A Forty-Niner alumnus and former Fenwick teacher
reflects on the heels of his 70th class reunion.
By Jack Spatafora, PhD. ’49
Everyone agrees that a good education is good for the nation. It gets thornier when it comes to defining a ‘good education.’ For 90 years, Fenwick High School has been addressing this issue the best way it knows how: by graduating hundreds of students each year equipped with both the academic and moral gifts needed to become the kind of citizens our complex times’ need.
From Aristotle to Aquinas to Jefferson, the ideal citizen is one who knows not only what to think but also how to think: clearly, logically, passionately. I experienced this at Fenwick, first as a student and then as a teacher. The day General MacArthur was accepting the surrender of Japan in September 1945, I was entering the old Scoville Avenue entrance as a freshman. Seven years later, I returned to teach U.S. History. That is experiencing Fenwick from both ends of the classroom!
Fenwick was much smaller and less equipped during the 1950s, and yet it was already sending some of the best and brightest into post-World War II America. Young men equipped and motivated with three of the academic tools most required for good citizenship: 1) facts, 2) ideas and 3) values:
As a faculty, we had this funny notion that there were facts, not alternative facts, be it science, math or history. Facts are stubborn, objective things that the student needs to confront, process and use in reaching conclusions.
When properly assessed and connected, facts become the essence of ideas. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
There is a third feature to good citizenship: values. If facts and ideas are essential as a foundation, values are the super-structure to the edifice — including respect for truth, honor, country and God. The ideal citizen embraces each, both profoundly and efficaciously. For as Alexander Hamilton put it: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
Gazing back over these last 70 years, this is some of what I proudly remember. Both as a member of the Fenwick student body and later the Fenwick faculty. You might say I was twice blessed. Frankly, I say it all the time.
Starting in the fall of 2016, Fenwick’s administration implemented its own Professional Development (PD) program for faculty and staff. The ongoing teacher education program is spearheaded by Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton and Digital Learning Specialist Bryan Boehm.
“At Fenwick, through the Dominican pillar of study, we do an excellent job of instilling the value of life-long learning in our students,” says Ms. Pendleton, who also is the Orchestra Director at school. “The in-house professional development program was created out of the need to provide opportunities for our faculty to spend time in community learning new skills and sharing expertise with each other. It has grown a great deal in its first three years and, in the future, will serve to be a space for our faculty to continue to work together to model life-long learning and exhibit their own love of learning to our students.”
Mr. Boehm adds, “Fenwick students are always being challenged to learn new ways of gathering information and data. Our faculty need to have the same experiences to be our leading force in their fields and subjects. Peer-led courses have been great for teachers to learn from one another and collaborate,” he continues. “Offering new perspectives, new experiences and alternative ways to teach the material that they have so much success with over their career will only benefit the students.”
Math Teacher and sophomore football assistant coach Matt Barabasz is one of four PD faculty leaders. Last year he conducted a session about how teachers can “flip” their classrooms. This technique “allows the students to watch and learn at home, while we then use instructional time to engage in meaningful conversations and applications. This session went into detail on how I use this process within my mathematics course, when applicable,” explains Mr. Barabasz, who came to Fenwick two years ago from St. Patrick High School in Chicago.
This school year one of his sessions is how to use Google Forms to facilitate parent communication. “Families are incredibly important within a student’s learning process,” Barabasz acknowledges. “Without the support of families, we as educators cannot fully unlock a student’s potential. This series went into how I communicate regularly with parents using Google Forms and how I keep the parents in the loop, on a weekly basis, on their students’ progress.”
Kudos from faculty participants
Now in its third year of customized PD, the faculty/staff sessions at Fenwick are wide ranging and run all year long on most Tuesdays and Thursdays, either at 7:30 a.m. or during lunch periods. Required to attend at least three sessions per academic year, most teachers seem to be buying into the idea. “I feel that the PD sessions are a great opportunity for a teacher to learn new ideas and strategies on how to become more effective,” says Spanish Instructor and alumnus Jim Reardon ’86. “Fenwick teachers are willing to share their time, knowledge and expertise with other faculty members. The sessions are not very long [about 25 minutes each] but allow you the opportunity to learn and develop new ideas.”
Mr. Reardon add that he has taken PD sessions on Schoology, the learning-management system employed by Fenwick, as well as on EdPuzzle, which is a way to employ video technology in the classroom. “The PD sessions allow a teacher to better understand a topic, and then it is up to him or her to further develop their understanding and usage of the particular topic,” he notes.
