Fenwick Fathers’ Club: 2019 Dr. Gerald Lordan Freshman Family Picnic

The recently retired faculty mentor addressed new Friar parents at the annual event renamed in his honor.

By Dr. Gerald Lordan, O.P.

Welcome to Pleasant Home for the 28th Fenwick Fathers’ Club Frosh Family Picnic. We started his event in 1992 to welcome Fenwick’s first coeducational class. Three of the members of that Class of 1996 now serve on the Fenwick faculty. Pleasant Home, like Fenwick, is located in St. Edmund’s Parish. The first Catholic Mass celebrated in Oak Park was held in the barn that serviced this building. 

Fenwick is the only high school in the United States sponsored by Dominican Friars. Dominicans lead lives of virtue. Humility is the greatest of all the virtues. We are humbled by the confidence families place in us by sending us their adolescents for formation. It is a teacher’s greatest joy to be surpassed by his students. We are pleased to see so many of our former students here today as parents of students in the class of 2023. We are pleased to welcome our first fourth generation Friar! We have a member of the class of 2023 with us today who follows in the footsteps of a great grandfather, grandfather and father. 

Every high school in the United States has a legal obligation to the state legislature, which charters it to train patriotic citizens and literate workers. As a Dominican school, Fenwick follows the Thomist educational philosophy. A Thomist school has an obligation to our Creator, the Supreme Being to train moral, servant-leaders of society. The late Ed Brennan, a Fenwick alumnus and CEO of Sears, was once asked what course he studied in his graduate school of business that best prepared him to be the chief executive of a Fortune 500 Corporation. Mr. Brennan replied, “Nothing I studied in business school prepared me for my job. The only class that prepared me was Moral Theology during my junior year at Fenwick High School.”

Training moral, servant-leaders

Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. (front center) joined Dr. Lordan (left) and Fenwick Fathers’ Club President Frank Sullivan ’86 at the Freshman Family Picnic.

Our freshman students will learn this year in history class that we are in an Axial Age. Everything changes in an Axial Age. We have had an Agricultural Revolution, which made us farmers. We have had an Industrial Revolution, which made us factory workers. We are entering an Information Revolution, which will make us computer scientists. We study the past to understand the present to shape the future. We do not know what challenges beyond our present comprehension the future may bring. We must be prepared to be the moral, servant-leaders of our society so we can enable others to meet these challenges. Therefore, Moral Theology is the most important subject that our students study.

The Dominicans are the Order of Preachers and have the initials, O.P., after their names. All of our students will study speech as sophomores.

The lessons we learn in class are important or we would not bother to teach them. Even more important, however, are the lessons we learn inside our building but outside of the classroom.  Three of the Dominican Pillars are Prayer, Community and Study. Once a month we assemble in our Auditorium to celebrate Mass. It is appropriate that we meet in community to pray before we study. 

The most important lessons we learn at Fenwick are taught outside of the building. All of our students will make a Kairos religious retreat during their senior year. This is the most important thing we do at Fenwick.

3 takeways

I am going to identify three activities that will enhance our Fenwick Experience. The first is for adults. The second is for adolescents. The third is for families. These suggestions are based on educational research. They are neither my opinions nor intuitive thoughts. Pedagogy is the science of education. These suggestions come from empirical pedagogical research and enjoy a measure of scientific certitude.

  1. Adults should be active in parent associations. Vibrant parent associations are in indicator of excellence for a school. Do not just join. Do not just pay dues. Get active. Make a difference.
  2. Adolescents should participate in student activities. This does not mean just sports. It includes all manner of student clubs such as speech, drama, student government, art and music.
  3. Families should eat dinner together. They should shut off the television. They should put down the smart phone. They should talk with one another. 
Continue reading “Fenwick Fathers’ Club: 2019 Dr. Gerald Lordan Freshman Family Picnic”

FUTURE LEADERS: Fenwick Boasts at Least 13 Highly Accomplished Scouts This School Year

Eight Friars have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout – plus, two Gold Award-winning girls.

