Faculty Focus: August 2019

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

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

What is your educational background?

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

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

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

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

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

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

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

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

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

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

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

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite classes to teach?

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

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

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

What challenges face students today?

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

MEET MORE FENWICK FACULTY MEMBERS!

Collegiate Friars: July 2019

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OLIVIA EVANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JAKARIE GATES

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE COLLEGIATE FRIARS

Worldly Sophomore to Study in Germany for 11 Months

Fenwick student Jack Kornowske ’22 takes part in the Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick student Jack Kornowske (Oak Park) is headed to Germany for his sophomore year.

Fenwick parents Diane Ellsworth and Pete Kornowske have four children, including twin boys Eric and Jack, who will be sophomores this coming school year. (Older sibling Will is a senior Friar.) Of the twins, “Jack is the more independent one,” their mother says. She is about to find out just how self-sufficient her 15-year-old son is, as he embarks in mid-August on an 11-month study opportunity near Berlin, Germany, as part of the Rotary Club of Oak Park – River Forest’s Youth Exchange Program. The cultural experience will feature several host families, not just one.

“We host two [Rotary] students per year,” explains Mrs. Ellsworth, who hails from nearby Norridge and became familiar with the program from a friend who is a Rotarian host. “My friend once ran a school in France and had great experiences hosting,” adds Diane. Ellsworth-Kornowske’s Oak Park house was the U.S. home of a junior student from Brazil attending Oak Park-River Forest High School this past spring. Last fall they hosted a student from Italy who was a guest at St. Patrick High School in Chicago. The family also has hosted other foreign-exchange students, from France and Japan, in the past.

As for Jack spending almost a year away from home in Germany, his mother admits to being a little “freaked out” by the prospect of her young, teenage son traveling, by himself, across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. “I was preparing for my oldest to go to college,” she explains. And now, this! Kornowske is one of eight students sponsored by the Rotary district to study abroad for the 2019-20 school year. Rotary International handles the logistics; each participating family is responsible for their child’s airfare and travel insurance. 

Visiting an English-speaking country is not an option for students participating the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, Jack notes. “I was asked to rank my top 12 countries,” he recalls. At first he thought he was heading to Lithuania, number 7 on his list. However, in May, Outbound Coordinator Sue DeBolt (Rotary District 6450) and Youth Exchange Officer Lesley Gottlinger notified the family that his destination had changed to Germany. Soon, passport in hand, he will be on his way to board an airplane at O’Hare’s International Terminal. 

Sprechen Sie Deutsche?

Young Kornowske does not speak fluent German, so to get ready for his 4,400-mile journey he has been working with a language tutor this summer. “Rotary helps with the language skills — they expect Jack to be fluent after three months,” his mom reports. He will attend a language camp his first week in Germany. And he won’t be allowed to text or FaceTime his family in Oak Park; at least not at first. As part of the Rotary program’s deeply immersive strategy, Jack cannot communicate with his parents or siblings at all for those first 90 days, which makes his mother even more anxious. 

Jack Kornowske (center) and fellow Youth Exchange students at a holiday party last December sponsored by the Western Springs Rotary Club.

“There’s no constant calling home, asking for help … no ‘helicopter parenting,’” she explains. Experience has shown that this is the best way for students from other countries to assimilate, according to Rotary International. “They want the kids engaged and invested where they’re at,” Ms. Ellsworth continues, “not online, not talking with home. Jack needs to put himself out there and get involved in his new community!” She notes that thousands of kids do this every year, and that she and her husband “have faith in the process.”

Later in autumn, Jack may write a blog (web log) journaling his experience, which is one way his family back home can stay informed about what it is he is doing a continent away. Rotary meetings in Germany will be part of his monthly routine. Meanwhile, he and his parents are working with Fenwick Principal Peter Groom and the school’s administration to ensure that all his graduation prerequisites are met. “He’s going to need to make up Theology [class] and probably take Speech as a junior,” Ms. Ellsworth informs.


His ’22 classmates will welcome Jack Kornowske back to the Fenwick campus in August of 2020.

His mom concludes: “We think this is a great opportunity for Jack and that he will do well.” It gives her peace of mind knowing her son will be wearing his Rotary blazer while traveling. “It’s easily recognizable,” she says, “so if he needs help other Rotarians will be accessible — in any airport and in any country.”

