Nearly 50 Years of Imparting Wisdom and Collegiate Advice

Rich Borsch has been Fenwick’s lead college counselor for 47 years. What changes has he seen over five decades?

By Mark Vruno

Let the matriculation process commence for the Class of 2019! Now is the frenetic season for Fenwick’s college-counseling duo of Rich Borsch and Laura Docherty. Busy is an under-statement. Between early application and essay preparations leading up to January 1st, the two guidance gurus are up to their elbows in paper and student e-documentation.

It’s an annual rite at Fenwick and at high schools across the country, but few counselors have been immersed in the process as long as Mr. Borsch, who wouldn’t want it any other way. This school year marks his 51st at Fenwick, and he has been a college counselor for all but the first four.

In a typical, six-week period this fall – comprising 30 school days – representatives from 77 different colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Yale, came to Fenwick. A representative sampling of 11 other visiting schools (by date) during that time frame:

  • Lafayette College (Easton, PA)
  • Central Michigan University
  • Butler University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Tulane University
  • Juniata College (Huntingdon, PA)
  • Villanova University
  • Providence College
  • Boston College
  • University of Cincinnati

“These schools came from all areas of the country,” Borsch reports. “Ten of the top 50 colleges and universities were here; seven from the Big Ten came. We try to give our students exposure to all kinds of college options: from huge schools like Indiana University, with 43,000 students enrolled in the Bloomington campus, to tiny King’s College in Manhattan, New York, which has only 500 students.”

For Borsch, who says he loves working with the kids, it’s all about the right fit for each student. “We try to pick schools based on their individual needs,” he explains, which can be time-consuming. Graduates from the Friars’ Class of 2018 are attending 109 different colleges or universities in 32 states, Washington, DC and overseas in Scotland.

The University of St. Andrews was founded in Scotland in 1413.

“When I started doing this in the early 1970s, that number was 60 [schools],” Borsch notes. “We’ve had kids go away to Canada, Ireland and Italy, too.” Such international institutions as Trinity College Dublin and the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) “weren’t even a thought a generation ago,” he says.

TOP FIVE COLLEGES FOR THE CLASS OF ’18

  1. 37 Friars are studying at the University of Illinois (Urbana)

  2. 16 Friars are at Loyola University Chicago

  3. 15 are at Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

  4. 12 are at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

  5. 11 are at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana)

Besides the expanded geographic range of college choice, what other changes has Borsch seen during his 47 years of student-college matchmaking? “It certainly has evolved,” he observes. One big difference is the number of Fenwick students going out of state for school. “In 1975, about 70% of our students stayed within Illinois. By 2016, that number had dropped to 22%,” he reports. Thirty-two percent of the Class of ’18 (98 students) stayed in state.

Lately, there has been a trend toward test-optional college admissions — and not judging prospective students based on a three-hour exam. “The University of Chicago is one of hundreds of schools doing this now,” Borsch confirms. “But the fact remains that 75% [of schools] still require either the ACT or SAT, so our students will continue to be prepared. Fenwick is the only school I know of where freshmen take the PSAT exam,” Borsch adds.

Snapshot of Rich Borsch

Mr. Borsch is in his 51st year at Fenwick.
  • Graduate of Leo High School, Chicago.

  • B.A. in English and history from DePaul University, Chicago

  • M.A. in counseling and psychological services, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

  • Fenwick High School, Oak Park, IL, 1968 – Present (started as English Teacher)

  • Head Coach of the Friars’ freshman football team for 41 years (through 2015)

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More than a Half-century Later, Fenwick Is Still Teaching Lessons to #254

How did a rough-and-tumble kid survive being a gang member on Chicago’s mean streets in the early 1960s to become a successful entrepreneur? Fenwick had something to do with it — as did his nearly lifelong love of boxing.

Introduction

Terracina’s 1964 Fenwick Yearbook photo.

There were 269 students in Roy Terracina’s 1964 graduating class at Fenwick. His academic rank among those boys was near the bottom: 254. “That’s why I wear these cuff-links,” the businessman and entrepreneur explained to three groups of current students in mid-April, standing on stage in the school’s auditorium and pointing to his wrist. “These remind me of where I was and where I started. I ran with a gang and got into trouble,” Mr. Terracina admitted. But he also stuck it out and got through Fenwick, by the grace of God.

His message to today’s Friars included anecdotes about some of his mistakes, his great love of family and his understanding of how faith has played an important role in his life. “My purpose is simple: to reach the bottom half of each class,” Terracina shared, “and to give them hope that the education they are getting is preparing them for the future; that the combination of studies and peer motivation mixes to make this a special, four-year education. I wanted a message of how special their time is here at Fenwick, even though they may not realize it today.”

After his high-school graduation, Terracina attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, where he majored in finance. In the early 1990s he borrowed $1 million from a bank and bought Sterling Foods to provide packaged food to the military during the first Gulf War in Iraq. Eleven years later, Terracina sold the food-packaging business and transitioned to his present career at US Global Investors and CEO of Sunshine Ventures, Inc. (See bio.)

Mr. T settled in on stage at Fenwick and felt right at home. “I remember this place,” he told students earlier this spring.

“I speak to youth groups and groups of young entrepreneurs about 10 to 15 times a year,” Terracina told the Friar Files. “However, no experience matches speaking at a place that means so much to me, as Fenwick truly changed my life.” Fenwick is unlike most places he talks, “where I normally have to ask the teachers to keep things orderly,” he shared. “Recently, I had to send a group to the principal’s office at a local elementary school in my home base of San Antonio. But Fenwick students indeed are different: well behaved and sponges for learning.”

Here is Roy’s story, in his own words:

“If I Had My Life to Live Over”

By Roy Terracina ’64

My teen years where filled with family stability, hard work with my father and a lot of confusion over who or what I was. I would travel by bus, elevated train and walk to get to a high school, Fenwick, that I didn’t feel a part of.  I knew going to Fenwick was the right thing to do, but I knew it because I was told it was as opposed to ‘feeling’ it was.

My freshman year was particularly puzzling because my close friends from my younger years were all going to either public schools, or a much less academic Catholic school. My evenings as a student were filled with friends who attended mostly public schools and were learning trades, while I was trying to learn Latin and physics. The childhood friends quickly saw that I was different, as did my peers at Fenwick. So the reality is that I didn’t fit into either place. I felt lost, confused, bewildered and went with the flow of the day. When my friends were out on weeknights doing what inner-city kids did, I was to be home studying, but my heart and mind were not there.

I did what I had to do to get by, and yet found myself working twice as hard as my neighborhood friends, and still not keeping up with the Fenwick standards. I was small, and in a football-first high school at the time, did not manage to engage in sports.

In the neighborhood, we were out making trouble: fighting, chasing girls and, in general, not doing the things I needed to do to build my academic career. I found out that I loved competition, especially in sports, and particularly liked to lose my temper and fight. My friends would use me as the guy who would tease others into fighting since I looked like an easy mark. When I would get into it with someone much larger, the rest of my friends would jump in and “handle the situation,” and eventually I got tired of that and learned that my speed was enough to outmaneuver most larger boys.

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If These Halls Could Talk: The Hilarious Case of Maguire University

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 …

Humble Beginnings

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.

The Fat Duck Tavern & Grill now sets across the street in Forest Park from where Maguire’s used to be.

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.

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