I loved my Fenwick experience of many years ago, but also painfully remember how I often felt trapped, confined, somewhat “quarantined” by life’s circumstances at the time. While attending school, I worked for a newspaper distributor overseeing about 100 paper routes and assisting the manager. This was a seven-day-a-week commitment, 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and a half-day apiece on Saturday and Sunday. My job, home chores and Fenwick’s rigorous course load left little time for much else besides eating and sleeping.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my job and reveled in its responsibilities, realizing at some level I was getting experience that would pay off eventually. It’s just that it didn’t leave me much time for extra-curricular activities, like the clubs and sports many of my Fenwick friends enjoyed.
I felt cheated of a normal social life because, come Saturday evening, I was often exhausted and wanted to get to bed, knowing my alarm was set for a 5 a.m. jarring wake-up the following morning. I resented not having much time for a girlfriend or just hang out with neighborhood pals. My family didn’t have a car I could borrow to escape the confines of home.
Since my parents were financing Catholic education for their five children, I felt a little guilty going to Fenwick, where the tuition was higher than other schools, so I worked out of a sense of obligation to help with the bills. I worked that much harder at my classwork because I didn’t want my parents to think they were wasting their money on me.
Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, Fenwick equipped me with the tools that helped me stay sane during those challenging times as an adolescent, even helping me tunnel under the barriers of my “quarantine” to escape:It was at Fenwick where I acquired a love of reading. When I read, I could go anywhere, any time — and I did.
It was at Fenwick where I gained a love of learning. Math, science and language (Latin) opened new doorways for me. The life of the mind had no walls or limitations.
It was at Fenwick where I began to strengthen what had been a thin and immature faith. Prayer took me to another world, an eternal spiritual realm I was just beginning to discover; one that returned far more than I gave to it, and one that proved more instrumental than anything else over my 63 years.
It was at Fenwick where my character would be shaped. Its rules, discipline, expectations and moral code, while not so obvious at the time, prepared me to thrive at university and persevere throughout my career.
It was later, after graduation, when I found how rigorous physical labor and exercise, Fenwick’s daily gym classes and intramurals notwithstanding, could free me of anxiety and improve my health and well-being.
And it would be later still when I would discover how love of another could be liberating and unbounded, freeing me from my selfish self; although the generous love experienced in my immediate family, and my Fenwick family to a considerable degree, certainly set the right conditions for this to occur.
During the decades since, I’ve seen many ways one can find oneself trapped, even imprisoned. We may feel trapped or shackled by jobs we dislike, fears, unhealthy addictions, illness, sin and bad habits. I’ve experienced my share of these as well.
How do Friars respond during crises? Fenwick has asked the alumni community to share memories of when the world seemed upside down and how, we as a community, responded.
This Fenwick alumnus, who visited campus back in February, remembers the traumatic period following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 — and has an important message for today’s students.
By Dave West ’98
I was a senior at Duke preparing for
a public policy class when the attacks of 9/11 jolted us all around breakfast
time on a Tuesday morning. School abruptly shut down as did the
country, and we quickly learned over the next few, confusing days that
several graduated fraternity brothers, parents of classmates and thousands
of others were killed in the towers, in the planes or in the Pentagon.
As a senior, thoughts quickly turned
to what other attacks were next; how we’d ever get back to life as usual; whether
there would be any jobs for us; and even whether a military draft might be
brought back and we would all need to prepare to fight a new enemy halfway
around the world. Our grandparents were “the greatest generation”… would
we be good enough and up to the challenge?
Parallels to the present pandemic
The answer was a huge, “Yes” then,
and it will be again now. Despite the trauma of that day and the months
that followed, the country persevered. I recommend students use this
current pandemic shock to step back a bit and think about their goals, purpose
and what they really want out of the next five, next 10, next few decades.
In my case, 9/11 was a catalyst to
immediately pivot to pursue grad school and national security public service. I
was able to serve in Washington and work with over 50 allied countries in
counter-terror and anti-terror cooperation efforts. A friend of mine from
Duke, lacrosse star Jimmy Regan, turned down a Wall Street job and enlist in
the special forces, giving his life years later as a hero on the battlefield and
inspiring us all even today. Others became doctors/researchers, teachers or
strong executives building new companies, etc.