Ms. Mary Visteen, Counselor for the Class of 2022, adds: “Jack is a brave kid with an adventurous spirit. I am sure that he will learn a lot from the experience.” 

Journey safely, Friar sophomore. We’ll see you back on campus your junior year!

About Rotary International

Rotary International is an international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.


FACULTY FOCUS: Fenwick Theology & Film Teacher John Paulett

Renaissance Man: Clevelander, Golden Apple winner and Fenwick Theology/Film Teacher for the past 12 years, Mr. Paulett also is a writer, musician and theater aficionado.

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Mr. Paulett enjoying his vacation in Paris, France, this summer.

What is your educational background?                  

JP: My undergraduate degree was in Linguistics and Classical Languages from Georgetown University. I have a Master’s degree in Theology from Felician University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. During my Golden Apple Sabbatical, I began a doctoral program in religious studies at Northwestern University.

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

JP: I taught for 10 years while I was in my twenties — at Lake Catholic High School in Cleveland and then at Kent State University, where I was doing doctoral work in theater and film. I then left teaching for family reasons and went into business. I had planned to work in business for two years but it turned into 25 years. I had always planned to return to teaching. When my daughter was through college, I had my opportunity and joined Fenwick.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?               

JP: I always have several books going at the same time. Right now, I am reading David Brooks’ new book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. I am also reading a history of the Second World War in the Aleutian Islands. Rounding that out is Wasn’t That a Time? — the story of the folk singing group The Weavers. 

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

JP: I am a theater fanatic. In most weeks, I attend two or three performances. I love opera and subscribe to the Lyric Opera. I also subscribe to the Chicago Symphony, the Music of the Baroque and three theater companies. I fill in the other nights with smaller theaters and films at the Gene Siskel Center. I am a writer (I have four books published) and am active writing almost every day. I have a new book in progress that I hope to finish by fall. I play music (guitar, banjo, mandolin) and usually pick up an instrument for a few minutes every day.

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

JP: When I was in high school [at St. Ignatius in Cleveland], I was a member of the Debate Team and was fortunate to have some success. I was also in the theater. I acted in several plays and, during my senior year, wrote and directed a play. I sang in the choir and played in a rock band. I was a dreadful athlete and got cut from every sport I attempted. I wrote for the school newspaper and, for a while, published an underground newspaper. The teachers caught me running this off on the mimeograph machine and the paper was ended.

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

JP: I have moderated a variety of groups at Fenwick. I was the chess coach and the moderator of Touchstone [the student literary magazine] for several years. I directed the spring musical and was music director for Banua. I have been the moderator of the Photography Club for the last few years. Next year, I will guide the new Film Club.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

JP: Fenwick students generally have a seriousness of purpose that sets them apart. I teach Moral Theology. In that class, we study philosophers such as Kant, Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Most students will not encounter these thinkers until junior year of college. Fenwick students deal with this advanced content with thoughtfulness and diligence.

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

JP: I was deeply affected by several teachers in high school, probably none more than my speech teacher Mr. William Murphy. He was an intense, rigorous and sometimes difficult man who drove, excited, demanded and inspired his students. I suppose that my desire to become a teacher started with a hope to be like Murph. I have been very blessed in my life, and I think I have an obligation to give back. Teaching has been the best way I have found to return what I have been given.

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

JP: Parker Palmer, who writes about teaching and teachers, has said that success in the classroom comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. I was able to study with Parker for two years. One of the things that I learned from him is that teachers need to be authentic and vulnerable. I care deeply about every one of my students. I hope they see that. I try to be creative and innovative. I like using technology to create a more participatory class environment. I also try to bring my sense of humor into the classroom. Most of all, I love my subjects. I try to make my passion for the content material open enough to engage and embrace my students.

What are your favorite classes to teach?