English Department co-worker and alumna Theresa Steinmeyer ’12 attended Pendleton’s series on William Bender’s Strategies for Increasing Student Engagement as well as some sessions on ways to further incorporate technology into instruction. “As a new faculty member at Fenwick , I have enjoyed these opportunities to continue growing as an educator while getting to know colleagues from other departments,” Ms. Steinmeyer says.
More than 20 PD sessions have been conducted this school year on topics such as:
In early April, Barabasz led a session on using “Google Forms for Class Data Collection” while Math Dept. colleague Kevin Roche ’05 is coordinating the Spring Book Club. Pendleton and Boehm then wrap up this school year with “Differentiated Instruction” and “Apple Classroom Level 2,” respectively.
“I try to run sessions with practical take-aways for teachers to immediately use in their classrooms, regardless of subject area or grade level,” explains fellow PD leader and Social Studies Dept. Chair Alex Holmberg ’05, who also is Fenwick’s Director of Clubs and Activities. “I’ve also tried to tailor specific PD sessions to address needs brought up from our end-of-year iPad Survey last school year. One of the positive aspects of the model of PD that we use is that it allows teachers to present on topics that they see as learning opportunities in their classrooms throughout the school year.”
“It has changed the way I manage my classroom.” – Brian Jerger
Participant and fellow Social Studies Teacher Brian Jerger adds: “The Apple Classroom presentation by Tim Menich has afforded me an easy, hands-off deterrent that has helped curb iPad abuse/distractions in class. It has changed the way I manage my classroom.”
Mr. Jerger, who joined Fenwick in 2017, also enjoyed Laura Pendleton’s Book Club presentation. “It provided a setting for teachers to come together and discuss the interesting methods, techniques and philosophies we all utilize in our classrooms,” he says. “In that same vein, I think the greatest benefit of the Professional Development series is it exposes the faculty to all the interesting work we are doing in the classroom that we do not normally get to see from each other. Due to all the ways in which teachers are pulled and stressed for time (and our humble natures), it is incredibly easy for us to get trapped in our own individual silos leaving us unaware of the great work our colleagues are doing. The Professional Development series pulls back that curtain, to some degree, and allows us to share some of this great work with one another.”
8 Friars’ Teachers and/or Administrators Hold Advanced, Doctoral Degrees in Their Fields of Expertise
Fenwick’s academic doctors (from left): Drs. Lordan, King, Woerter, Porter, Quaid, Slajchert and Peddicord. (Dr. Kleinhans is not pictured.)
In addition to Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., who has a Ph.D. in Moral Theology from the University of Ottawa/St. Paul University, seven of his colleagues also have earned advanced, doctoral degrees:
Dr. Jonathan King
Ph.D. in Historical Theology, St. Louis University
Dr. David Kleinhans
Science Dept. Co-Chair
J.D. (Juris Doctor) in Intellectual Property, John Marshall Law School
Dr. Gerald Lordan, O.P.
Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, Boston College
Dr. Marissa Porter
Ph.D. in Classics, University of Texas – Austin
Dr. James Quaid
Director of Student Services & Enrollment Management/Social Studies Teacher
Ph.D., Educational leadership, Foundations and Counseling, Loyola University Chicago
Dr. Michael Slajchert
J.D., Loyola University Chicago
Dr./Fr. Dennis Woerter, O.P. ’86
Director of Campus Ministry & Chaplain
D.Min., Preaching in the Practice of Ministry, The Iliff School of Theology (Denver)
Known as “Red Dog,” the U.S. Navy veteran and long-time teacher of the law was 84 years old.
Ronald Charles Smith, Professor Emeritus at The John Marshall Law School, died at about 2:30 a.m. on October 19, 2018, at St. Benedict’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Niles, IL, where he had lived for several months while undergoing treatment. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Mary Ann Scherer Smith; his sons, Michael (Liv Rainey) Smith and Matthew (Carolyn Chandler) Smith; his goddaughter, Margaret Thompson Blumberg, and his cousins Philip, Jonathan and Mark Thompson.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, December 16, 2018, between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Loyola University’s Piper Hall, 970 West Sheridan Road, in Chicago. Free parking is available at the Loyola lot at Sheridan and Winthrop.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to The Ronald C. Smith Scholarship Fund at the Rickover Naval Academy High School, 5900 North Glenwood, Chicago, IL, 60660. Please make checks payable to Friends of Rickover/Smith Scholarship. Or donations can be made on-line at www.friendsofrickover.org. As Ron was a devoted U.S. Navy veteran and a strong supporter of the education, this would be a most fitting memorial.