I want to underscore to the students
that people generally, and our economy and country in particular, are
incredibly resilient. Families, economies and life as we know it are
taking a hit right now due to the pandemic, but we will come out on the other
side of it. The world will need Fenwick people to help lead and deal with
the uncertainty, so we should all stay focused, positive and ensure we’re
ready when needed.
At the Faculty & Staff Retreat earlier this month, a senior “mathlete” from Elmhurst shared a heartfelt reflection of his time at Fenwick.
By Nathan Crowell ’20
The four years of high school are some of the most influential years of our lives. Our lives change so much — from the things we learn about, to the friends we have, to our identities that we discover. High school molds us into the people we will be for the rest of our lives.
Good morning, everyone! For those of you who do not know me, my name is Nate Crowell. My story is all about finding my true identity and the role that I play in the Fenwick Community. I’m on the Math Team and the Scholastic Bowl Team. I play volleyball, I do TEAMS, WYSE, Friar Mentors and the Write Place. All the while being active in my church’s youth group. As you can probably tell, I’m what some would call “a nerd.” Now, I don’t think it is an insult at all because I love the activities that I do, and so what if I like math? It’s a part of my identity that I found here at Fenwick.
Who I am all begins with my family. I have two loving parents and two brothers: an older one named Ian and a younger one named Nolan. My family has had a big influence on the person I have become. Up until about my sophomore year of high school, I looked up to my brother for everything. From baseball to school, I always tried to do what he did. He batted lefty, so I had to bat lefty; he played the percussion, so I played percussion. He went to Fenwick, so I had to go to Fenwick. His influence on me has impacted my life more than I realize. I entered Fenwick trying to live up to the reputation he set before me. I tried my hardest to be as similar to Ian as I could.
Other than my brother’s influence, my mom has also impacted my life a lot. From when I was young and still today, my mom and I love to do jigsaw puzzles. We would sit in the family room for hours doing these 550-piece jigsaw puzzles. It was doing these puzzles that molded the way I think, and they developed my love for problem solving.
Family and Faith
Now, my parents have been bringing me to church for my entire life. But I never made my faith my own until middle school. It was the youth group that got me engaged in my faith, and to this day I’m very involved in my church. As my faith journey progressed and as I became more and more engaged at church, I grew to love the people in my youth group. As 7th grade began, I met one of my best friends and mentor. He was one of my small-group leaders then and, to this day, he is still my mentor, small-group leader and best friend. He has been there to guide me along my faith journey, helping me through my biggest times of doubt.
My mentor is one of the most influential people in my life, and having someone there for you, no matter when or where, is crucial for every high schooler. The best part is, you all get that opportunity here at Fenwick. Many of the students here are going through some very stressful situations, and if you are able to be there for them, it makes a world of difference. So I encourage you to always be there for the students, because you never know what they may be going through or how great of an impact you can have on their life.
When 8th grade rolled around, I had to decide what high school I was going to go to. I was choosing between here and York, and the thing that sealed the deal for Fenwick was the community. The students, and especially the teachers, are all so welcoming. When I shadowed here, I felt like a part of the family already. I could tell that the Fenwick Community is there for each other no matter what. The biggest thing that I noticed was how nice everyone in the faculty was. You all are the reason Fenwick is the way it is. Without you, our community would not be as tightly knit and our students would not see Fenwick almost as a second home. You all foster a warm feeling that reminds the students of home, no matter how much we may hate doing school work.
Starting freshman year was scary. I didn’t know what to expect, especially only knowing two other kids going into Fenwick. I didn’t know what the other people would think of me.
Now, I spent most of freshman year trying to find my place within the new school and getting to know all the new people. The only important things I remember from freshman year are being “invited”to join the Math Team (like I had a choice) and trying out for volleyball. However, the most impactful thing to happen to me freshman year was meeting THE Joe Zawacki. We met in Spanish class, where on the first day he got sniped with his phone out by Ms. Carraher. Later that day, we ended up sitting at the same lunch table. And, well, the rest is history.
