Robust Advanced Placement (AP) instruction at Fenwick
High School in 2018-19 produced an astounding 121 AP Scholars last school year.
The private (Catholic) school in Oak Park, IL, administered 843 AP tests in 26
subject areas. Presently, there are 131 students enrolled in AP Psychology,
a new course offering, this school year.
“The AP program at Fenwick gives our students a clear advantage
when they reach college,” asserts Principal Peter Groom. “In some cases,
students benefit from the same type of rigor they will see in their college
classes. In other cases, students earn college credit, which enables them
to focus on upper-level classes at the collegiate level,” Mr. Groom
notes. “The wide range of options our students can explore while at Fenwick
clearly benefits them.”
Last school year, nearly one in 10 of Fenwick’s students was
recognized as an AP Scholar at one of these levels:
49 Friars were named AP Scholars, a distinction granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams.
17 students were named AP Scholars with Honors, which means they received an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams.
44 students were named AP Scholars with Distinction. They received an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these tests.
11 students were named National AP Scholars for receiving an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more exams.
“Our AP classes don’t just prepare students for the exam,”
explains Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton, who directs Fenwick’s Advanced
Placement Program. “They are true, college-level courses taught by some of our
most talented, dedicated and passionate teachers. Students in these classes consistently
attend top universities and then come back and tell us how well they were
prepared to work at that level.”
As a testament to Ms. Pendleton’s statement about
collegiate preparation, young alumnus Spencer
Gallagher ’19 proclaims: “The AP classes I took at Fenwick have been absolutely
essential to my success so far at the University of Illinois. The courses
prepared me a great amount for the AP tests, helping me to test out of many
classes, and helped me to develop study habits that have proven invaluable so
far,” notes the Illini freshman, who grew up in Elmhurst and attended
Visitation Catholic School. “Many of the classes I am taking right now are easy
compared to the challenges presented by classes like AP Physics C and AP
As a junior two years ago, Gallagher was one of seven Fenwick students to score the maximum of 36 on the American College Test (ACT); he is the Class of 2019’s salutatorian. “Fenwick really does have incredible teachers,” Gallagher adds, “who help their students through very difficult STEM classes and [help] prepare them for college. Even my classes not taught by AP teachers, especially my senior English class …, have helped me a ton with my writing and prepared me for the rigor of college.”
Freshmen in AP
Even students as young as 14 years old can get into the AP act at Fenwick. Right now, 31 freshmen are enrolled in AP Biology. That number represents more than 10% of the Class of 2023. Throughout the school year, these students are performing labs on plants that they have grown. “They are growing two types of plants: mung beans and black-eyed peas,” explains Science Teacher Amy Christophell ’06, who also also coaches Fenwick’s WYSE Biology Team. “They are responsible for caring for their plants throughout the year,” she explains.
The first lab that they performed was on the seeds before they were planted. “They massed out 100 beans to practice with calculating a mean, a standard deviation and standard error,” Ms. Christophell adds. “They also use the masses to determine whether their data formed a normal distribution. The second lab has students using artificial selection, planting the smallest beans and largest beans by mass. They then came up with their own procedures to determine how the growth was different between the two sized seeds, Christophell says.
Ten years ago in your life, where were you? If 50 is the new 40, then 40 is the new 30. A lot can happen in the span of a decade: Young alumni finish college, some attend graduate school, then begin to establish themselves in their professional careers; others contemplate marriage, perhaps. Slightly older alumni may have had children and started families. Older children in junior high school, hopefully, are considering taking the admissions test at Fenwick this coming December.
In the late winter of 2009, now 28-year-old Kenneth “Kenny” Matuszewski ’09 had a typical case of “senioritis” at Fenwick, counting the weeks until graduation and finalizing his plans to attend the University of Notre Dame. (In South Bend, he would major in biological sciences and Spanish.) But something profound happened during Christmas break of his junior year that, literally, changed the course of Matuszewski’s life, he says.
After the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Matuszewski and 37 of his classmates traveled to New Orleans to help people rebuild their homes. He vividly recalls “seeing the devastation, three years later.” More than 1,835 people died in the Category 5 hurricane and its subsequent floods, making it the deadliest storm in U.S. history.