JP: The class I teach most often in Moral Theology. I think this course is both important and interesting because it challenges the way we think. It asks important questions such as, “What is truth?” and “Are some things actually good and bad, or is it just a matter of opinion?” I also teach History and Theory of Film. This is a special joy. Many people watch movies; only a few enter into the beautiful art of cinema. My students are exposed to the classics of film along with the cinema of many different countries. This gives them a chance to expand and increase their ability to enjoy all types of movies at a fuller and deeper level.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching? ​

JP: On an external level, the greatest success was being awarded the Golden Apple for Teaching Excellence in 2013. It was a thrill that is difficult to describe. Bigger and more important successes happen every day. When a student says, “I never thought of that before,” I have succeeded. This year, a film student told me that he had been certain he would not like a Japanese film we were studying. After our discussions, he said that it was now his favorite film. Whenever a student is transformed, I count it as one of my greatest successes.

What challenges face students today?

JP: The speed of change is greater than anything experienced in the history of the world. Thomas Friedman claims that the year that changed history is 2007. He cites the iPhone, cloud computing and social media as a few of the substantial changes that happened that year. Our students are facing changes that rival or exceed the Industrial Revolution, but they are seeing them more quickly than any generation before them. I once asked an executive at Google what he was looking for in new employees. He answered, “Creativity and collaboration.” Students need to achieve flexibility and [have] an ability to learn — often to learn skills and information that did not exist just a year or so earlier.

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Mr. Paulett took an Eiffel Tower selfie in June!

FACULTY FOCUS ARCHIVES

What a Father Means to Me

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

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

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad’s Gift of Peace

Robert Feldmeier
(1965-2012)

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

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

Dan the Man

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

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

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

About the Author

Pat Feldmeier ’20

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

A Mother’s Legacy of Caring

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

By Quiwana Reed Bell ’96

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing brings happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give your gift

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

Jackie Reed

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

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

“It takes a Village to Raise a Child.”   

African Proverb

Grassroots rooted in Mississippi

Westside Health Authority
COO Quiwana Reed ’96.

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

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

The Austin Wellness Center opened its doors 15 years ago.

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

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

The Good Neighbor Campaign got rolling three years ago.

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

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

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

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

WHA on Facebook.

Good Neighbor Campaign Austin on Facebook.

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

About the Author

Qui Reed Bell is Westside Health’s COO.

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

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

Faculty Focus: Science Teacher Mr. Tom Draski

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

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What is your educational background?

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

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

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

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

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

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

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

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

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

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

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

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite class to teach?

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

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

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

What challenges face students today?

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

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

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

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

READ ABOUT OTHER FACULTY MEMBERS

Catching Up with Former English Teacher Peter Bostock

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

Peter_Bostock_1

Dr. Bostock and his wife in Sorrento, Italy.

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

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

What was your role / what classes did you teach?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you describe the Fenwick Community to other people?

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

What do you miss (most) about Fenwick?

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

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

Funniest Fenwick moment?

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

Fondest Fenwick moment?

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

Do you have any words of wisdom for current students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alumni Friars Teaching in Academia

It’s “cool” to be smart at Fenwick, and these Ph.D. scholars have taken their intellectual talents to a higher level as university professors.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick instructors have honed developing minds of highly intelligent people over thecourse of 90 school years. From physics and politics to English and French, some of those students took their passions for learning to the next level by pursuing research, education and scholarship at some of the world’s most prestigious private and public universities.

Holder Hall at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, where two Fenwick alumni teach.

At Princeton, the Ivy League research school with New Jersey roots dating back to 1746, two Fenwick alumni-turned-professors can be found teaching on campus: Thomas Duffy ’78 (geophysics) and John Mulvey ’64 (operations research/financial engineering). In Boston, Professor William Mayer ’74 has been a political-science guru at Northeastern University (established in 1898) for the past 28 years. After Fenwick, Mayer attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he also earned a Ph.D. (in 1989). “I don’t like to move,” he dead-pans, “plus my wife loves the New England area.”

On the West Coast, one of Prof. Duffy’s classmates, Larry Cahill ’78, is a neuroscientist and professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California at Irvine. And in the Midwest, Robert Lysak ’72 is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis – Saint Paul.

Additionally, two members of the Class of 1961 were college professors and are now retired: Terrence Doody (English Literature) at Rice University in Houston and Thomas Kavanagh (French), most recently at Yale University in Connecticut. Another Professor Emeritus isJohn Wendt ’69, who taught Ethics and Business Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) for 30 years. (Read more about them.) Spread out geographically across the United States, Fenwick is the common denominator for these seven Ph.D.’s and college professors. Read on for a glimpse at their impressive works.