When sophomore year rolled around, I found out that I had every class except two with Joe. We did everything together, and after all the time I spent with him, I thought I had to be like Joe. I “stole” Joe’s identity. I took it as my own and tried to be the person he is, not the person God made me to be. Besides adopting his identity as my own, I compared myself to him a lot, and I started to feel like I wasn’t special and that I didn’t have a place here in the Fenwick community. An emptiness started to grow inside of me. It quickly started to eat away at me. The emptiness got so bad that I almost transferred to York. I was strongly considering leaving this amazing community. I thought I didn’t have anything special that I could add to Fenwick.
But, preparing for junior year soon consumed my thoughts because I had a lot of decisions to make. What classes would I take? What activities would I do? How can I make myself look the best for colleges?
“Our culture today puts so much value in doing. “
As the school year began to pick up pace, I was bombarded with assignment after assignment. My day consisted of waking up, going to school, going to any after-school activity I had that day, going home, barely finishing my homework, then straight to sleep. My daily routine was jam-packed, and God slowly transitioned from being a part of my life to an afterthought, then to the point where I would go entire weeks without even thinking about Him. Our culture today puts so much value in doing. I especially felt that this year, as I wrote college apps. I had to do every after-school activity, be a part of every club I could; I never had time to slow down and connect with God. One thing I have learned is that we all need a break. We can do this by just spending time alone, without distractions. It can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as two hours.
On an annual trip my youth group would take, we would go to Arkansas and spend a week on houseboats, living on the lake. One thing that we did every year was, on the third morning, we would start the day in total silence. We woke up silently; we made breakfast silently; then we spent about another hour and a half in silence. We were supposed to just sit there and look out over the lake. Now, as a freshman and sophomore that task was DAUNTING. Being silent for two hours? I could barely stay quiet for a meal. Now, as a young freshman and sophomore, the challenge wasn’t being quiet for an hour and a half, it was staying awake for that hour and a half. I ended up asleep both times, but as successful as I was at being quiet, I totally missed the point of the activity.
Being vs. Doing
The whole point wasn’t to torture us but to refect on life, and take a MUCH needed break from the busy-ness of today’s society. When I went before junior year, instead of taking a nap, I was actually able to stay awake the whole time! I just sat on the back of the boat, looking out across the lake. It was after that hour and a half that I realized I feel most at peace in nature. I was able to forget about all of the stresses of everyday life and just breathe. Now, whenever I need a break from the world, I’ll go out into nature and just take a walk. I now know about the importance of just being. There is so much doing in our world, that we forget to just BE. We all just need to take a break from the constant hustle and bustle of our lives.
First semester of senior year was full of constantly filling out this application, writing that essay, and just stressing about my future. But a quote I read last year said to: “Never let fear decide your fate.” I had to put my trust in God and His plan for me and my future. God is always here with us, whether we feel His presence or not. As the great Mr. Mulcahy said, “Our oneness with God is realized not created.”
Throughout my journey at Fenwick, I have wanted to make a huge impact here. I thought that when the time came, I could do some great action. When I reflected on how foolish that thought was, I was reminded of a quote from Mother Teresa that my mom keeps on her desk at home. It says: “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”
From the outside looking in, it would seem that religious orders are very much alike: they share many of the same practices, profess the same vows, serve in very similar ministries. What, then, distinguishes the various religious communities from each other? Apart from the most obvious — the style of religious garb, for example — it is the emphasis placed on the component parts of the life of the community. One order might focus on communal prayer more than another; another may be differentiated, say, by its ministry to the sick.
Not surprisingly, the Order of Preachers is unique among the other orders in the Church in its focus on the ministry of preaching. The uniquely democratic government of the Dominican Order might not be as well known: indeed, it is recognized as being among the most democratic in the Catholic Church.
The Order’s Book of Constitutions (n. 252) explains that: “The Order of Friars Preachers, which is ruled by the general chapter and the Master of the Order, is made up of provinces, each of which is ruled by a provincial chapter and a prior provincial. Each province is made up of convents and houses, each of which is governed by its own prior or superior.”
The first constitution, written by St. Dominic and approved by the first friars, mandated a representative form of democratic governance for the above-mentioned structure. All of the superiors in the Order are elected and there are term limits for office holders. On the local level, all members have a voice in communal decision-making: It is never a matter of the superior having total decision-making authority. Dominicans see their vow of obedience to be supremely communal in its observance. One is obedient to the decisions of the community — the community in which one has an important role to play.