“We went … as a part of the Mission New Orleans trip, a Fenwick organization,” Matuszewski explains. Their three chaperones were teachers Mr. Paulett, Mr. Ruffino and Ms. Logas, he notes. “While I had little experience with power tools or construction, I was still able to do something and help a family move into a home. That experience motivated me to find ways I could help people with my strengths; through my pro bono work, I realize I have found such opportunities.”
Fast-forward 11 years: “I have always felt it was my duty to use my talents as an attorney to give back to the community around me,” says Matuszewski, who grew up in La Grange Park and now resides in Westchester, IL. “That is why I have developed a commitment to pro bono work over the years. While this desire was instilled in me by my parents, who were and still are involved in the local library board and Special Religious Education (SPRED), Fenwick further honed it through the [Christian] Service Project.”
Latin students at Fenwick know that pro bono publico is a phrase used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike volunteerism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.
Matuszewski at a Glance
Graduated from Fenwick High School, 2009 (Kairos leader, Friar Mentor, JETS, Scholastic Bowl, NHS, football, band)
University of Notre Dame, B.S. in Biological Sciences and Spanish, 2013
Chicago-Kent College of Law, J.D., 2016 (Managing Editor of the Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property, 2015-16)
On March 21st will be honored by United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with the 2018 Pro Bono Service Certificate for the second consecutive year.
Family of Friars: Kenny’s three younger siblings also are Fenwick alumni: Kevin ’10, Carly ’15 and Jasmine ’17.
Pro Bono and More
Today, Matuszewski serves the community in several ways. His pro-bono activities include work for the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub. “The patent process can be expensive, confusing and inaccessible to inventors. However, the barriers to entry for low-income inventors are even greater,” he explains. “As a volunteer attorney, I help low-income inventors obtain patents for their inventions. Over the past couple of years, I have worked with inventors who have invented devices ranging from simple footstools all the way to computer applications.” As a result of his efforts, Matuszewski earned the Patent Pro Bono Service Certificate from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for 2018 and 2017.
Mary Marcotte, Barb Shanahan and Lucy White leave big shoes to fill.
New retirees (from left): Lucy White, Mary Marcotte and Barb Shanahan.
Some 80 former students, parents and colleagues past and present gathered in the Fenwick Courtyard on Tuesday evening, June 19th, to share stories and bid a heart-felt farewell to a trio of retiring female faculty and staff members:
English Teacher Mary Marcotte has spent her 44-year career educating youth and sharing a passion for literature and writing. Colleague John Schoeph ’95 was a student in one of Ms. Marcotte’s first classes at Fenwick and later would succeed her as Chair of the English Department. Mr. Schoeph fondly remembers his mentor stressing not to take her tough editing and rewriting suggestions personally. “She would say, ‘You are not what you write,’” he recalls. “The best teachers are the most critical,” Schoeph believes.
She administered her last final exam earlier this month, after 23 years of teaching Friars’ students. Marcotte, who has worked in private and public-school settings during her 44-year teaching career, came to Fenwick in 1994 when the once all-boys institution went co-ed and began admitting female students.
“Mary Marcotte is among Fenwick’s greatest teachers both past and present,” praises Fenwick Principal Peter Groom. “Mary has excellent communication skills and cares deeply about her students. She has taught English at multiple levels, most notably English II Honors, English IV Honors and AP Literature. Countless students were inspired by Ms. Marcotte to continue their love of all things related to English and were also inspired to become better people. She will be missed.”
In addition to teaching in the classroom, for more than two decades Marcotte also has worked with the Fenwick Speech and Debate Teams and served as a Write Place Advisor, Yearbook Moderator and Director for Student Publications. She also has been an excellent mentor for new teachers over the years, Mr. Groom points out.
Schoeph adds: “Mary launched Touchstone, which hadn’t existed prior to our class’s founding it under her leadership,” he recalls. Touchstone is an annual magazine that features student writing and artwork, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and drama as well as multimedia forms of creative expression. “She has been a valuable resource for teachers new to Fenwick,” Schoeph adds, “cheerfully handing over file folders of her materials, not to copy but to use as springboards for original assignments.”
Marcotte also has been instrumental in fostering superior writing skills among Fenwick’s students. “She often helped out in the Write Place, at one time working with a few others to bring our writing center’s program to the attention of other schools,” Schoeph notes.