A Computing Love Affair

John Mulvey in 1964.

John Mulvey is a professor within Princeton’s Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) Department, which he founded. He also is a founding member of the interdisciplinary Bendheim Center for Finance as well as the Statistics and Machine Learning Center at the university. Mulvey is captivated by the ongoing revolution in information and machine-learning. The ORFE Department focuses on the foundations of data science, probabilistic modeling and optimal decision-making under uncertainty. “Our world is a very uncertain place,” he stresses.

The work Mulvey does has applications throughout the service sector, including in communications, economics/finance, energy/the environment, health-care management, physical and biological sciences, and transportation. In the past, he has worked with aerospace/defense-technology firm TRW (now part of Northrop Grumman) to help solve military problems, including developing strategic models for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (U.S. Department of Defense).

“Today we work with major firms, including some of the largest investors in the world, which are interested in integrating their risk,” Mulvey explains. For example, “hedge funds and private-equity firms need to manage their portfolios over time to protect themselves. When the crash occurred in 2008, people thought they were diversified. The banking and finance world refers to systemic risk as contagion,” which is the spread of market changes or disturbances from one regional market to others.

Mulvey also analyzes data for supply-chain management, which he calls a “transformative industry. Production and distribution models were separate before,” he points out, “but we’ve brought it all together now. Amazon has built its whole system based on this commerce model.”

Prof. Mulvey at Princeton.

Machines running algorithms and computer optimization became passions for him at a relatively young age. At Fenwick, Mr. Edward Ludwig helped mathematics to make sense for young John. “He was an amazing math teacher,” Mulvey says of Ludwig. “His class was fantastic. I didn’t necessarily want to be an engineer but felt I could go into a technical area.

“In the 1960s we were at the cusp of computing, and the University of Illinois had one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the time,” recalls Mulvey, who grew up on the West Side of Chicago and attended the old St. Catherine of Siena Parish. “That’s why I wanted to go there, and I fell in love with computing.”

The ILLIAC IV supercomputer is what drew Mulvey to the University of Illinois in the mid-1960s.

He next ventured west to study business administration at the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California (Cal), then earned a second master’s degree in management science in ’72 from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Three years later Mulvey completed his Ph.D. at UCLA’s Graduate School of Management. His dissertation topic, “Special Structures in Large Scale Network Models and Associated Applications,” won the 1976 American Institute of Decision Sciences Doctoral Dissertation Competition.

Mulvey taught for three years at the Harvard Business School and, 41 years ago, came to Princeton “to have an impact at a smaller school,” he says. (Princeton has some 5,200 under-grads.) “I came here to grow the basic, general engineering program for undergraduates.” The 72-year-old thoroughly enjoys his work: “If you had a job like mine, you wouldn’t want to retire.”

Extreme Conditions

Tom Duffy in 1978.

Across campus, Tom Duffy is Director of Princeton’s High-Pressure Mineral Physics & Material Science Laboratory and Associate Chair of the Geosciences Department. His research focuses on understanding the large-scale physical and chemical behavior of the Earth and other planets through experimental study of geological materials under extreme conditions. He and his colleagues employ high-tech tools, such as laser-heated diamond anvil cells and optical spectroscopy along with X-rays, to explore crystal structures, phase relations, elasticity and deformation behavior in a range of materials at ultra-high pressure and temperature conditions.

“We study the behavior of materials under extreme conditions – deep inside the Earth, for example, or under meteorite impact,” Prof. Duffy explains. “We examine how structures and chemistries change, then try to determine what these changes might mean for Earth and for other planets, including recently discovered planets orbiting other stars.” One big question with which he and his research associates grapple: How are these newly discovered planets fundamentally different from Earth?

Prof. Duffy (third from left) poses with students in his research group. (Photo courtesy of Princeton University.)

The youngest of six children from Riverside, IL (St. Mary’s), Duffy describes his career pathway as “roundabout.” He entered Boston College as a physics major. “I then was exposed to real- world applications through a geology course I took as a senior, then came home and worked in a food distribution warehouse,” Duffy says. After about one year he returned to school for his master’s degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in a new program that blended his interests in physics and geology. After six years at California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in Pasadena, earning a Ph.D., he returned home to pursue a research opportunity at the University of Chicago. In 1997 Duffy landed at Princeton and has never looked back.