Every three years, at the international level of the Order, a general chapter is held in one of the provinces of the Order. Delegates elected from each of the Order’s 33 provinces participate. (On average, there are three delegates per province.) Every third general chapter calls for the election of the Master of the Order — the friar who will serve as the successor of St. Dominic.
From July 5th to August 4th, 2019, an elective general chapter of the Order was held in Biên Hòa, Vietnam. I was honored to be a delegate to the general chapter. As well as being a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual and cultural experience, it was also an experience of “Dominican government in action.” Delegates from all 33 provinces of the Order participated in the chapter and were assisted by a team of translators. (Simultaneous translation was available in the three official languages of the Order: French, Spanish and English.)
Fenwick Preaching Team member and the Class of ’20 president reflected on the Lenten Season at Mass on February 26.
By Patrick Feldmeier ’20
40 days. 40 nights. Students and faculty, now is the opportunity to move forward as followers of Christ. Lent is the time to evaluate our connection to God, and make an honest effort to strengthen our faith. Through the trials and tribulations of the following 40 days, let us ask God for trust, for trust will empower us through all of life’s challenges.
At the end of His 40 days in the desert, the devil tested Jesus like never before with short term pleasures and materialistic possessions. Yet, Jesus stayed resilient, and refused to give in to the Devil’s temptations. Jesus trusted that God’s love would triumph any benefit received from giving into the Devil, and God prevailed. This trust, this faith that God is the answer in our lives, will guide us through these next 40 days. We are constantly surrounded by unfulfilling passions that make us happy for a short period of time, then leave us drained shortly after. The Devil works through these passions, but our heart yearns for more. A strong faith in God throughout Lent will orient ourselves to strive for fulfilling pleasures, which will bring us the long-lasting happiness we all desire. Everything begins with a trust in God, and the confidence that He knows what is best for us. Trust in God’s plan, the lessons he teaches, and the love he gives us every day; and rest assured you will enter Easter Sunday a changed person.
This Lent, don’t just give something up, like pop, candy, fighting with your siblings, whatever. Lent is about giving more to God, who calls on us to make a greater effort to pray more, attend mass more often, and embody a Catholic conscience in our daily lives.
We don’t know how our lives will be in 40 days. Life may be better, worse, or a complete transformation because of certain situations. Jesus conquered death merely days after his journey because He believed in the power of God. As Christians, if we can commit to strengthening our relationship with God in the next 40 days, we will see ourselves change right before our eyes. Jesus’ journey in the desert prepared him for his ministry, death and resurrection. I will leave all of you with one simple question. What are you preparing for in the next 40 days?
“To say we have faith does not mean we automatically understand everything. It means we have the confidence to know God will help us understand.”
By Caroline Darrow ’21
Hello, my name is Caroline Darrow. Usually, I am the girl in the white gown sitting in the tiny chair next to Father, so you may not recognize me right now. But don’t worry I’ll be back there soon.
As I was trying to write this reflection for
the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I wrote three different versions, but all of
them felt like I was leading a kumbaya circle. So I did
the typical Fenwick procrastination, I did other homework instead. Nevertheless, as I attempted to complete my
pre calc homework while at the same time contemplating Aquinas, I realized it
is very hard to think about faith and logic in the same instance. However,
Aquinas’ own teachings can help with this conundrum.
“Logic can clarify faith, while faith can prevent mistakes of logic.”
One of Aquinas’ most influential teachings was his study of the relationship between faith and reason. Throughout time, there has been a struggle as how to combine knowledge gained from revelation with knowledge gained from the observation of the natural world around us. Aquinas viewed both of these as compatible with each other as they both had been created by God. Logic can clarify faith, while faith can prevent mistakes of logic. In other words, using our logic we are able to reason through and clarify teachings of faith in order to fully comprehend what God is trying to tell us Faith keeps our morals in check, while at the same time teaching us things we cannot observe through our senses, as we observe a society in which humans are susceptible to other worldly perspectives.