By Mark Vruno

Throughout the course of 90 school years, Fenwick High School has seen its fair share of high-achieving scouts pass through its storied doors. Earning the Boy Scouts’ distinction of Eagle Scout or receiving the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award are akin to graduating as a Friar: They are highly significant accomplishments that, quite frankly, may never get removed from someone’s résumé.

Ian Havenaar ’19 (LaGrange Park/St. Francis Xavier)

 

Jacob Marchetti ’19 (Forest Park/Ascension)

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program. The designation “Eagle Scout” was founded more than 106 years ago. Only 4% of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill. Since its founding in 1912, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by nearly 2.5 million young men. Fenwick senior Ian Havenaar reports that he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in May 2017. Classmates Ethan Baehrend, Daniel Barry, Erik Janc, Jacob Marchetti, Sam Patston, Salvatore Siriano and Matthew Nolan Walsh also are Eagle Scouts, as are juniors Patrick Barry and Billy Brown as well as sophomore Aidan Janc.

Sam Patston ’19 (Oak Park/St. Giles)

 

Billy Brown ’20 (Berwyn/Ascension)

Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges. The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, service and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages. For example, Sal Siriano’s Eagle project was planting a garden at Fraternite Notre Dame in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood near Fenwick.

Eagle Scout Sal Siriano, a senior, and Dr. Jerry Lordan are all smiles in front of the garden, which will look even better this spring.

 

Sal Siriano ’19 (Berwyn/St. Celestine)

It’s “a Mother House that serves Austin with childcare, food pantry, [and] clothing drives, among other things. Dr. Lordan helped a lot, finding a project with me as well as getting the project started,” says an appreciative Sal.

“The … sisters explained that they had nothing on the side of their convent, and they asked me to build a garden in the fall that will bloom this spring,” he explains. “We mulched, planted bulbs, bushes and existing perennial flowers.

Some Girls Are Golden

Anai Arenas ’20 (Brookfield/S.E. Gross Middle School)

Riverside senior Natalie Skiest has achieved the gender equivalent to Eagle Scout rank : The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA. Junior Anai Arenas is working toward her Gold Award as well. Earned by Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts in high school, only 5.4% of eligible girls successfully complete the Gold Award: In 2018, approximately 5,500 girls received it nationwide.

The award allows young women to make lasting change on an issue about which they are passionate — from human trafficking to ocean pollution to education access to expanded STEM training for girls in underserved communities. By the time a girl puts the final touches on her Gold Award, she will have taken seven steps to develop a lasting solution to the challenge:

  1. Identify an issue: Use your values and skills to choose a community issue that you care about.
  2. Investigate it thoroughly: Use your sleuthing skills to learn everything you can about the issue you’ve identified.
  3. Get help and build your team: Form a team to support your efforts and help you take action.
  4. Create a plan: Identify the root cause of an issue, and then create a plan to tackle it.
  5. Present your plan and gather feedback: Submit your Project Proposal Form to your Girl Scout council for approval.
  6. Take action: Lead your team and carry out your plan.
  7. Educate and inspire: Tell your story and share your results.

Gold Award recipients also have a competitive edge in the college admissions process and are eligible for scholarships, says the Girl Scouts organization.

Future Eagle

Conor Kotwasinski ’20 (Cicero/St. Mary’s)

Junior Conor Kotwasinski is close to completing his quest for prestigious Eagle status. This past October, he partnered with CVS Pharmacy in Brookfield to organize a preservative-free Flu Vaccination Clinic (for ages 10 and up) at St. Mary Church in Riverside. Now that his service project is complete, he only needs his “Personal Fitness Merit Badge and to complete my Board of Review,” says Kotwasinski, a member of Troop 92.

More Scout Photos

New Eagle Scout Ethan Baehrend ’19 of River Forest (Roosevelt Middle School), flanked by his parents Diana and Ed, at an April 2019 ceremony.