Duffy travels “home” to Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL, about six times per year to conduct research. He credits Fenwick with developing his self-confidence as a young man who wasn’t necessarily science oriented. Mr. Andrew Arellano was a newer teacher back then, and Duffy got involved in speech and debate. “At tournaments we’d go up against bright, hard-working kids from other schools. You wouldn’t think that possessing strong writing and speaking skills are important in science, but they are. I have to write well and explain complex concepts.

History Teacher Mr. Louis “Jack” Spitznagel (shown in 1974) passed away in late 2001.

“I received a broad-based education at Fenwick — history, literature, math, art,” he continues. He remembers other “great teachers” who were dedicated to their craft: Fr. McGrath for math, Mr. Guerin for physics and Mr. Polka for biology. The late “Mr. Spitznagel was really tough,” Duffy recalls, “but I learned a lot” in his history class.

Sex Differences in the Brain

In high school in the mid-1970s, Larry Cahill was a self-described “little, smart guy with glasses” who everyone assumed would grow up to be a physician. “I rode in from Elmhurst with my brothers,” he recalls of his 12-mile daily commute eastward to Oak Park. Cahill’s father and uncle also attended Fenwick.


Larry Cahill in 1978.

“To show you what a ‘geek’ I was, I took Latin partly to get an advantage regarding medical terminology,” Prof. Cahill admits. Mrs. Mary Ann Spina was his Latin teacher. “She made learning Latin enjoyable,” he says. “As a matter of fact, some Fenwick friends and I started a philosophical group called ‘In Vino Veritas,’ which even had business cards (thanks to my Dad, a printer). I suppose the organization still lives, since philosophy never dies,” Cahill quips.

Despite being on the med-school track, “by default,” Cahill discovered brain research as an undergraduate student in Evanston at Northwestern University (NU). “I needed to stay in state to get Illinois state scholarship money,” he reflects. At NU he continued to study Latin and spent a semester in Rome his junior year. “Life works out in funny ways,” he believes. “That [trip] was the benefit of taking Latin back at Fenwick.”

While in college, the idea of medical school faded. After working on memory-enhancing drugs at G.D. Searle in Illinois for two years, Cahill earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1990 from the University of California at Irvine. Following post-doctoral research in Germany, he returned to UC Irvine to extend his research to studies of human subjects, which in turn led to discoveries about sex influences on emotional memory and revolutionary findings regarding sex influences on brain function, which he finds quite gratifying.

Prof. Cahill at UCI. (Photo courtesy of Orange County Register/Drew A. Kelley.)

For the past 18 years or so Cahill has been immersed in the differences between the male and female brain. “We used to believe that men and women were not so different outside of the ‘bikini zone,’” he says. But research is proving that women and men are very different in other ways, too: “The female heart, lungs, liver, immune system and brain are not the same as the male’s,” he informs, adding that medical research has been built disproportionately on studies of male organs and brains. “Women have not been treated equally because they have been treated the same,” he asserts.

Cahill is a leading advocate for the need to study biological sex differences in all of medicine. Adversaries have called him a “neurosexist.” “There has been enormous resistance,” he admits. His findings have been featured in the New York Times, London Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, medium.com and Quillette, an Australian online magazine focused on science, technology, news, culture and politics. On television, he has been interviewed by PBS, CNN and CBS. (Cahill’s “60 Minutes” piece was highlighted on “The Colbert Report.”) At the lecture podium, he has been recognized as an Outstanding Professor at UCI’s School of Biological Sciences in 2005-06 and in 2007-08.

Other than playing tennis as a senior, Cahill says he wasn’t very involved in extra-curricular activities as a Friar. “But I still know the words to the Fight Song,” he proudly declares. He remembers Fenwick as “a serious place at all levels. This whole attitude of seriousness was imbued on high school kids from the top down, including the concept of discipline – which is much maligned today — and self-discipline. One of the best things you can teach anyone is to suck it up and make it happen.”

“I learned more at Fenwick than I did at Harvard.”

– Prof. Bill Mayer ’74

A Political Voice

Prof. Mayer at Northeastern University (Boston).