What does it truly mean to seek God in faith and reason? Each day, we pray before classes in which we never speak about God. You most likely won’t contemplate Catholic teachings while solving logarithms, but you will have times when you question aspects of your faith because to say we have faith does not mean we automatically understand everything, it means we have the confidence to know God will help us understand. To aid in understanding, we must combine both our faith and logic to come to the best conclusion. God has instilled faith and logic in our lives, and it is our job to find a way to follow Aquinas, embracing both ways to gain knowledge in order to follow the path God has sent us on.
The Fenwick Swimming & Diving Team finished 13th overall in Illinois this season.
Swim team accomplishments this season:
The 200 Medley relay of Peter Buinauskas ’21 (Western Springs), Michael Flynn ’22 (Brookfield), Connor McCarthy ’21 (Elmhurst) and Dan Bajda ’20 (Lombard) took 12th place in the state of Illinois. They also set a team record for the medley relay of 1:34.30 in prelims at the IHSA Championships.
Michael Flynn took 3rd in the 500 Freestyle and 9th in the 200 Freestyle at the IHSA Championships. “Considering he is on both relays, he is by far the team’s MVP,” says Head Coach and alumnus Luke McGuire ’90.
The 400 free relay took 7th at the IHSA Championships (Flynn, C. McCarthy, Buinauskas and Bajda), nearly missing a team record from their performance at Sectionals.
The Fenwick Swimming and Diving Team took 13th overall at the IHSA state Championships. Led by Captains C. McCarthy and Bajda, the team had solid performances last Friday in Evanston and was able to come back and score team points on Saturday, McGuire reports.
When alumnus Dan
Chang, PhD. ’85 returned to Fenwick last November, he felt right at home
talking to students in the school library. Ever since immigrating to northeast
Illinois from Taipei, Taiwan, in 1976, Dr. Chang has had an affinity for libraries
Ten-year-old Chang spoke no English when he came to
the United States. His father was a diplomat for the Taiwanese consulate in Chicago.
During the summer, when their mother was working as a medical technician, his
sister Anne and Dan went to the public library “almost every day,” he told the Forest Park Review eight years ago, “and
I read every book about physics, space and aviation.” Before applying for a
scholarship to Fenwick as an eighth grader, the future rocket scientist
attended Grant-White, and then Field-Stevenson elementary schools.
“Let’s talk about the universe,” Chang engaged one
group of science students last semester, as he booted up a customized
PowerPoint presentation. Over the past four decades, there have been some
rather astonishing developments as the field of astronomy became less
Earth-centric, he told present-day Friars: “When I was in high school, we
didn’t know there were other stars with planetary systems. Now, we know there
are nearly 4,000 exoplanets!” (An exoplanet, or extrasolar planet,
is a planet outside of our solar system.)
“Did you know there are more planets than stars in the galaxy?” Chang continued. “Small planets are common, even in the Habitable Zone, but they are too dim to see through a telescope,” he added. In astronomy and astrobiology, the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ) is the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure. Such complexity is par for the course for Chang, who was a straight-A student at Fenwick, a National Merit Scholar Finalist and one of three valedictorians from the Class of 1985. (Chris Hanlon and Ray Kotty are the other two.)
Chang went on to study at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He says he “held my own” at the private research university and earned a bachelor of science in aeronautics/ astronautics, then a master’s degree in dynamics/control. After moving to the West Coast to work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, see below), he would go on to a doctorate, in electrical engineering and photonics, from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2002.
In the aforementioned newspaper article, ’85 classmate
Kotty, who has taught math at Fenwick since 1993-94, described his former Computer
Club and “mathlete” teammate as “a little bit more [of] a risk-taker than the
other guys in the math-club group. He was always going to go ahead and blaze
his trail.” Outside of school, the two mathematical whizzes attended weekend
astrophysics classes together at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium — and have
remained friends over the years.
Chang told students in November, “For the record, Mr.
Kotty beat me in just about every math competition at Fenwick!”