Ron Smith was born in Chicago on December 9, 1933, and grew up mostly in the Chicago area. He graduated from Fenwick High School in Oak Park in 1951, and received a B.S. in Humanities from Loyola University in 1955. In college, he earned several honors and participated in many activities, most notably debate and the student newspaper. After teaching speech at Loyola for a year, he joined the U.S. Navy in 1956 as a naval helicopter pilot and personnel officer. In 1962, he left active duty to enter law school but remained a Naval reservist until retiring as a Lieutenant-Commander in 1977. (While in the Navy, Ron, a “seadog” with bright red hair, acquired the nickname “Red dog,” which he had the rest of his life.)
Ron attended Loyola (Chicago) University Law School from 1962 to 1965, writing for the law review and taking part in law school activities. After graduation, he clerked for Justice John V. McCormick of the Illinois Appellate Court in 1965-1966. During that year, a law school friend, Janice Metros Johnston, said that her husband Gil was running the legal writing program at The John Marshall Law School and suggested Ron apply to be an adjunct. That post began his long association with John Marshall.
After the clerkship in 1966, Ron was a legal counsel for the Santa Fe Railroad, where he learned about governmental regulation and administrative procedure. In 1968 Dean Noble W. Lee asked him to come to JMLS. Ron taught many different courses but eventually specialized in constitutional law and criminal law.
In 1968, when Illinoisans voted to hold a constitutional convention, Ron decided to run with Elmer Gertz, a lawyer who lived in Ravenswood and Albany Park area near Ron, to be delegates to the convention. Elmer, a noted civil rights lawyer, and Ron ran as a team against two “machine” candidates backed by the regular organization of the Cook County Democratic Party. When the convention met on December 8, 1969, Ron and Elmer took their seats as members of the convention allied to the “independent bloc” of about ten delegates. Ron was a member of the Committee on the Executive, where he sponsored the amendatory veto provision.
In 1972 Ron ran for the Democratic nomination for the Illinois State Senate. The party regulars conspired to deprive him of the seat by running a candidate who would win, but then resign the nomination in favor of a replacement chosen by the party. Ron’s lawsuit, Smith v. Cherry, 489 F.2d 1098 (1974), was a notable federal elections lawsuit until legislation changed the situation. Unwilling to leave government life, he served as a member of Governor Walker’s Ethics Board, among other appointed positions, while continuing to teach at John Marshall until 2014.
Spanish Teacher Mrs. Megall celebrated her 26th year at Fenwick in 2017-18, after migrating from Trinity H.S. in River Forest.
What is your educational background?
DM: I have a B.A. in Spanish from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and an M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Loyola University in Chicago. I have also studied in Guadalajara, Mexico, through Arizona State University and took classes at the University of Madrid.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at FHS?
DM: I began my teaching career at Trinity High School in River Forest in 1970. I am a Trinity graduate and four years later I was back there teaching. I was on the faculty for six years until the birth of the first of our three sons. I stayed home raising the boys for 16 years. I was working on my Master’s degree when I started at FHS in 1992. I have taught the mothers of many of my Fenwick students due to my early years working at Trinity.
To what teams did you belong as a student?
DM: Trinity only had intramural volleyball and basketball teams when I was a student. I was on the volleyball team all four years. The game was completely different from what it is now. We just kept hitting the ball back and forth until someone missed. Only one girl in the school would spike the ball and we all just thought she was being rude!
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
DM: I love to read. My next book is The Bridge at Andau,which is about the Hungarian Revolution. I am very interested in this topic due to family history. In 1956, when my husband was eight years old, his third cousin escaped from Hungary during the revolution and came over and lived with the Megalls from age 18 to 28. We just celebrated his 80th birthday, which was a wonderful family occasion. I also enjoy doing needlepoint and knitting in my spare time.
Mathematics Department Chair and True Fenwick Treasure
Alumnus and Math Teacher Mr. Finnell is wrapping up his 55th year as an instructor at Fenwick. Having produced more than 100 Blackfriars Guild productions (and counting), he’s still going strong!
What is your educational background?
RF: I graduated from Fenwick in 1959. (The White Sox in World series!) B.S. (natural sciences) from Loyola University Chicago in ’63 (the year they won the NCAA basketball!); M.A. from Loyola Chicago.