 

Elmhurst brothers Erik ’19 and Aidan Janc ’21 pose with proud Cross Country Coach and Fenwick alumnus Dave Rill ’87 at their Eagle Scout ceremony.

 

Daniel Barry (Elmhurst)

 

Patrick Barry (Elmhurst)

 

Matthew Nolan Walsh (St. Vincent Ferrer, River Forest)

Grooming Some of Fenwick’s Students to be Philanthropists in the Future

A philanthropic program for teenagers can contribute to our “mutual future social infrastructure,” writes Dr. Lordan.

By Gerald Lordan, PhD.

Fenwick seniors Ethan Seavey (left) and Isaiah Curry with mentor Justin Lewis (standing).

The Future Philanthropist Program (FPP) is an adolescent leadership-training program sponsored by the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, which invests $25,000 annually into community social-service agencies that provide programs for adolescents. Fenwick has five students presently participating in the program: Isaiah Curry ’19, Camille Luckett ’19, Aimee Morrissey ’20, Roger Rhomberg ’20 and Ethan Seavey ’19.

As the only high school in the United States sponsored by Dominican Friars, Fenwick is sui generis (unique). We want our Ministry to be a valued local anchor, a visible metropolitan resource and a recognized national lighthouse for our Thomist Educational Philosophy.  Every high school in the United State has a contractual obligation to the state legislature which chartered it to train patriotic citizens and literate workers. In addition to those legal obligations, Fenwick, as a Thomist School, has a covenant obligation with the Supreme Being to train moral servant leaders. To that end our curriculum includes Speech, Moral Theology, the Christian Service Project and the Kairos retreat.

Those lessons our students learn in the classroom, such as in Speech class, are important. Even more important are those lessons which our students learn inside the building but outside of the classroom, such as liturgy assemblies in the Auditorium. The most important lessons our students learn, such as Kairos, are taught to them outside of the building. Adolescent leadership training is an important component to the Fenwick Thomist experience.

FPP’s leadership affirms the symbiotic relationship between our school and the community. “The Future Philanthropists Program is proud to have partnered with Fenwick High School for the last nine years to teach juniors and seniors the art, science and business of philanthropy,” says program coordinator Karen Tardy. “Our Fenwick students are always eager and very engaged in the program, and they work hard to made a difference in our communities through grant-making, fund-raising and volunteering.  We appreciate the commitment Fenwick has made to the Future Philanthropists Program and their help in creating the leaders of tomorrow.”

FPP participants make a two-year commitment to attend monthly dinner meetings with a small affinity peer group and an adult mentor. Student members of the affinity groups come from Fenwick, Trinity and Oak Park-River Forest high schools. Community leaders share their observations about the past, present and future of our community with the students who, in turn, identify the most critical needs of adolescents in the community. They then solicit grant proposals from community service agencies to address these needs. The students award $25,000 in grant funds provided by the OPRFCF to implement the most promising proposals. Students then conduct field investigations to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposal implementation.

We hope this early life experience will encourage future philanthropists to stay within the community during their adult years to donate their talent, time and treasure to the advance the quality of life in the community where our Ministry has flourished.

Fenwick and the Village of Oak Park

Oak Park would not be Oak Park, and Fenwick would not be Fenwick, without one another. Fenwick, celebrating its 90th year in 2019, has flourished in the Oak Park/River Forest Community for these past nine decades. The school’s architects carved an Oak Park shield carved in stone above our front door on Washington Blvd. It is our intention to be a valued local anchor, a visible metropolitan resource and, as I mentioned before, a recognized national lighthouse for the Thomist educational philosophy.

The presence of vibrant parochial educational institutions, such as Trinity and Fenwick, was an important part in the community’s continuity and evolution. John Gearen ’32, an alumnus from the Class of 1932 (and the school library’s namesake) was a racial inclusive, and the late John Philbin, who sent his children to Fenwick, was a sexual-orientation inclusive. Both men were Fenwick Community leaders who served as Village President. Former Village Clerk Ginny Cassin also was a Fenwick parent. Oak Park is the garden in which we have blossomed.