As a high-school student, Chang never experienced faculty legend Roger Finnell ’59 (long-timeMath Department Chairman) in the classroom per se. Mr. Finnell was — and is — moderator of Fenwick’s storied Math Competition Club. Chang fondly remembers what he calls “rigorous” teachers, including Mr. Ramzi Farran (chemistry and JETS coach) and Mr. John Polka (biology), both recently retired, as well as the late Mr. Edward Ludwig (calculus) and Fr. Jordan McGrath, O.P. (pre-calc.), who passed away in 2018.
“They all were very kind but very demanding,” he
remembers, adding that Ludwig and McGrath were not perceived as being kind, initially.
“They seemed harsh at first. They pushed us,” explains Chang, who jokingly
refers to Ludwig as the Fenwick’s “Director of Happiness.” Looking back, however,
the former student appreciates these teachers’ collective toughness.
Other Fenwick teachers were as influential, if not more so, to Chang’s developing, teenage brain. “Math always was easy [for me] to do,” he admits. “It is a rich but one-dimensional subject. Large, open-ended subjects, such as history and literature, are different.” As a sophomore in 1982-83, he discovered cognitive enrichment in honors English with Fr. Dave Santoro, O.P., honors history class with Mr. John Quinn ’76 and speech class with Mr. Andrew Arellano. In those courses of study, “I learned how to think and debate. I developed political opinions. The strategic thinking and soft-skills I began to glimpse then are arguably as important to my job today as the technical, ‘hard-skills.’”
“The strategic thinking and soft-skills I began to glimpse then [at Fenwick] are arguably as important to my job today as the technical, ‘hard skills.’”
Dr. Dan Chang
Back to school
This past November, Chang explained to students the discovery of exoplanets by employing the so-called “stellar-wobble” method, as well as the transit photometry method. Doppler spectroscopy (also known as the radial-velocity method, or colloquially, the wobble method) is an indirect method for finding extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs from radial-velocity measurements via observation of Doppler shifts in the spectrum of the planet’s parent star; while the transit method essentially measures the “wink” of a star as an exoplanet passes before it. (The Nobel Prize in physics for 2019 was awarded partially for the first exoplanet discovery, employing the radial velocity method.)
Chang spent several years of his career on JPL’s Stellar Interferometry Mission (SIM), which was an attempt to discover exoplanets using yet another method – direct astrometry, but with unprecedented precision. SIM proved to be too much of a technological stretch and was cancelled in 2009. “The technology is very difficult,” Chang stressed, “measuring angle changes down to approximately 4 micro-arcseconds,” which is about a billionth of a degree. (An arcsecond is an angular measurement equal to 1/3600 of a degree.)
During his nearly 29-year career at JPL, Chang’s
technical contributions and leadership have been recognized with numerous
individual awards, including the NASA Honors Award in 2007. For the past three
and a half years, he has been the project manager of JPL’s Program Office 760,
which is known as the “Technology Demonstrations Office.” While details cannot
be disclosed, he is responsible for the management and technical direction of
the more than 100 people who work within the classified program. Chang, who reports
to JPL’s Director for Astronomy and Physics,
was Office 760’s chief engineer for two years prior to overseeing the program.
“This part of astrophysics is close to my heart, but let’s now look at an engineering tour de force,” he proclaimed to the young, fellow Friars, switching gears and delving into the basics of how the Mars landing system works.
“The United States still is the only country that has successfully landed vehicles on Mars (the massive Curiosity rover in 2012 being the most recent),” he informed the students. “We have been [remotely] driving around up there for seven years.” From 2004-07, Chang served as a principal investigator under the Mars Technology Program (MTP), for which he helped to develop LIDAR for lander terminal guidance.
With all the Martian craters and high-wind dust storms (up to 70 mph), “how do you safely land a probe?” he asked. JPL succeeded in 1997 with its toy-car sized Pathfinder robotic spacecraft, which employed the new (at the time) technology of airbag-mediated touchdown. JPL returned again in 2004 with MER, again using airbags and a crude, wind-compensating rocket system called DIMES. However, for the Mars Science Lab mission in 2012 that landed Curiosity – “essentially a nuclear-powered, 2,000-pound MINI Cooper – we had to resort to lowering the probe on a tether to solve the egress problem and other challenges.” This technology is NASA’s rocket-powered Sky Crane, developed for the Curiosity landing and will be used again when the Mars 2020 mission attempts its next landing. “It was surprising to us that it worked!” Chang remarked.
