys traveling to Canada for the Stratford Festival, an internationally recognized annual repertory theater festival that runs annually (April through October) in the city of Stratford, Ontario. At home, Marcotte is an avid gardener. “When I’m not outside in the yard, I love growing orchids,” she shares.
More than 225 years of combined education experience is represented by these six Fenwick Friars. Each cupcake candle represents 38 years!
Theology Teacher Lucy White also is retiring. “Lucy has given her heart and soul to Catholic education for decades,” says Groom. “At Fenwick, she has taught thousands of our freshmen scripture in a comprehensive way. Through her approach the students have gained a real depth of understanding. As the Director of the Kairos program our students were able to explore the role that spirituality played in their lives while bringing them closer to both their family and God. She has been a role model and friend to so many.”
Of Ms. White, Brother Joseph Trout, O.P., Theology Department Chair, says: “Lucy came to Fenwick because of her love for God. She taught her students to know the God who is love. Generously, she shared with everyone the depth of her love. She directed Kairos because she helps others experience God’s own love. She is retiring because she made a vow to, in sickness and in health, give herself to Phil [her husband] in love. Lucy has earned her accolades and awards over the years, but it pales in comparison to one fact: Lucy White is a living, breathing lesson in love. If you want to understand Jesus’ words, ‘love one another as I have loved you,’ you need simply look to her.”
Theology colleague Mr. Patrick Mulcahy adds: “Lucy is fond of saying, ‘I want kids to fall in love with God.’ She was much known and loved by her students and the seniors she led on Kairos. When she took over the Kairos program she really refocused it in a positive way. My fondest memory of Lucy’s class was the practice she had of selecting individual students and praying over them with the rest of the class in a very personal way. She really knew her students. It was truly something to witness. As a senior teacher I saw, year after year, how her students were some of the best prepared in their knowledge of Scripture. As in the case of all great teachers, ‘Lucy the Person’ was the true teacher. She has had many challenges in her life and her faith is a model to all of us in how she has coped with those challenges. She will be greatly missed.”
Friend and Social Studies Teacher Mary Beth Logas: “Lucy is someone who understands unconditional love like perhaps no one else I know. The courage with which she has faced a great many challenges and problems in her life, even before her husband’s illness, is inspiring to anyone who knows her story — and she has been generous with it to the many Fenwick students who have heard it on Kairos. The depth and constancy of her faith are a magnificent legacy to our kids in a world where faith is questioned, its value to the human spirit derided and, increasingly, Christians are persecuted in ways almost reminiscent of the trials of the early church.
“I will miss her friendship and support more than I can express. My overwhelming feeling is that this can’t be happening. I know Lucy does not feel like she has done all she can at Fenwick, but there is another great trial of love before her, and if there was ever anyone with their priorities straight, it’s Lucy. The best thing her Fenwick family can do is to keep in touch with her, for in its very nature the task that lies before her is isolating, even were she not leaving a community where she and her husband have had roots for so many years. I plan on putting some miles on my car between here and Madison in future.”
Student Services Administrative Assistant Barbara Shanahan joins White and Marcotte on the retirement path. Ms. Shanahan has been at Fenwick for 32 years, spending most of her time as the right-hand lady for Rich Borsch and the other counselors. Diana Caponigri, former Director of Scheduling and Records at Fenwick, pays tribute to Barb:
“When I think of Barb, I think of someone who is intensely loyal; someone who is willing to help even though she has a million things on her own desk; someone who has a keen sense of humor; who has much patience; and someone who is able to handle those million things on her desk efficiently and humbly. I could go on and on. She is one of the core people at Fenwick who do so much behind the scenes and don’t get much credit for their work. As a matter of fact, much of what she does enables other people to shine. She is able to anticipate, to keep herself organized, and to get the job done. Did I mention that I think very highly of her? She wants little credit for what she does, believing that if you have a job to do, you just do it and do it as best you can.
“Some of my own cherished memories of Fenwick involve Barb. If I needed numbers about some scheduling situation, such as verification of the number of requests for a certain course, she would be on the phone quickly to respond. If I needed some information about who was not coming back so I could delete some course requests, she would get to a counselor if she didn’t know the information and then get back to me quickly. I depended on her, and knew she would never let me down. Many years ago we had a student who was confined to a wheelchair and, between Barb and myself, we made sure that this boy could access his classes, which sometimes meant moving the class with its teacher to a different floor so this could happen. Being that Fenwick does what it can to accommodate special situations, some of these situations have to be handled by a person rather than a machine, and Barb was often that person. If I didn’t remember a special situation, Barb would be there to remind me or make the change herself and tell me about it. I trusted her. She would constantly update me on her progress doing whatever she was doing when we were scheduling. I always thought we made a good team whether it was working on a scheduling item or something else.
“Another memory I have is her kindness and concern to accommodate me when I would help proctor the many tests we give on Saturdays, such as an ACT, SAT or some other test. She would try to get me in a room with a computer so I could do some work while administering the test and would give me the extended-time students, which meant I would have a smaller number of students to watch. I truly appreciated this.