Fenwick turns 100 in 10 more years. It is our intention to thrive and not just to survive in the next 100 years. It is interesting to note that the Fenwick Hispanic ethnicity enrollment is 17% of the student body. Our institution could be a magnet to attract the next great demographic evolution of Oak Park.

Continue reading “Grooming Some of Fenwick’s Students to be Philanthropists in the Future”

Dominican Laity Welcomes 2 New Members from Fenwick Community

Family of Friars, Nuns and Sisters welcomes faculty member Mr. Joseph Konrad and alumnus Dr. Victor Romano ’76.

Konrad_Romano_web

Joe Konrad (left) and Dr. Vic “Rocky” Romano

Congratulations to faculty member Mr. Joseph Konrad and alumnus Victor “Rocky” Romano, M.D. ’76, who recently made lifetime profession of promises as part of the Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic! “This is important to for a number of reasons,” says Father Douglas Greer, O.P., the Theology Teacher who started our local Bishop Fenwick Chapter five years ago. “Joe and Rocky’s presence increases Dominican presence and character within the Fenwick community, further enabling us to accomplish our preaching mission.

“Their presence is also a witness to the vibrancy and variety of our 800-year-old Order, which is alive, thriving and growing,” Fr. Greer continues. “We have thousands of members spread across the branches all over the world.”

Members of the Fraternities of St. Dominic are non-clergy laymen and laywomen who are fully incorporated members of the Order of Preachers and live out their Dominican vocation in the world. Lay Dominicans, who in the past have been called Third Order or Dominican Tertiaries, have existed almost as long as the Dominican Order itself. Founded with their own rule in 1285, the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic was officially recognized by the Church on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1286.

Lay Dominicans “are accordingly distinguished both by their own spirituality and by their service to God and neighbor in the Church. As members of the Order, they participate in its apostolic mission through prayer, study and preaching according to the state proper to the laity,” according to the Rule of the Lay Fraternity #4. They come from every background, joining the Dominican charism to their state of life in the world. In this unique Dominican way, they live out their special vocation “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” (Lumen Gentium 31)

What this means is that “they help us preach the gospel in ways consonant with being lay and mostly married people,” Fr. Doug explains. “So, their preaching ministry will not consist in pulpit or liturgical preaching. Instead, it will consist in preaching through the lived witness of their lives as Christian disciples. In Dominic’s time before we were called the Order of Preachers and (later) Dominicans, we referred to ourselves as the sacra praedicatio, ‘the Holy Preaching.’ Thus, there was a consonance between what we did, who we were and how we lived. The witness of our lives is a primary and fundamental form of preaching ministry.”

The Need for Prayer

Continue reading “Dominican Laity Welcomes 2 New Members from Fenwick Community”

Found Classroom, Found Community

What is ‘social capital,’ and how do we measure it?

By Gerald F. Lordan, O.P., Ph.D., Social Studies Teacher and Faculty Mentor

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, was a novelist and Free French Army aviator lost missing in action in 1944 during World War II.  He is paraphrased to have said, “The most important things in life are invisible and impossible to measure.”

For many years this statement applied to the benefits of Catholic education.  A recent book, Lost Classroom, Lost Community by Margaret Brining and Nicole Stelle Garnett, helps to quantify the value of Catholic education to the community.  The authors, both of whom are Notre Dame University Law School professors, studied demographic, educational and criminal statistics in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. They found a close connection between the presence of a Catholic school and community social capital.  This connection can have a positive impact not only on the life of the community as a whole but also on the lives of the individuals within that community.

