Fenwick Partners with St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School in 5-year Pact

Neighboring Catholic institutions on Washington Blvd. in Oak Park
share a vision of more diversity, equity and inclusion for future students.

St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy Principal Leamy (left) and Fenwick President Fr. Peddicord, O.P. at the April 19 signing ceremony.

Over the past 91 years, Fenwick High School has admitted hundreds of students from the former Catholic parish schools St. Catherine of Siena School and St. Lucy Schools, the predecessor schools to the now combined St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy School (SCSL), which serves approximately 200 children from preschool through eighth grade. Situated in Oak Park, IL, a few blocks east of Fenwick, SCSL borders the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side.

SCSL has raised in excess of $200,000 for the renovation of the gymnasium in Maguire Hall, thanks in part to two major donors — the Malnati and the Barnett families. Mr. and Mrs. Tom Nelson have generously donated towards the new boiler system. Fenwick’s Institutional Advancement Department has agreed to market a gift challenge to match the $200,000 already committed by soliciting from the two schools’ joint alumni base: $100,000 will be dedicated to establishing a scholarship fund supporting SCSL graduates who wish to attend Fenwick and $100,000 to develop the Fenwick Center for Educational Excellence at St. Catherine – St. Lucy School. 

Former Fenwick student Sarai Zamora ’19 helping a St. Catherine St. Lucy grade schooler with a math word problem in 2018.

How the funds will be used:

  • Once raised, $100,000 will go toward constructing and equipping the new “Fenwick Center for Educational Excellence” at SCSL, in conjunction with Fenwick’s existing tutoring program for grade-school students along with other academic initiatives.
  • The other half ($100,000) will go toward establishing the St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy and Fenwick Partners Scholarship Fund at Fenwick to benefit incoming students from SCSL.

“All of us at Fenwick are eager to enter into this partnership with St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School,” said Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., Fenwick’s president. “ In a very meaningful way, it will help us to live up to our commitment to celebrate diversity, insist upon equity and create a more inclusive community.”

Fenwick DEI Director and alumnus Raymond Moland ’96 (center) is excited about the new initiative.

Raymond Moland, the high school’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and a 1996 graduate of Fenwick, added: “This is an outstanding opportunity for both Fenwick and St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School. It marks the beginning of Fenwick’s new outreach efforts in the community and those in the surrounding area.” (More information on Fenwick’s DEI initiatives.)

Mrs. Sharon Leamy, Principal of SCSL, also shared her thoughts on the partnership agreement: “Fenwick High School’s culture of service and strong sense of family mirrors that of St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School. We believe we are all children of God. We believe there is more to learning than just books. And we believe education is a civil right. We have incredible families and very talented students who make us proud each and every day. We are thrilled a revered institution such as Fenwick recognizes the unique gifts St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School has to offer and is willing to commit to further strengthening this partnership. Coming together through academics, athletics, and service the lives of all the bright, highly motivated, and faith driven students in the halls of both schools will be enriched. And we are so grateful!”

Future Friars

Fenwick High School is interested in realizing all St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy students who demonstrate cognitive intelligence, intellectual curiosity, humility, a desire to excel and who embrace the pillars of the Dominican order. Fenwick will base acceptance of SCSL students on its entrance exam while consulting with the administration of St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School to identify students who can thrive in its demanding environment. DEI Director Mr. Moland will work directly with the SCSL Principal Leamy to identify three to five students per year who meet the academic qualifications to be considered as successful prospective applicants to Fenwick High School. This process can begin in the spring of the student’s seventh-grade year. (More than five qualified candidates can be discussed and considered in any given year.) 

Then, working with third-party scholarship organizations (for example, Big Shoulders, Daniel Murphy, Highsight, Link Unlimited, etc.), the Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program, and Fenwick’s normal financial-aid process, Fenwick will assure that all qualified/admitted students from SCSL are provided a nearly tuition-free education if the student remains at Fenwick for four years.

SCSL teacher and alumna Vanessa Underwood

Vanessa Underwood (left), St. Catherine – St. Lucy class of 1999 alumna and present fifth-grade teacher, shared: “The partnership between SCSL and Fenwick is a wonderful thing! If the scholarship piece was in place while I was a student here at SCSL, Fenwick would have been my top choice. Unfortunately, the cost was too prohibitive. Today, as a teacher here at SCSL, I am thrilled that my students will have the opportunity that I did not have to attend Fenwick. We have such intelligent, talented students, and I know they will be a tremendous asset to Fenwick for years to come.”

Athletics and Activities

As part of the new agreement, for a five-year term beginning in the upcoming 2021-22 school year, Fenwick will be able to use the renovated gymnasium at SCSL as follows:

● Two days a week, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. during the winter season, November 1st to March 15th.