What did you do prior to becoming a Fenwick teacher?
RF: I graduated from college and started at Fenwick three months later, in September of 1963. (Obviously, I was five at the time!)
What are you reading for enjoyment?
RF: The New Yorker magazine, for play and movie reviews and in-depth articles.
What interests do you pursue outside the classroom?
RF: Travel and seeing plays (some for possible BFG production) and seeing White Sox games (once saw a no-hitter vs. the Sox).
To what teams/clubs did you belong as a student?
RF: I played alto sax in the Fenwick Band (and still have it!).
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
RF: I coach the State Math Team. (I’m the only original head coach in Illinois still coaching since the state contest started in 1981.) I produce and direct BFG productions. “Banua 2018” was show #82 as a director (100 as a producer). I am Vice-President of the Archdiocese Math Teachers’ Association (board member since 1968). I also help when I can with the Kairos retreat program. I am a member of the State Math Contest Committee (head statistician since about 1985). For 33 years I ran a student tour to London. For many years I was student Council Moderator. (No, really, sometimes I do sleep!)
What qualities/characteristics mark a Fenwick student?
RF: Gifted, hard-working and (hopefully) caring and compassionate
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
RF: I always enjoyed math and (hopefully) was good at it. I decided in junior year of high school to be a math teacher, inspired by Fr. George Conway, a legendary Fenwick math teacher, who was my teacher here for three years. (And I did get to teach with him for about five years when I returned.)
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
RF: I am a good listener and a detail person. I think this helps me anticipate almost any question a student may ask. I guess maybe I can visualize the wheels turning in their minds.
What do you like most about teaching as a career?
RF: Every period of every class day is different and brings new experiences. I enjoy seeing students grow in their math knowledge and, hopefully, in developing constantly more mature attitudes towards study.
What is your philosophy of education?
RF: To treat my students as young adults, because that is what they are (and how they act most of, but not all of, the time). As I do this, hopefully I can help instill Christian values in them both in and out of the classroom. I strive to encourage students to think analytically and to develop sound reasoning techniques, and to help students see the beauty and logic in the mathematics and its place in the structure of God’s universe.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
RF: Seeing that my students are well prepared in math when they leave for college and hearing from them about their success in college math and, for some, hearing how they are using their math in their careers.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?
RF: In this technical age of society today, I hope that students will not just rely on calculators and computers to do all of their thinking for them. And that they will not let social media dictate how they live their lives morally.
How do you encourage class participation?
RF: I hope my students know that they can stop class at any time with appropriate questions. To be sure the thinking I am looking for is going on, my goal is to hear every student’s voice in class every day. This does not happen all of the time. But I will ask students whose voices I have not heard whether they see what is happening in a problem and hope this will encourage questions from them in the future.
Any memorable moments?
RF: Where to begin?
As student Council Moderator, many successful homecoming weeks and proms. (I have lost count!).
Spending a large amount on bringing to Fenwick “Otis Day and The Nights,” the “Animal House” movie band, for a concert in the Lawless Gym that wound up drawing a crowd of 1,100.
As London tour guide, watching students’ reactions as they were exposed to so many historical and cultural sites in London and surrounding areas and, for a number of years, in Paris.
As Math Team Coach, winning the state championship in our division in 2002, with six or seven second-place finishes since, along with a good number of individual and team event state champs.
As BFG producer/director, guiding so many very talented student performers to success in so many memorable productions. I follow the professional performing arts careers of some very gifted BFG alumni. (My favorite BFG show is “Les Miserables” from 2011 — it was the perfect show for a perfect cast.)
As a math teacher, getting the privilege of helping to develop the math skills of so many extremely talented students. At least two now have Ph.D.’s in math. Mr. Kotty and Mrs. Esposito are two former State Math Team captains!
As Kairos assistant, so many emotional moments as I see retreatants growing in knowledge and love.
The young Assistant State’s Attorney stood at the center of “The Trial of the Century” in the mid-1960s — as the chief prosecutor of mass-murderer Richard Speck.
By Mark Vruno
As the Fenwick Bar Association celebrates its the 20th Annual Accipter Award Luncheon on May 18th, we remember 2006 recipient William Martin, who passed away last July at the age of 80, following a long battle with cancer.
During a legal career that spanned more than 50 years, Bill Martin lawyered — later as a defense attorney — and taught the law. After serving as editor of The Wick student newspaper and graduating from Fenwick in 1954, Martin attended Loyola University Chicago and its law school, where he was voted the outstanding student. He founded and was editor of the Loyola Law Times, a Journal of Opinion.