Social capital can be defined as the social networks and norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness shared by members of a community with one another.  Brining and Garnett found high levels of social capital among the administrators, teachers, parents and students of Catholic schools.  Social capital can be considered a factor of production similar to physical, financial and human capital.  According to Brining and Garnett, social capital can be viewed as something that helps to produce a better society, less crime, less disorder and more trust.  When Catholic schools are closed in a community, the community suffers.  Many people who support Catholic education sense these findings intuitively.  Saint-Exupery to the contrary, notwithstanding, Brining and Garnett help to quantify those intuitions. Continue reading “Found Classroom, Found Community”

Forever Friars: The Dobber

Fenwick High School periodically profiles people affiliated with our community who have since passed on …

Dan O’Brien ’34 (1917-2003)

Remembering DOB, “the Dobber:” a coaching/training legend affiliated with Fenwick for seven decades.

By Mark Vruno

In the basement of Fenwick High School sets the Dan O’Brien Natatorium. Our swimming Friars will host the 30th Annual Dan O’Brien Relays this coming January. Younger alumni and present-day students may wonder: Who was this O’Brien guy and why is he a such a legend at Fenwick?

DanOBrien_plaque

Dan O’Brien was more than a stellar swim/dive guru; he was versatile. DOB was a FHS student (Class of 1934) who then served as a physical education teacher at his alma mater. “Dan’s first Fenwick paycheck predated the Social Security system and had no social security withholding,” deadpans Jerry Lordan, PhD., who teaches social studies at Fenwick and wrote the preface for O’Brien’s oral history, a hardcover book entitled Fenwick Over the Years.

In 1937 Football Coach Tony Lawless hired O’Brien to lead his freshman team. Football was O’Brien’s first love in sports. In the fall of 1930, seven years earlier, Fenwick was only one year old. Dan was a scrawny, 128-pound freshman who showed up for tryouts at the new school, only to be snickered at by burly classmates and upper-classmen. “Sorry, son,” said Lawless, according to a 1972 Oak Leaves article. “I can’t use you. You’ve come out for the wrong team.”

O’Brien, however, was determined and refused to give up easily. Here’s how reporter Ted Londos recounted the story 42 years later:

“The kid faced the wise, young coach and replied firmly, ‘Mr. Lawless, I’ve come out for the team. You’ve asked for candidates. Here I am. You’ve got to give me a chance to show you what I can do.’ And so, to get rid of that reckless kid, Tony put him into a scrimmage – just for laughs. But on the first play, Coach Lawless’s eyes popped when he saw the tiny freshman bring a varsity giant down with a devastating tackle. Again he tried him out, and another regular bit the dust. Young Lawless shrugged his shoulders and decided to let the gutsy little guy hang around. ‘What’s your name?’ asked the coach.”

But the feisty O’Brien’s gridiron career with the Fighting Friars was short-lived. As a sophomore he suffered severe medical complications from the surgical removal of a kidney, which kept 15-year-old Daniel out of school for an extended period of time in 1931-32. “His surgeon warned him that the procedure may either fail and/or kill him,” Lordan later learned. “Dan outlived the surgeon and saw the surgeon’s grandchildren (twin boys) attend Fenwick.”

DanOBrien_1954_cropped

Dan O’Brien circa 1954.

 

Fast-forward 45 years, to when two of his former swimmers-turned-doctors came to O’Brien’s aid. “I had come back to Chicago in 1977,” recalls Leonard Vertuno ’57, M.D., a Loyola-educated nephrologist (kidney specialist), “and Pete Geis knocked on my door.” Dr. Peter Geis ’60 was a transplant surgeon and an All-State swimmer three years ahead of Vertuno at Fenwick. “Pete said, ‘Dan needs a doctor, and you’re it.’”

So began a reuniting of player and coach – and an adult friendship that would span more than a quarter-century. It was Dr. Vertuno who would give the eulogy at Dan O’Brien’s funeral in 2003. “He was an amazing man,” the retired doc said in early November from Sarasota, FL. “Dan was renowned nationally and internationally. He chose to stay at Fenwick and work with Tony [Lawless].”

From field to pool

Continue reading “Forever Friars: The Dobber”