● Three days per week, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. or 6 to 8 p.m. during the winter season, November 1st to March 15th (days negotiable).

For the same five-year term, Fenwick and SCSL will partner with the following:

● Once per season Fenwick/St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy will co-host a middle-school basketball tournament using Fenwick’s and SCSL’s gyms. Both schools will be listed on the tournament title. (Dates to be determined.)

● Free basketball clinics for girls/boys at SCSL at two points throughout the winter.

● SCSL students will receive one weekend practice time in Fenwick’s main gym during each season (fall, winter and spring).

● St. Catherine Siena – St. Lucy students will receive one free family pass to any paid Fenwick event.

Other possible ways for Fenwick and St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy students to interact in the future include joint Christian Service Projects and having Fenwick campus ministry leaders assist with retreats at SCSL.

Principal Leamy (right) concluded: “Ten years ago, the seeds of a wonderful partnership were planted through the development of a tutoring program. St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School welcomed Fenwick High School students on campus to work with the boys and girls in our after-school program. Over the years, we have seen this initiative develop into an incredibly well-structured program benefitting all involved. With the addition of sports clinics and service projects, the eight blocks separating our two schools have developed into a wonderful bridge of opportunity.”

Fenwick Is Celebrating 92 Years: Fenwick High School, founded in 1929, is a Dominican college preparatory secondary institution with a co-educational enrollment of approximately 1,100 students. Guided by its Dominican Catholic values, its mission is to inspire excellence and educate each student to lead, achieve and serve. Today, Fenwick has a Golden Apple teacher on its faculty and an alumni list that includes a Skylab astronaut, Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, a Heisman Trophy recipient and other leaders making a positive impact locally and internationally. Fenwick is celebrating its 92nd academic year in 2020-21. www.fenwickfriars.com

St. Catherine Siena St. Lucy School 135 Years Strong: With roots planted in 1885, St. Catherine Siena – St. Lucy School has served generations of Oak Park and Austin neighborhood families. We are grounded in faith, proud of where we have been, and exuberant in who we are becoming as a preschool through eighth grade grammar school. An awarded Personalized Learning school, we meet individual learners where they are in their journey and help them map their personal route to success. Educating the whole child, we offer after-school enrichment and encourage participation in our robust athletic program. Modeling our co-founder St. Catherine of Siena, we encourage our students to: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” www.catherinelucy.org 

Religious Education and Fenwick High School: New Directions in the 1960s

By Fr. Thomas F. O’Meara, O.P.

The number and size of Catholic grade schools and high schools increased greatly in the 1950s. After 1960, the educational preparation of teachers, new issues for church life amid movements like ecumenism, racial justice in American society, and a general advancement in the quality of Catholic schools led to new considerations of the area of “religion,” of “theology,” in secondary education.

The Dominican shield of Fenwick High School.

At Fenwick High School, conducted by the Dominican Friars in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, two movements emerged to expand and vitalize theological education in high school. One had to do with educational materials like textbooks; the other had to do with new approaches to religious education, with ideas for and beyond the classroom.

New Theology and New Textbooks

The developments in secondary education began with similar movements in Catholic colleges and universities. The simple and sparse catechetical format of the texts for required courses in religion in Catholic colleges and universities was more and more criticized in the 1950s. The shallow level of content often did not rise above basic catechetical propositions about Christianity to which was added some Aristotelian philosophy in ethics and theodicy. Some have gone so far as to say that prior to 1960 there was no theology being taught in most Catholic institutions of higher education in America other than seminaries. Certainly few courses touched on, for instance, the content of the New Testament or the theology of the sacraments and liturgy.

In those years teachers began to meet to discuss how teaching theology in college was more than teaching scholastic philosophy or catechesis. In 1954, they founded the Society of Catholic College Teachers of Sacred Doctrine (this became in 1965 the College Theology Society).1 At the first national meeting of the SCCTSD in 1954 (there had been regional meetings) three of the founders offered their approaches. Gerard Sloyan of Catholic University of America spoke on “From Christ in the Gospels to Christ in the Church;” Thomas Donlan, O.P., of St. Rose Priory, Dubuque, Iowa, presented “An Approach from the Dominican School of Thought;” John Fernan, S.J., of Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York, described a “historical, Scriptural approach.” These pioneers of the college theology movement had three different views of theological education: Sloyan’s was biblical; Donlan’s was neo-Thomist; Fernan’s was historical and biblical. All three were working on producing textbooks.