Every four years, Bill Mayer’s phone rings more than usual at Northeastern University in Boston. Members of the media seek out his expert commentary during U.S. presidential election years. “I’ve done a lot of research and writing on that topic,” he admits. Reporters from the Boston Herald, Newsweek and the Christian Science Monitor have quoted Mayer. You can see him on videos aired by C-SPAN (the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network), too.

Fielding such calls is a natural for Mayer, whose forte is American politics. After graduating from Fenwick in 1974, Mayer earned a B.A. in government in ’79 from Harvard, where he finished up his Ph.D. in political science 10 years later. Prof. Mayer’s tenure at Northeastern began in 1991. Under his American government specialty, he has taught introductory classes as well as courses in “American Political Thought,” “Public Opinion, Voting and Elections” and “Politics and the Mass Media.” Next spring, leading up to the 2020 election, he again will teach his favorite course while the U.S. presidential nomination process is taking place.

“I’m grateful for the teachers I had at Fenwick,” says Mayer, a native of River Forest, IL, and St. Luke Parish & School. His older brother, Joseph Mayer ’73 (both were valedictorians), paved the way to Fenwick. “Joe helped me so much, especially with math,” says Bill. “I really owe a lot to him.” (The older Mayer brother became a medical doctor and presently is a neurologist with DuPage Medical Group.)

Bill Mayer as a Fenwick junior in 1973.

Young Bill served as editor of The Wick student newspaper for one semester and was on the Debate Team all four years as a Friar student. “I did well in debate,” he reports. “We advanced to the semi-finals of Catholic Nationals my senior year.” His debate partner was a junior, John McSweeney ’75. “Our coach was Father Motl for my first three years, then Mr. Arellano took over.”

In addition to teaching, Mayer is an accomplished author as well. He has published two of his own books, co-authored two other books, and edited and wrote chapters for seven other publications. He also has contributed some 50 scholarly articles to academic publications. (See “Alumni Authors.”) In the “Acknowledgements” section of his first book, The Changing American Mind (1992), Mayer thanks three of his teachers at Fenwick:

  • The late Fr. Jordan McGrath, O.P., who passed away last August at age 86, was his math teacher “for three of my four years. He taught me how to think rigorously,” says Mayer, who points out that he taught statistics earlier in his career.
  • Mr. John Heneghan “was a wonderful history teacher who taught [us]… how to take raw materials and try to interpret how they fit into the larger sweep of American history.”
  • Former English Teacher Mr. James Kucienski was “really good at passing along ideas about the teaching of literature,” Mayer says. “I had him my senior year.”

Additionally, Mayer is grateful for taking four years of Latin (two were required at the time). “Latin is a great way to learn about language,” he contends, “because it is constructed in a different way than English, where meaning is determined by word endings rather than position in the sentence. It, therefore, makes you much more conscious of noun cases and verb tenses.”

English Teacher Mr. James Kucienski was Fenwick’s resident grammarian, which Mayer says he didn’t appreciate at the time.

With the benefit of hindsight, he also now realizes how important freshman English class was to a youthful, 14-year-old Friar. “Our grammar textbook was thick, and the study could be tedious: subject-verb agreement, dangling participles and so forth. These disciplines are not terribly popular today, but I hope they still do it at Fenwick.

“I’ve always been regarded as a good writer,” he adds, attributing that reputation to his high school grammar instruction. “Trust me: There are some poor writers among political scientists!” Truth be told, “I learned more at Fenwick than I did at Harvard,” Mayer concludes.

The Northern Lights Man

Bob Lysak in 1972.

Bob Lysak, a professor of physics and astronomy, is interested in Theoretical Space Plasma Physics, especially magnetospheric physics, auroral particle acceleration, the dynamics of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves in the magnetosphere, magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, and the dynamics of field-aligned currents. He is fascinated by aurorae: the natural light displayed in the Earth’s sky; the phenomenon also is referred to as polar lights or northern lights (aurora borealis).

This infatuation is, perhaps, part of the reason why he has been located for the past 37 years at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, which are four latitudinal degrees north of his hometown of Westchester, IL. “I’m a glutton for winters,” jokes Lysak, who attended Divine Infant Parish as a child. This past semester he was on sabbatical in Australia, collaborating on southern lights (aurora australis) research around the Antarctic and designing computer models of the Earth’s magnetic-field oscillations.