Of her students at Fenwick, “I am constantly in awe of their potential,” says Marcotte, who resides in Elmhurst with her husband Paul, an attorney. “I have been privileged to help them realize that potential. I like to think that I’ve taught with my students. Lively discourse and enlightened essays ensue when they become confident in their opinions. It truly is gratifying to hear about their successes at and beyond Fenwick.”
She is particularly proud of the work she has done with numerous juniors and seniors while constructing their college essays. “This has been such an enriching personal experience, from the drafting to the final copy,” Marcotte notes, “whether the essay is just part of the college application or for awarding scholarship monies. I got to see and appreciate the core values of many of our Friars, and I am humbled to have had these experiences. We truly have remarkable young men and women among us!”
Marcotte also takes pride in her other teaching awards, which include:
Innovation and Creativity in Teaching Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago (2006)
Golden Apple Finalist (2001)
Rev. George Conway, O.P. Outstanding Teacher Award (1997) – voted on by peers
Interestingly, Marcotte was not a natural-born teacher. “I actually wanted to be a nurse, but life takes mysterious turns,” she explains. “In the summer before college, I was in a car accident and suffered several broken vertebrae. I could not meet my college commitment for nursing, so I became friends with a wonderful librarian who kept giving me lists of literary classics. Along with my mother, this librarian inspired me to major in English, particularly World and British Literature. I also have certifications in World Religions and Church History.
“Today one of the influences I want to have on my grandchildren is to value the opportunities presented by local libraries,” she continues. “We are so fortunate to live in a country where these services are provided, and we can never take them for granted.” She also frequently attends Shakespeare plays at Navy Pier in Chicago and enjoys traveling to Canada for the Stratford Festival, an internationally recognized annual repertory theater festival that runs annually (April through October) in the city of Stratford, Ontario. At home, Marcotte is an avid gardener. “When I’m not outside in the yard, I love growing orchids,” she shares.
More than 225 years of combined education experience is represented by these six Fenwick Friars. Each cupcake candle represents 38 years!
Theology Teacher Lucy White also is retiring. “Lucy has given her heart and soul to Catholic education for decades,” says Groom. “At Fenwick, she has taught thousands of our freshmen scripture in a comprehensive way. Through her approach the students have gained a real depth of understanding. As the Director of the Kairos program our students were able to explore the role that spirituality played in their lives while bringing them closer to both their family and God. She has been a role model and friend to so many.”
Of Ms. White, Brother Joseph Trout, O.P., Theology Department Chair, says: “Lucy came to Fenwick because of her love for God. She taught her students to know the God who is love. Generously, she shared with everyone the depth of her love. She directed Kairos because she helps others experience God’s own love. She is retiring because she made a vow to, in sickness and in health, give herself to Phil [her husband] in love. Lucy has earned her accolades and awards over the years, but it pales in comparison to one fact: Lucy White is a living, breathing lesson in love. If you want to understand Jesus’ words, ‘love one another as I have loved you,’ you need simply look to her.”
Theology colleague Mr. Patrick Mulcahy adds: “Lucy is fond of saying, ‘I want kids to fall in love with God.’ She was much known and loved by her students and the seniors she led on Kairos. When she took over the Kairos program she really refocused it in a positive way. My fondest memory of Lucy’s class was the practice she had of selecting individual students and praying over them with the rest of the class in a very personal way. She really knew her students. It was truly something to witness. As a senior teacher I saw, year after year, how her students were some of the best prepared in their knowledge of Scripture. As in the case of all great teachers, ‘Lucy the Person’ was the true teacher. She has had many challenges in her life and her faith is a model to all of us in how she has coped with those challenges. She will be greatly missed.”
Friend and Social Studies Teacher Mary Beth Logas: “Lucy is someone who understands unconditional love like perhaps no one else I know. The courage with which she has faced a great many challenges and problems in her life, even before her husband’s illness, is inspiring to anyone who knows her story — and she has been generous with it to the many Fenwick students who have heard it on Kairos. The depth and constancy of her faith are a magnificent legacy to our kids in a world where faith is questioned, its value to the human spirit derided and, increasingly, Christians are persecuted in ways almost reminiscent of the trials of the early church.
