High achievements in academics and athletics have been intertwined at Fenwick for 90 years and counting.
By Ray Wicklander, Jr. ’55
Editor’s note: Mr. Wicklander gave this speech at the Fenwick Athletic Awards ceremony 26 years ago, on November 30, 1992. From Oak Park and Ascension, Ray was a National Honor Society student who played football for four years for the Friars. He also spent two years swimming and on the staff of The Wick.
On a night similar to this, over 60 years ago in the old Morrison Hotel in downtown Chicago, a new upstart high school from Oak Park, called Fenwick, held its first athletic awards night. Over 900 people attended – in the height of the Depression – for two basic reasons:
- They were there to give recognition to the accomplishments of the first senior class – with a football record of 6-1 – who established themselves already as a force in the Catholic League.
- And to make a statement: that the standard of excellence on which Fenwick was established would always reflect itself in its athletic programs.
That was the beginning of a tradition – one of excellence and leadership that has made Fenwick what it is today.
Historic Night for Female Friars
Tonight we have an equally historic moment. For it is obvious that we are now a new Fenwick, where the Black and White of the Friars is worn by both young women as well as young men. A new tradition of excellence and leadership is beginning right now. And just as at the first athletic awards night, we are here for two reasons: to recognize the accomplishments of these athletes and to make a statement that the new Fenwick is committed to excellence and leadership in our sports.
We know that sports are not the only thing that makes a school great. None of you came to Fenwick only because of its sports program. But Fenwick would not be Fenwick without these programs. In Father Botthof’s words, Fenwick is unabashedly a college preparatory program. But it is also a life preparatory program, where we come to learn the lessons of how to succeed as human beings, as Christians, as parents or spouses or colleagues, no matter what path in life we follow.
Many of the most important lessons do not come from books. Tony Lawless often reminded us: “Don’t let the books get in the way of your education.” It is on the field, on the court, in the pool – it is in competition that we learn to get up if we have been knocked down, where we learn to handle a loss without becoming a loser. It is in competition that we come to be truly honest with ourselves. For we can fool others, even parents and bosses and even some teachers, but we can’t fool our teammates. We learn that with determination and commitment, anything is possible – so the word “limits” really has no meaning.
What It Means to Compete
It is also in competition that we learn that we really don’t do that much on our own, that we need a team and that is what counts. So words like “Loyalty” and “Trust” have a special meaning for athletes. It is in this competition that we form bonds and friendships that are unique and hopefully will last all our lives. These are the lessons, the elements that create the elusive, hard-to-describe reality called School Spirit or Tradition. And it is this spirit that affects everything around you here at Fenwick.