Until his death last year, the native Oak Parker (St. Giles) was a private practitioner specializing in attorney ethics and criminal law. He is, however, known best for putting a monster behind bars. The murderer’s name was Richard Speck, who went on a killing spree on Chicago’s southeast side the hot night of July 14, 1966.
An Assistant State’s Attorney at the time, the then 29-year-old Billy Martin had been selected from a pool of more than 30 criminal court prosecutors, many much older and with far more felony trial experience, according to an article in the spring 2018 edition of the Journal of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Despite his relative youth, Martin had earned the respect of Cook County State’s Attorney Dan Ward and his chief assistants, including John Stamos.
Twenty-five years later, Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times, “In a way, it was the end of innocence. In this case, eight women asleep in a middle-class, crime-free, virtually suburban neighborhood were subject to random violence from a killer who basically came out of the night.” Reflecting in a 2016 interview with the Wednesday Journal, he added, “By committing the first random mass murder in 20th-century America, Richard Speck opened the floodgates to a tragic phenomenon that haunts us today.”
Martin believed that Speck was evil incarnate. The 24-year-old ex-convict from Texas stabbed or strangled (and, in one case, raped) the female nursing students. While in hiding two days after the grisly murders, Speck tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists with a broken wine bottle. But once he was locked up in Statesville Correctional Center, Illinois’ maximum-security prison near Joliet, the human monster never showed any remorse for the bloody, heinous acts he committed.
There was one person who survived that horrible night: 85-pound student nurse Corazon Amurao. Originally from the Philippines, Ms. Amurao hid, terrified, under a bunk bed during the five-hour killing rampage. One by one, her nursing school classmates were ruthlessly slain by the madman. At dawn, in shock, she crawled through the carnage to the townhouse balcony. For 20 minutes she screamed, “Oh my God, they are all dead!”
How the fictitious ‘school’ came to be – even though it never was a real college.
By Mark Vruno
The more I learn about Maguire University, the more my stomach hurts from laughing. It is difficult not to laugh, or at least smile and smirk a little. I first caught wind of Maguire U last winter in the Faculty Cafeteria at Fenwick, sitting and chewing the proverbial fat with John Quinn ’76, Fenwick alumnus, longtime social studies teacher and Catholic League Hall of Fame basketball coach.
The conversation turned to the late, great John Lattner, who had passed away about a year earlier. Mr. Quinn was laughing, almost snorting, between bites: “Did you ever hear about Maguire University?” he chuckled, nearly choking. No, I had never heard of that school, I said, wondering what the heck was so funny. Little did I know!
It is good that Quinn is one of Fenwick’s unofficial school historians because, as it turns out, there is nothing official about Maguire U. The infamous university was “created” 55 years ago in a semi-respectable Madison Street establishment in nearby Forest Park called, what else: Maguire’s. With the annual March Madness basketball craze upon us, this is how the story goes …
The athletic recruiting game was quite different, for both Catholic high schools and major college sports programs, in the 1960s – three decades before the Internet was birthed and long before “social” media platforms such as Twitter reared their electronic heads. Back then, if a coach wanted an eighth-grader to play for him at a certain high school, it was in his best interest to find out where the kid’s old man hung out socially and maybe get invited to a confirmation or graduation party.
It wasn’t much different for college coaches recruiting Chicago-area talent, particularly for the football gridiron and hardwood basketball courts. They knew where to go to meet a concentration of high school coaches in the city: Maguire’s.
Every February Chicago Catholic League (CCL) football coaches congregate at the league’s annual clinic in Oak Park at Fenwick, where the powwow has been held every winter for the past 72 years. Older fans will recall that, in the 1960s and ’70s, Fenwick and the CCL were recruiting hotbeds for Big Ten football coaches, including University of Michigan legend Bo Schembechler. Some coaches also may recall that, a few years back, a keg could be found tapped in the school’s lower-level student “green” cafeteria, where the post-clinic fraternizing commenced. Nowadays the coaches toast their religion and each other on Madison Street in Forest Park, which is exactly where the college coaches knew where to find them back in the day.
Giving the tavern a school’s name originally was the brainchild of college recruiters in town to woo the coaches of prospects from Chicago. Telling their athletic directors, to whom they reported back at the real universities, that they were conducting business at “Maguire University” sounded more respectable than Maguire’s Pub. Hence, the pseudonym was born.