“I will miss her friendship and support more than I can express. My overwhelming feeling is that this can’t be happening. I know Lucy does not feel like she has done all she can at Fenwick, but there is another great trial of love before her, and if there was ever anyone with their priorities straight, it’s Lucy. The best thing her Fenwick family can do is to keep in touch with her, for in its very nature the task that lies before her is isolating, even were she not leaving a community where she and her husband have had roots for so many years. I plan on putting some miles on my car between here and Madison in future.”
Student Services Administrative Assistant Barbara Shanahan joins White and Marcotte on the retirement path. Ms. Shanahan has been at Fenwick for 32 years, spending most of her time as the right-hand lady for Rich Borsch and the other counselors. Diana Caponigri, former Director of Scheduling and Records at Fenwick, pays tribute to Barb:
“When I think of Barb, I think of someone who is intensely loyal; someone who is willing to help even though she has a million things on her own desk; someone who has a keen sense of humor; who has much patience; and someone who is able to handle those million things on her desk efficiently and humbly. I could go on and on. She is one of the core people at Fenwick who do so much behind the scenes and don’t get much credit for their work. As a matter of fact, much of what she does enables other people to shine. She is able to anticipate, to keep herself organized, and to get the job done. Did I mention that I think very highly of her? She wants little credit for what she does, believing that if you have a job to do, you just do it and do it as best you can.
“Some of my own cherished memories of Fenwick involve Barb. If I needed numbers about some scheduling situation, such as verification of the number of requests for a certain course, she would be on the phone quickly to respond. If I needed some information about who was not coming back so I could delete some course requests, she would get to a counselor if she didn’t know the information and then get back to me quickly. I depended on her, and knew she would never let me down. Many years ago we had a student who was confined to a wheelchair and, between Barb and myself, we made sure that this boy could access his classes, which sometimes meant moving the class with its teacher to a different floor so this could happen. Being that Fenwick does what it can to accommodate special situations, some of these situations have to be handled by a person rather than a machine, and Barb was often that person. If I didn’t remember a special situation, Barb would be there to remind me or make the change herself and tell me about it. I trusted her. She would constantly update me on her progress doing whatever she was doing when we were scheduling. I always thought we made a good team whether it was working on a scheduling item or something else.
“Another memory I have is her kindness and concern to accommodate me when I would help proctor the many tests we give on Saturdays, such as an ACT, SAT or some other test. She would try to get me in a room with a computer so I could do some work while administering the test and would give me the extended-time students, which meant I would have a smaller number of students to watch. I truly appreciated this.
“In years long since gone by, we would celebrate office birthdays and she would include me when a birthday was celebrated in the Student Services area. She felt I was part of the group because of the work I did with counselors concerning scheduling, grades and other issues. She is very thoughtful.
“She and I had several opportunities to go for training for the student database, and I have some very nice memories of those too. It was so nice to spend some time with her away from the school environment and to see her relax and enjoy herself.
“I wish her the best of rest, relaxation and peace in her retirement years. These are years she so well deserves. Thank you, Barb, for all you have done for me. Thank you for your support, your help and for being you.
200 Combined Years!
Celebrating his 85th birthday is Father LaPata (center) flanked by Mr. Finnell (left) and Mr. Borsch, who both have more than 50 years of dedicated service to Fenwick.
Also feted were the 50 year service anniversaries of Associate Principal/Student Services Director Richard Borsch and alumnus/Math Teacher Roger Finnell ’59! This quintet of Fenwick teachers and administrators has more than 200 years of combined experience!
Mr. Borsch, while not yet retiring, is marking his 50th school year at Fenwick. “Mr. Borsch started at Fenwick as both a teacher and coach,” Groom points out. “Early on he demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills which lead him to be quickly moved into a leadership position in our counseling office. Rich transformed our counseling office into what we have today. As a college counselor, Mr. Borsch has been one of the greats. I have personally witnessed his ability to connect with the students and parents to help them find the best fit. His knowledge of colleges and their specific admissions offices is unparalleled.”
Last but most certainly not least, those in attendance also celebrated the 85th birthday of President EmeritusFr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50 (on May 22nd). Listen in as Fenwick’s 1,200-member student body sings to the “birthday boy” last month.