In less than 12 months, another robotic rover could be roaming and exploring the “Red Planet” in a quest to answer that age-old question: Are we alone in the universe? Scheduled for a July 17 launch, Mars 2020 should touch down in Jezero crater (on Mars) on February 18, 2021. NASA has invested some $2.5 billion in the eagerly anticipated mission. The new, yet-to-be-named rover is expected to carry a small, autonomous rotorcraft known as the Mars Helicopter, Chang shared excitedly.
In college, when Chang wasn’t studying or reading in the Cambridge, MA campus library, he blew off steam by rowing crew on the Charles River. These days, when he is not working at JPL or consulting for firms such as Skybox Imaging (acquired by Google and recently sold again to Planet Labs), his hobby is aviation. “I like fixing (mostly) and flying – when I’m not fixing – my plane,” says Chang, who owns a single-engine aircraft.
He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Malina, and their teenage daughter, Natalie. While Chang contends that values, work ethic and good study habits begin at home with the family, he wishes he could find a private secondary school in the Los Angeles area more like Fenwick, which he considers the standard. “I’d gladly pay for rigor and discipline, which are critical,” he says. “Unfortunately, most private schools where I live primarily offer social segmentation.”
“Merit and accomplishment are what matter at Fenwick.”
Dan Chang, PhD. (Class of 1985)
Whether at Fenwick or MIT, “the textbooks teachers use are the same as at other schools,” adds Dr. Chang, who has been interviewing under-graduate candidates in the LA area for his collegiate alma mater since 2006. “The quality of the student body is what determines how far teachers can go, how much they can push [their students].” The Dominican friars foster an egalitarian atmosphere, he concludes: “The relative wealth of the student body doesn’t matter at Fenwick. One’s own merit and accomplishments are what matter.”
Cortney Hall remembers feeling nervous – again. The Fenwick alumna (’99), now an Emmy-nominated TV journalist, was back among Friars, preparing to deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2016. The problem: She was sitting near Andy Arellano, her old speech teacher. Twenty years earlier, Mr. Arellano had seemed “so scary,” not just to Ms. Hall but to generations of Fenwick sophomores. Contrary to her on-air vivaciousness on NBC-TV’s “Chicago Today” show (Channel 5), Hall insists she was a shy 15-year-old.
“We looked at speech class as a ‘gateway to graduation,’” she recalls, adding that she felt prepared four years ago. “That’s what Andy does. He prepares his students and makes them feel confident about getting up and talking in front of other people. Speech class was tough at the time, but he also made it entertaining. He taught skills that I have carried with me throughout my life and career.”
Hall grew up in the south/western suburbs of Downers Grove and Oak Brook. Comparatively, “Fenwick was diverse – and I don’t mean just racially or ethnically,” she explains. “The school pulls people from all over the Chicago area, with different life experiences.”
But no matter where Fenwick’s student live, physically, their families all seem to have one thing in common: “They all care and have similar core values,” she believes. “Going in [to Fenwick], you know you’re among like-minded people whose parents want structure and discipline for them; who want their children to learn and have morals.”
It takes time and “some distance” to appreciate many aspects of what makes Fenwick such a special place, admits Hall. “Is it strict? Yeah. We weren’t allowed to hang out in the hallways like kids at other schools,” she continues. “As a teenager, you worry about things like wearing the Catholic-school uniform. However, as an adult, you look back and understand that there was a different purpose. We weren’t caught up in the brand of jeans our classmates were buying. We heard about bullying incidents at other schools, but I don’t remember stuff like that happening at Fenwick when I was there. We were a different group of kids.”
The stress of Mr. Arellano’s speech classes is not Hall’s only faculty memory of Fenwick. “Fr. Joe [Ekpo] was a character, with his chants of ‘Up, up, Jesus! Down, down, Satan!’” she remembers. Hall played tennis, and Mr. Bostock was her soccer coach. “I was mildly terrible,” she self-assesses. “And Dr. Lordan [retired in 2019] was a Fenwick staple, of course.” She remembers (fondly?) getting JUG on her very first day as a freshman student — for a skirt infraction. “There were two tricks for shortening our skirts: We’d either roll them at the top or staple them at the hem,” she laughs.