“In years long since gone by, we would celebrate office birthdays and she would include me when a birthday was celebrated in the Student Services area. She felt I was part of the group because of the work I did with counselors concerning scheduling, grades and other issues. She is very thoughtful.
“She and I had several opportunities to go for training for the student database, and I have some very nice memories of those too. It was so nice to spend some time with her away from the school environment and to see her relax and enjoy herself.
“I wish her the best of rest, relaxation and peace in her retirement years. These are years she so well deserves. Thank you, Barb, for all you have done for me. Thank you for your support, your help and for being you.
200 Combined Years!
Celebrating his 85th birthday is Father LaPata (center) flanked by Mr. Finnell (left) and Mr. Borsch, who both have more than 50 years of dedicated service to Fenwick.
Also feted were the 50 year service anniversaries of Associate Principal/Student Services Director Richard Borsch and alumnus/Math Teacher Roger Finnell ’59! This quintet of Fenwick teachers and administrators has more than 200 years of combined experience!
Mr. Borsch, while not yet retiring, is marking his 50th school year at Fenwick. “Mr. Borsch started at Fenwick as both a teacher and coach,” Groom points out. “Early on he demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills which lead him to be quickly moved into a leadership position in our counseling office. Rich transformed our counseling office into what we have today. As a college counselor, Mr. Borsch has been one of the greats. I have personally witnessed his ability to connect with the students and parents to help them find the best fit. His knowledge of colleges and their specific admissions offices is unparalleled.”
Last but most certainly not least, those in attendance also celebrated the 85th birthday of President EmeritusFr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50 (on May 22nd). Listen in as Fenwick’s 1,200-member student body sings to the “birthday boy” last month.
These three F’s have set the foundation for young Jamal Nixon ’17, helping him to find his way — from Chicago and Plainfield, IL, to Oak Park and Mankato, MN, and beyond.
An injury can’t hold back a leader of Friars. Facing “minor” knee surgery, Jamal says he will be ready to hoop again for the Minnesota State Mavs in the New Year.
By Mark Vruno
Jamal Nixon ’17 is a winner: off the basketball court as well as on it. His father, outplacement services professional William Nixon, credits Friars’ Head Basketball Coach Rick Malnati with nurturing Jamal’s competitive edge, which transfers from sports to school. “Teachers have the ability to tap into this and allow kids to achieve at their highest levels,” Mr. Nixon believes. “At Fenwick, they are willing to develop you as a student.”
William watched pridefully as his son developed and flourished. Jamal’s natural leadership abilities were enhanced in the classroom and in the gymnasium. William and his wife, Loretta (Moore) Nixon, employ basketball as a platform to tell a Friar’s story that is much bigger than athletics. Jamal and his family came into Fenwick with an open mind but didn’t really know anything about the “Catholic thing” and the school’s culture, says his mother, who is Manager of IT Audit and Advisory Services at Health Care Service Corp.
Loretta and William were teenage sweethearts at Westinghouse High School in Chicago. When the curious parents inquired about Fenwick, they began hearing words such as, “legacy,” “tradition” and “multi-generational families.” They noticed how many alumni come back to teach at the private school. “We found all of that very impressive,” Loretta admits, including the relationship-building and connection aspects of “Friar Nation” and all its devoted alumni. “Fenwick offers so much in terms of mentoring, community and the alumni network,” praises her husband.
The parents wondered how structured or strict the Fenwick environment was – academically and behaviorally. They have very high expectations of their sons, and they wanted to ensure that their expectations for Jamal matched the school’s.
“I was pushed and challenged by my teachers in the classrooms of Fenwick,” Jamal says now, in his first semester at Minnesota State University, Mankato. “Mike [Smith, a teammate and friend] warned me about the challenging academics, but I wasn’t prepared as a freshman.”
Looking back on the experience, Jamal believes that success in school also has helped to build his self-confidence. His mom concurs: “There is an even playing field with kids coming in [to Fenwick],” she reports with hindsight. “You have to have an open mind and embrace the culture. Fenwick is more than willing to help you succeed.”
Christian values also are very important to the Nixons, whose religious roots are planted firmly in the Baptist tradition. The spiritual aspects of Fenwick and the core Dominican values were strong selling points, they say. “My family is Christian, but I had never studied Theology before [coming to Fenwick],” Jamal notes. Adds his mother, “Community service is huge at Fenwick, and Jamal learned to give back.”
“Fenwick is the place we knew we wanted Jamal to be,” she asserts. And the Nixons were willing to sacrifice to make sure he could come. “I was okay with borrowing from my 401 (k) for Jamal to get the education he deserves,” explains Loretta, “but we still needed some help financially. It all has been worth the price.”
William notes that he and his wife are thoroughly grateful to the benefactors who make this high level of education possible for kids. “The assistance we received was very much appreciated,” he says, then adds quickly: “But Fenwick also benefited by having a great kid in Jamal as part of the community!”