A Mother’s Heartfelt Reflection

The mom of five Friars addressed fellow Mothers’ Club members at the 2019 Fenwick Senior Mass & Brunch celebration earlier this month.

By Susan Lasek

The Fenwick Mothers’ Club Annual Senior Mass & Brunch
was held on Sunday, May 12 at Oak Brook Hills Resort.

Good afternoon Fenwick mothers, guardians, the Senior Class of 2019, Father Peddicord, Mr. Groom and Faculty. I am honored to be here speaking to you about my family’s Fenwick experience: a faith-filled journey that began in August of 2009 and will end on May 24 of this year.

Boy, 10 years go by quickly, especially with five children, all with different personalities and interests who participated in a variety of clubs and sports offered at Fenwick. Why did my family choose Fenwick? Well, I go back to two very precious gifts that were given to me and my husband:

  1. the gift of family and parenthood
  2. the gift of faith

Both Mark and I were lucky enough to grow up in families that were very close and where family was always #1. We also feel the gift of faith is immeasurable — one that our families value very deeply. This is why Mark and I decided to send our kids to a Catholic high school. After researching all the private and public schools, Fenwick was our first choice, hands down, no questions. We felt that it was important for our kids to be reminded of their faith every day. We felt they would have an excellent education that would prepare them for college. Bottom line, as a mother: It was most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.

Why Fenwick? “It was most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.”

What made Fenwick unique in our mind was the entire Fenwick community. You are not just going to high school; you are joining the Fenwick family. You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life. Whether you are the class of 2019 or the class of 1990, it doesn’t matter because you are all part of the Fenwick family.

Mrs. Sue Lasek speaking from her heart … about Fenwick.

Some of the things that make Fenwick unique and stand out:

  • Prayers are included in every aspect of a student’s life, from the start of the day, to sporting events, theater and other activities.
  • How beautiful it is that Father Peddicord greets everyone by name after school and wishes them a good rest of the day?
  • Kairos is one of the most emotional, faith-filled experiences that touches every student. The three-day retreat brings students together who may not know each other very well and provides an opportunity for support and friendship.
  • Fenwick is truly a college-prep school. Every one of my children that went off to college thanked us for sending them to Fenwick because they felt so well prepared for their college education and campus life.

What is Friar Nation: “You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life.”

To sum it up, we are thankful for the leadership that helped guide our children from being impressionable kids to strong, independent-minded young adults. We are grateful for their experiences that provided a strong base of faith and knowledge that will carry them into the next phase of their lives. We are appreciative of the entire leadership and staff at Fenwick for genuinely caring for each and every student. Teachers at Fenwick forge great relationships with their students, providing support, guidance and instruction.

Overall, Fenwick instilled a sense of tradition in our kids that make them feel as though they are a part of something bigger. I’d like to close with the following phrase our kids hear during the morning announcements at the beginning of every school day:

“Remember. our experiences are defined by our choices. Today, make great choices. Make today a great day or not, that choice is yours!”

Fenwick is forever in our hearts and minds. God Bless the Friars!

About the Author

Sue Lasek and her husband, Mark, reside in Hinsdale. All five of the couple’s five children have attended Fenwick. A quick update on each one:

Sue with Mark, her “baby.”
  • Mark II, a current graduate (Class of ’19), will attend the University of Wisconsin – Madison this fall and study physics with a minor in finance. 
  • Josephine ’18 just finished her freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is studying nursing. 
  • Charlotte attended Fenwick from 2011-13. She will graduate from DePaul University on June 15, 2019, with a degree in neuropsychology. Charlotte had the opportunity to work with DePaul/NASA on a project that involved researching astronauts’ brains. 
  • Chris ’14 is currently working on his degree in architecture at College of DuPage and is working on a few projects with area architectural firms.
  • Rich ’13 graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2017 with a degree in economics. He is employed by Core Spaces, one of the country’s top leaders in student housing. Rich manages the Ambassador Program across the United States and conducts market research for the firm; he also is involved with business development.
The Lasek family.

High-Tech Education Came to Fenwick a Quarter-Century Ago

Where in the World Wide Web has “FenTech” gone and, more importantly, where is it headed? Answers can be found in the growth of the school’s Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory and CS programs.

By Mark Vruno

In 1993, could we have fathomed high-school educators teaching entire courses to teenagers on tablet computers? iPads weren’t even a tech “thing” 25 years ago, yet this past school year at Fenwick, the “Introduction to Computer Science” (CS) class was taught entirely on Apple iPads, reports Science Department Co-Chair Dave Kleinhans.

Turning Fenwick’s tech visions into realities over the past two-and-a-half decades has been made possible, in large part, by initial, generous funding from alumnus Bernard Brennan ’56, former chief executive (from 1985-96) of the Montgomery Ward department-store chain. Bernie is the younger brother of the late Edward Brennan ’51, former CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Ed and Bernie, the Brennan Bros., are a couple of Friars’ heavy-hitters:  Bernie is a member of the school’s Board of Directors as well as a 1986 Fenwick Hall of Fame inductee; Ed followed him to the school HOF in ’91.

A peek inside Fenwick’s Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory, which officially was dedicated on February 28, 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, the younger Brennan and his family made a major leadership donation to create the Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory, which was dedicated in early 1993. Students at the time, as well as members of the Fenwick Mothers’ Club, also contributed financially to the lab’s creation. Now 80 years old, Bernie Brennan’s blue-sky vision of “computerization projects” today partly resides in the virtual “Cloud,” of course. But keep in mind that, in early 1993, while email may have been a mainstream form of communication at most corporations, the Internet was a fledgling technology. Ever so slowly, companies were beginning to launch new, online branding devices called “websites.” The dot-com bubble (1997-2001) was still a few years off.

For Fenwick’s new Brennan Computer Lab, initial purchases in the mid-1990s included hardware, such as AST Bravo workstations and Netstore SCSI CD-ROM subsystems (used for information retrieval long before web browsers and cloud computing became popular), as well as software, electrical upgrades and accessories, including printers and furniture. The lab was designed to be used by the Math and Science Departments as well as the Library and the English Department. Tech-hungry teachers welcomed the new writing-lab segment, which featured desktop publishing systems for the Blackfriars Yearbook, The Wick student newspaper and staff newsletters.

Bernie Brennan’s 1956 yearbook portrait.

“It was clear to me that we were moving into the technology world at that point in time, and I wanted Fenwick to be in the leadership position,” Mr. Brennan reflected recently. “Ironically, I have been heavily involved in the technology sector for the past 20 years! It is easy to give back to Fenwick and our Dominican friends as they have done so much for the Brennan family. Fenwick’s focus on intellectual curiosity, discipline and uncompromising ethics is a beacon for us all.”

“Fenwick’s focus on intellectual curiosity, discipline and uncompromising ethics is a beacon for us all.” -Bernie Brennan ’56

New Millennium’s Web of Tech

Freshman math students in Mr. Andrew Thompson’s class, using their iPads (2017 photo).

It is interesting to note that each of Fenwick’s 1,152 incoming students this fall will have an iPad in her or his backpack. (Members of the outgoing Class of 2018 are the first Friars to have had tablet computers in their collective possession all four years.) With improved anti-cheating security measures in place, some high schools in Illinois already have adopted online final exams. Fenwick teachers have administered online quizzes and tests via their students’ iPads, but most educators in the building are proceeding with caution on that electronic front.

Since 2000, Fenwick has had a Technology Services Department in place that today is staffed by four full-time employees. These high-tech staff members manage the school’s more than 400 computer systems and a highly secure Wi-Fi network as well as some 30 switches and 122 access points — not to mention the telephone and email systems and 92 copy machines/printers! Associate Tech Director Fr. Mike Winkels, O.P. also feeds content to a total of six electronic bulletin boards displayed in the cafeteria, outside the library and elsewhere throughout the school.

Fenwick Technology Director Ernesto Nieto

Fenwick’s students, faculty and staff alike often take this tech group’s behind-the-scenes work for granted. Even those of us old enough to remember slow modems and non-connectivity have come to expect our 21st-century, networked, electronic devices to work – “magically” — with no glitches. “We do a lot of things that people probably don’t think about,” says Director of Technology Services Ernesto Nieto, who came to Fenwick in ’01 by way of St. Ignatius College Prep, the Dominican Conference Center, the Shrine of St. Jude and DePaul University.

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