Hall adds that she had fun as a Blackfriars yearbook staffer (she was student life editor) and
wrote a “column” her senior year. “It was a parody on uniforms: shirt colors
(blue!) and shoe options.” She also was active in Campus Ministry, NHS, SADD
and The Wick.
Hall’s absolute favorite memory as a Friar? Hands down, it was “going downstate for boys’ basketball in 1998,” she exclaims of her junior-year experience in Peoria, IL. “I went with friends to cheer them on!”
Life after Fenwick
From Fenwick, Hall moved on to Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.), where she majored in marketing at the McDonough School of Business. “Georgetown was my first choice,” she notes. “I’ve always been a big basketball fan, and the Hoyas were really cool in the ’90s.”
Being from Chicago, she wanted a school in a big city and was accepted at Columbia and NYU in New York. “Applying to colleges was a great experience,” she shares. “I received a lot of great guidance. Fenwick put me in a good position to get into my ‘reach’ schools.” A visit to Georgetown’s campus sealed her fate.
As an under-grad at Georgetown, she says she really
didn’t know what she wanted to do. After graduating, “I worked at the World
Bank in D.C. for a while but decided that wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to sit
in front of a computer all day long.”
Her game-changer turned out to be media coverage of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Like many Americans, “the powerful images coming out of New York captivated me,” she says. “I was in college when it happened, glued to my TV set and the news [reports].”
“Is there a fine line between optimism and reality?” The band Queen took the world by storm during its reign in the 1970s. They introduced the world to a new type of rock and produced hit songs that are still celebrated and sung today. Of these songs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is perhaps the most well-known. The six-minute song is an unlikely source of optimism, but upon listening to the mere first verse, I was struck with the lyrics’ undiscovered potential. In these lyrics, I found the metaphorical line between optimism and reality.
Freddie Mercury begins the song by asking, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” His rhetorical questions are the same that we must ask ourselves. Are we approaching situations realistically? Are we optimistic in setting our goals? We must ask ourselves these questions before reaching a decision. It is not enough to approach every situation with a singularly realistic point of view. With no optimism, life becomes dreary. However, on the other hand, we must make certain that optimism does not overpower our decisions and goals. Further along in the first verse, Freddie Mercury also sings the line, “Easy come, easy go.” Through this assertion, he perfectly embodies the relationship between realism and optimism. One must be able to handle any situation accordingly, but the person must also have hope that the situation will get better. Not only did Queen release an American icon, they also unlocked the secret to optimism and realism.
Realism is the tendency to accept things as they are. Optimism, at its core, is just realism interspersed with hope. An optimist must be able to look at reality with positivity and hope for a better future. Because of their relationship, optimism and realism co-exist. Being too realistic can be harmful to one’s outlook on life. Imagine a doctor telling someone that they have been diagnosed with cancer and have a slim chance of overcoming the disease. A realist would accept the diagnosis and understand that the survival rate is very low. Yet, is there not more? How can we just accept a dire situation like this, and not hope and work for a better outcome? Because of this, being too realistic is not beneficial to one’s life. One must also sprinkle in a little bit of optimism in every situation encountered. The Optimist Creed states that we must “talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person [we] meet.” In other words, every situation can use a bit of optimism. Through this codependency, one can find the blurred line between optimism and reality.
The stereotypical idea of an optimist is one who never stops smiling, no matter the circumstances. However, this is not an accurate description. True optimists use both optimism and realism to their advantage. They use realism to accept the situation that has been handed to them. They then use optimism to make the situation better. They are able to overlook the negativity and work for a better tomorrow. These optimists may not always be sporting a smile, but they remain hopeful for a better future. They do not solely rely on realism; nor do they solely rely on optimism. Similarly, we all must find the balance between these two philosophies in order to better ourselves.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” although an unlikely source, has been my inspiration for optimism. This example goes to show that optimism is all around us, we just need to be willing to notice. Simply put, we must look at each situation realistically. Then, just over the horizon, the shining rays of optimism must be found. At that intersection, we all will find the “Fine Line Between Optimism and Reality.”
Optimist International is an international service club organization with almost 3,000 clubs and over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries.