Baseball & Softball Friars Fly to Orlando, Board Bus to Clarksville

Fenwick student-athletes to thaw out their fingers (and toes) next week on warmer ball diamonds down south.

By Mark Vruno

Head Coach Dave Hogan can shed some clothing layers in Orlando.

Last week a group of Fenwick “snowbird” alumni gathered in the Arizona desert on March 15 to watch the Chicago Cubs defeat the White Sox under partly sunny skies and 71-degree temperatures. The school’s baseball and softball teams have caught the warmer-weather bug, too, as the annual spring athlete migration is set to begin.

The evening before the crosstown-classic rivalry at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ, a handful of faithful fans braved howling winds and biting, 43-degree temps to watch the Friar boys’ baseball team demolish Ridgewood’s Rebels from Norridge/Harwood Heights by a score of 15-2. It was 2019 opening night under the lights at Triton College.

The highlight was senior Lucas Kolovitz (above, in Florida last year), a D1 recruit committed to Purdue University – Fort Wayne, blasting a towering homerun that, with Mother Nature’s assistance, traveled nearly 400 feet into the angry, River Grove sky. (Junior Will Hendricks also smashed a triple, while fellow junior Greyson Cone’s cannon-like arm was on display at third base.) The windy win marked number 817 for Varsity Baseball Coach Dave Hogan, who is entering his 39th season as the Friars’ skipper. Coach Hogan has tallied the second most baseball victories at one school in Illinois, dating back to 1980.

Cousins face off: Tommy Groom and the Hornets of Bishop Moore (Orlando) will try to sting the Friars — and his older cousin, Jimmy — on March 25.

“We have eight games scheduled in Florida, three of them in the Atlanta Braves’ spring training big-league stadium,” reports Assistant Varsity Coach and baseball alumnus Kyle Kmiecik ’00. On Monday, March 25, the top end of a double-header features the cousins Groom on the mound: Fenwick senior pitcher Jimmy Groom will try to match heat with his younger, flame-throwing cousin Tommy: a right-handed junior who hurls 90-mph fastballs for Bishop Moore out of Orlando. (Tommy’s father, Chris, taught Spanish at Fenwick in 1994-96, Principal Groom says of his brother.  “He also coached sophomore baseball,” reports Mr. Groom.)

The projected high temperature for game day is a balmy 82 degrees at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The nightcap pits the Friars against the Lions of Orange High School from Pepper Pike, Ohio, near Cleveland.

The following evening Fenwick faces the Quakers of Sidwell Friends, a selective, private school in the Washington, D.C.- Bethesda, Maryland area. Next up on Wednesday is another Quaker team from Philadelphia: the William Penn Charter School; on Thursday it’s the “Fords” from the all-boys Haveford School, also in Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia).

Our Chicago-area boys close out their trip in the sun with a mid-day double-header on Friday, March 29: Game 1 (10:30 a.m.) brings competition from the Patriots of Germantown Academy (Washington, PA), originally called the Union School and dating back to 1759. Game 2 (first pitch at 1 p.m.) is against the Bears of Landon School, a 90-year-old, college-prep school situated in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

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Students-Turned-Teachers Help to Advance the Friars’ Mission

Why is it that such a surprisingly high number of former students return to Fenwick to teach future alumni?

By Mark Vruno

Presently, there are approximately 140 teachers, administrators and staff members at Fenwick High School, and 38 of them have walked the hallowed halls in Oak Park as students. Over the course of the school’s nine decades in existence, many more former pupils have returned to work and serve. “People come back to Fenwick because of the impact the school had on their lives,” believes Social Studies/History Department Chair Alex Holmberg ’05. “Whether that impact was inside or outside the classrooms, Fenwick leaves a powerful impression on everyone,” says Mr./Coach Holmberg, who triples as the school’s clubs/activities director and the defensive coordinator of the varsity football team.

Alex Holmberg ’05

“The opportunity to shape how future students approach the rest of their lives is incredibly powerful,” he notes, “and that potential draws so many people back into the building. Thinking about that opportunity to help prepare and motivate future Friars is what brought me back to Fenwick, and that thought is what motivates me to continue to help the school in whatever way I can.”

Principal Peter Groom, who has taught Friars since the 1980s, reports that many of the Fenwick graduates he has hired, he had in the classroom. “We get to know our students during their time here,” Mr. Groom explains. “We get to know their intelligence, their values, their passion and their work ethic. Typically, our graduates are also committed to our mission. When we hire people who are committed to our mission, we hire people who want to remain a part of our community for a long time. One of the keys to building a mission-based school is to have teachers who are committed and who demonstrate the aforementioned values.”

Roger Finnell ’59, a Fenwick mathematics instructor for more than five decades, concurs with fellow alumnus Holmberg:  “Many alumni teach here because they remember their experience at Fenwick as being something special and want to contribute towards continuing the traditions here,” reflects Mr. Finnell, who is Math Department Chair.

Roger Finnell in 1968.

“I knew I wanted to teach math when I started college,” shares Finnell, who also is the man behind the scenes of Black Friars Guild stage productions. “In my senior year at Loyola, after I finished student teaching at Lane Tech in Chicago, I heard about an opening at St. Ignatius, so I made an appointment for an interview. But then I thought I might as well also inquire at Fenwick. I did my Fenwick interview and was offered a position here, so, seeing this as a great opportunity, I quickly cancelled my St. Ignatius interview and the rest is history!”

Representing the Classes of 1959 to 2012

Kevin Roche ’05

Holmberg and math/computer science teacher Kevin Roche ’05 are two of thousands of Friars taught by Mr. Finnell over the past 55 years. “I think that there are a large amount of Friars returning because they had a great experience at the school, believe in what the school does, and want to be a part of ‘steering the ship’ for future generations,” chimes in Mr. Roche, who also coaches cross country. “We have Friars in different aspects of the school (operations, administration, faculty and development) who all had different experiences here yet all want to give back. I believe that this influx of alumni teachers is also a sign of our generation: millennials have a great desire to find meaning and purpose in their work. That is their highest motivator and education is a career that offers immense purpose and validation for the work through strong relationships.”

Grace Liliek ’08

Grace Lilek ’08, who is in her third year of teaching social studies at Fenwick, captures the sentiment of many of her colleagues who also are alumni: “I was inspired to pursue a career in education based on my experiences at Fenwick,” says Ms. Lilek, who also is a learning resource coordinator. “I think experience is the first reason so many of us have come back to Fenwick to teach. You will not meet two Fenwick graduates who had the exact same experience. You can be an athlete or a thespian or participate in academic competitions, and always find your niche. You can also take on all three of those roles and thrive. It is an honor to come back to Fenwick as a teacher and share these experiences with our students.” Lilek continues:

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