After graduating from Fenwick in 1972, Lysak enrolled at Michigan State (earning a B.S. degree in three years) and then at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in physics in 1980. His post-doctoral studies, conducted near Munich, Germany, focused on extraterrestrial physics.

Prof. Lysak at the University of Minnesota.

Recognized among his peers for making significant scientific contributions to society, the professor was selected the by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) as a 2011 Fellow, a designation conferred upon fewer than 0.1% of all AGU members in any given year. The European Geosciences Union also awarded Lysak the Hannes Alfvén Medal, which honors scientists who have achieved exceptional international standing in Solar-Terrestrial Sciences.

When he reflects on his time at Fenwick some 50 years ago, Lysak points to two non-scientific events that positively affected his illustrious career:

  1. Serving as editor-in-chief of The Wick student newspaper, where “I learned to write to a deadline.” (English Teacher and alumnus Mr. George Wendt ’65 was the moderator.)
  2. Participating in stage plays as part of the Blackfriars Guild, where “I was in front of people and talking.” Lysak, who has been lecturing for nearly four decades, adds that he took part in Debate & Forensics, run by Fr. James Motl, O.P. “but I wasn’t very good.”
Former Fenwick Math Teacher Mr. Ed Ludwig in 1964.

Lysak and his Honors Math classmates were taught all four years by the aforementioned Mr. Ludwig, who had a reputation among students as a somewhat stern disciplinarian. “It was early-1970’s turmoil,” he laughs. “We had our issues, but we developed a good relationship. During our senior year we worked on problems and asked a lot of questions. Mr. Ludwig encouraged us to go at our own pace and [to] explore.” Also influential was Science Teacher Fr. Dave Delich, O.P., who would “let us hang around the lab after school and ‘play’ with the equipment.”

All of these experiences taught Lysak valuable lessons and skills, as did commuting: “I got used to taking public transportation and buses,” he says. “St. Joe’s was less than a mile from our house, but I had a pretty good academic record in grade school and wanted to go to Fenwick. It was worth it.”

Oops, Did We Miss Someone?

The seven professors highlighted here only scratches the surface of Fenwick alumni in academia. If you know of an alumnus or alumna who has a Ph.D. and/or is a college professor, tell us about him or her!

Please email names and titles to communications@fenwickfriars.com.

More PhD.’s from Fenwick

Forever Friars: The Late Franklin Capitanini ’50 of Italian Village fame

Like Fenwick, the storied downtown restaurant has stood the test of time for nine decades — and for three family generations.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

Alfredo Capitanini opened the Italian Village on Monroe Street in the Loop in 1927.

The impact that the late Franklin Delano Capitanini, Class of 1950, left on Chicago cannot be justly put into words. Instead, his impact resonates in his family, friends, Fenwick High School and the famed Italian Village Restaurant(s). Born in America in 1932 and named after U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frank lived a life founded on strong family ties and treated everyone who dined at the Italian Village as if they were old friends. Today, the Italian Village serves as a reminder of the kindness that Mr. Capitanini spread for 85 years.

Located at 71 W. Monroe Street in Chicago’s “Loop” for almost 92 years, the Italian Village was opened by Frank’s father, Alfredo, in September 1927 – two years before Fenwick opened its doors. Frank and his kid brother, Ray (Fenwick ’53), grew up knowing that the restaurant someday would be theirs to manage. Frank’s early years working there included responsibilities such as food preparation for the chefs and waiting tables, according to his close friend, Fenwick classmate and President Emeritus Father Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50. Learning how to talk to adults and serve their requests at an early age benefitted Frank greatly in the years to come. Frank’s son and fellow Friar alumnus, Al Capitanini ’81, says that the “best internship is waiting tables because you learn about customer service and how to handle people.”


Franklin’s 1950 yearbook portrait from Fenwick.

Frank continued his work at the Italian Village when he attended Fenwick, where he participated in football, basketball and track. Unfortunately, his athletic career was cut short due to an injury. Al remembers hearing how his father had to divert all of his attention to education after the injury because Frank’s parents highly valued education. Frank’s father, an Italian immigrant, wanted him to have a strong caring for education due to his own limited schooling opportunities in Italy. When Frank was not hitting the books, he left his friends drooling in the school cafeteria because of the sandwiches he brought daily from the Italian Village. The aroma of Italian lunch meats and cheeses made their palates jealous.

Frank and Fr. LaPata both went on to Notre Dame, but their paths did not cross much at the university: one entered the seminary while the other (Frank) was in the ROTC program. It was not until Father LaPata became president of Fenwick in 1998 that he developed a friendship with Frank, eating at the Capitanini home around once a month.

A Culinary Institution

Once out of college, Frank immediately went back to work at the Italian Village. In the 1950s and ’60s, opera drew huge crowds in big cities like Chicago, so the Capitaninis became well acquainted with some the world’s most famous opera singers. When asked about the relationship between it and the Italian Village, the Lyric Opera Company kindly stated, “American singers and Italian singers of the 1950s and 1960s dined at the Italian Village.” However, opera stars were not the only celebrities to frequent the restaurant. The walls of the Italian Village are lined with autographed pictures from well-known celebrities and sports figures, including Frank Sinatra, Lou Holtz, Mike Ditka, Florence Henderson, Ryne Sandberg and Jon Bon Jovi.


The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy.

The Italian Village has maintained its reputation of great service and hospitality because of Frank’s leadership and family values: “Hundreds [of restaurants] closed, but the Italian Village stayed strong due to its hospitality, charm and kindness,” praises Father LaPata. With an old-fashioned aura and breathtaking architecture, the Village has stood the test of time by adhering to its roots; something that many restaurants in Chicago have failed to do. Upon entering one of the three restaurants in the Italian Village, patrons are engulfed in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy. No windows are present, and it truly feels as if you are dining in Italy.

Frank greeted everyone with that smile!

Later in Frank’s life, he began to teach his kids how to manage the family restaurant. Fortunately, his four children, Lisa, Gina, Frank II ’78 and Al, had hands-on involvement for years. Al vividly remembers growing up at the Village: waiting tables and making food just like Frank did years ago. “We ate more than we actually learned,” he admits. Gina still works in the family business.

When the kids were a bit older, Frank would take them to the restaurant for breakfast, then walk with them to catch a Bears game. Al describes his father as an “old-school type, hardworking, honest to a fault, always there, and would help anyone in an emergency.” Frank served as a great mentor to Al and his other children, and they work hard to emulate their dad. His philanthropic contributions to Fenwick are greatly appreciated as well.

Visiting the Village

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Al this spring at the Italian Village. We talked about the history of the restaurants and Frank’s long-lasting impact on them. When the topic of Frank’s years in high school arose, Al was quick to mention that Fenwick was essential in molding Frank into the man he wanted to be. Frank may have had a career already set through the Italian Village, however, his success and achievements in life required the lessons learned from Fenwick to come to fruition. Through the stories Al shared about Frank’s life at Fenwick as well as his own, I was truly able to understand that Fenwick is great at preparing its students for life ahead.

Frank passed away one year ago at age 85. His funeral was held at his grade school, St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, and Father LaPata touchingly led the Mass. His presence will be missed, yet his spirit will live on in the lives of those around him. Frank Capitanini will forever be a Friar, and his impact on his family, the Italian Village and Fenwick High School will last for generations to come.

Coming soon: The Frank Capitanini Classroom at Fenwick


World Languages students in Fenwick’s “Italian Room” (Room 14), which is being renamed in honor of late alumnus/restaurateur Frank Capitanini ’50.

In addition to their generous classroom-naming donation, the Capitanini family also has created an endowed scholarship in their father’s memory. The fund will provide tuition assistance for a Fenwick student in need.

The students of Italian Teacher Ms. Shawna Hennessey (left) recently sent a “Grazie mille” video to the Capitanini family.

Read a Chicago Tribune article about Frank.

About the Author

Patrick Feldmeier is a finishing up his junior year at Fenwick High School, where he is an Honor Roll/National Honor Society student and president of the Class of 2020. Pat also plays on the Friars’ football and rugby teams. He lives in Western Springs, IL (St. John of the Cross) and is hoping for acceptance this coming fall into the University of Notre Dame, where his Evans Scholar brother, Danny ’18, will be a sophomore.

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