ND’s Father Hesburgh

Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., in 1945 returned to the University of Notre Dame to begin his time of teaching theology there before he became president of that institution. He had written his doctoral dissertation at The Catholic University of America on the theology of lay people and the sacraments.2 Teaching undergraduate theology soon led to his conceiving of and editing textbooks, a series called “University Religion Series. Texts in Theology for the Layman.”3

Thomas Donlan, O.P., a native of Oak Park, Illinois, taught at Fenwick High School from 1946 to 1952. He went from there to teach at the Dominican seminaries in Dubuque, Iowa. While there he directed original publications in college and high school theological education. First he supervised a volume of essays exploring how sacred doctrine of a largely Thomist bent could and should be the framework for courses outside the seminary. Essays treated the arts, sociology, and the natural sciences, philosophy, and religion: This was an attempt to draw theology out of the isolation of clerical circles into a wider cultural world.4

Fenwick’s Fr. Donlan, O.P. hailed
from Oak Park.

Donlan and other Dominicans, some teaching at the first graduate program in theology to accept religious or laity at St. Mary’s College, South Bend, Indiana, decided to produce a series of textbooks for college. First books began to appear in 1952.5 They did offer a theology deeper than a catechism, but curiously it did not hold a particularly Thomistic order and principles and retained the order of apologetic manuals from 1860 to 1960. A second series of texts appearing in 1959 was a greatly improved enterprise. They held sections of Aquinas’ Summa theologiae, and included material from Scripture and practical moral theology.6

Continue reading “Religious Education and Fenwick High School: New Directions in the 1960s”

FOREVER FRIARS: Remembering Fr. Roderick Malachy Dooley, O.P. (1919-2002)

By Will Potter, Chicago Tribune staff reporter (originally published on June 18, 2002)

Rev. R. Malachy Dooley, 82, was at nearly every wedding, funeral, baptism and party involving alumni of Fenwick High School. His giving spirit – from remembering the anniversaries of couples he married to taking friends on tours of Ireland – made him a cornerstone of the Fenwick community.

“Everyone thinks of him as their best friend,” said Bill Stein, a former student [Class of ’53, now deceased] and longtime friend. “And he thought of everyone as his best friend. Asking for nothing and giving everything, that was him.”

The late Professor Peter Bagnolo, a former student, painted this watercolor, which hangs in Fenwick’s 4th-floor (priory) Dooley Conference Room.

Father Dooley, a Dominican friar for 60 years and a teacher and fundraiser for Fenwick High School in Oak Park, died Saturday, June 15, of cancer in his home in the Dominican Priory of River Forest.

Father Dooley was born in Minneapolis. He started at Fenwick in 1950 as a theology teacher. When administrators asked him in the early 1950s to head fundraising projects for the school, he threw himself into the new task.

In the 1950s Father Dooley raised more than $1million for Fenwick’s first capital campaign that resulted in construction of the west wing, including an auditorium and classrooms. In the 1980s he raised more than $3 million for science laboratories and an endowment fund, and in the 1990s he raised $10 million for an athletics field house and pool.

Although quite a successful raiser of funds, the bespectacled Fr. Dooley did not like asking for money.

From 1963 to 1973, Father Dooley was assigned to St. Pius V parish in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, St. Anthony Parish in New Orleans and Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas. He then returned to his work at Fenwick.

Father Dooley did not like asking for money and, in fact, he rarely did, said Leo Latz [Fenwick Class of ’76], a former assistant and longtime friend. He didn’t have to.

“People give to things they feel connected to,” Latz said. “Dooley got legions of people to be connected or reconnected to the school. He had a gift of creating community and connecting people to their alma mater and reminding them of why they should be grateful. He has been the common denominator in Fenwick’s success in the last 50 years.”

He was awarded the [inaugural) Lumen Tranquillum, or Quiet Light, award by the school in November.

HIS STORY: Tackling Race at Fenwick

A former class president and Oak Parker writes about trading his orange-and-blue colors of the Youth Huskies football program for the Friars’ black and white in 2011 – and never looking back. But what about that other “black-and-white” issue?

By Aaron Garland ’15

Growing up, I hated Fenwick as a kid. I believe it was because I always imagined myself in an orange and blue uniform at OPRF High School. Playing under the lights on Lake Street was a dream of mine.

I remember in grade school, I went to watch OPRF play Fenwick in a basketball game. The energy was crazy! It was standing room only at the field house. Iman Shumpert [now with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets] was the star at the time, and I felt like he embodied what OPRF was about. Another reason I was attached to OPRF was because I played for the Oak Park Youth Huskies and looked forward to continuing the sport together. A few guys who were a part of that team were Lloyd Yates [OPRF & NU, see below], Christopher Hawthorne [Fenwick ’15] and Antonio Cannon [OPRF & Augustana College].

Huskies and Friars: Offensive lineman Adam Lemke-Bell (from left) and QB Lloyd Yates both went on to Northwestern, while CB Garland headed to UConn and DT Hawthorne to Illinois Wesleyan.

My journey to Fenwick began with my Mom. Around sixth grade, she would always say, “You’re going to Fenwick.” I didn’t think she was serious until she made me take the Fenwick entrance exam. I didn’t want to do it but, in my heart, I knew it was the best thing for me. The academic expectation at Fenwick scared me. Growing up, when Fenwick High School came up in conversation, the academic prestige was mentioned. I knew Fenwick would challenge me academically. A piece of me wanted to take the easy way out and leave the exam blank on test day. That wasn’t my style, though. I liked challenges!

When it came to test day, I remember it was early on a Saturday morning. I had a basketball practice shortly after, so my plan was to take the exam as quickly as possible so I could go hoop! As I took the test, I hoped that Fenwick would not accept me.

While waiting on my results, I continued my regular routine playing sports and hanging out with friends. Growing up in the Oak Park-River Forest area was special. For the bulk of my childhood, I hung out with mostly white guys and girls with a sprinkling of blacks and Latinos.

Garland was a three-year starter on the Friars’ varsity, which won IHSA playoff games all three seasons and advanced to the 7A quarter-finals in 2014. As a senior, the cornerback had four interceptions and two pick-sixes. ESPN ranked him a top-75 CB prospect nationally.

I finally got my test results, and I was in! Two of my close friends received letters of acceptance as well. So the three of us were headed to Fenwick. During our first assembly, Mr. Borsch told us to look to our left and right. He went on to say that the person next to us would not be here in four years. I was shocked that he said that and wondered why people didn’t finish. Was it the tough academics? The dress code? Or the rules? As I looked around at the freshman class, I was hoping that I would be one of the few to remain. Sadly, after one and a half years, both my friends were gone. I won’t go into detail on why they didn’t remain; let’s just say Fenwick was not the right fit for them.

I had a couple close calls at Fenwick myself that could have gotten me kicked out. I am grateful for the mercy that was shown by Wallace Pendleton [Fenwick Class of 2005], our Dean of Students at the time. Wallace was a former Division 1 athlete [Akron football] and he is African American. I believe being black in that situation actually helped me and he saw something in me. Thank you, Wallace. At this point, I was tested to expand my friendships beyond the friends I came in with. That same year, my sister transferred to Fenwick from Trinity, so that was a plus. [BONUS BLOG: Read how alumni Maya Garland ’14, Aaron’s sister, defied the odds.]

AG (5’11” and 193 lbs. in college) eventually did become a Husky again — at UConn.

I played basketball, football and baseball my first year at Fenwick. I later switched to only playing football. I always believed I was a great baseball player, but I knew football was going to be the sport that sent me to college for free. I later switched to only playing football. The summer before my junior year, I received a full-ride scholarship to play at the University of Connecticut.

Playing sports at Fenwick made it easy to be accepted by others. I had some good teammates like Keshaun Smith [Class of 2014], Robert Spillane [’14], Chris Hawthorne ’15 and Richard Schoen ’14, but the list goes on and on. Along with good teammates, I had some great coaches: Gene Nudo (football), Mark Laudadio ’84 (basketball) and Titcus Pettigrew (football). However, I felt bad for the minorities who were not connected with others through sports.

I would be lying if I said racism did not exist at Fenwick. I also wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said everyone there was racist. There was definitely a disconnect between minorities and whites.

‘East Kids’ and ‘West Kids’

I mentioned earlier that I grew up with mostly white guys and girls and a sprinkle of blacks and Latinos. So attending Fenwick, a majority white school, was not new to me. No matter what school I attended growing up, minorities always stuck together.

Naturally, we all feel more comfort when we are around the same race. However, I never wanted to put limits on friendships based on race, so I made an effort to be friends will all races. Personally, I can’t remember anytime that someone called me the ‘N word’ or was openly racist towards me while at Fenwick. I was the class president my junior year, so I guess I had won the hearts of my classmates the first two years. I would have been class president two years in row if I had decided to run my senior year, but I wanted to give someone else the opportunity to add the position to their high school resume. I enjoyed being class president, it gave me a sense of purpose outside of sports. It also helped me get rid of the stereotype that blacks attended Fenwick only for sports. I am not sure if I was the first black class president at Fenwick, but I’m sure I was one of the few.

Racism has been talked about for centuries. Here is my take on it: I believe it starts at home. Kids do outside what they are taught at home. In Fenwick’s situation, a lot of kids come from the western suburbs, such as Burr Ridge, Western Springs and Hinsdale. We called these people “west kids.”

AG returned to the Priory in 2018 to coach Fenwick defensive backs at the freshman level. Those players are now juniors.

Those neighborhoods lack diversity. So, due to the lack of diversity in those neighborhoods, it leads to kids being awkward around minorities. I remember going to parties in the west suburbs and feeling like I was being “watched” by the parents a little more closely than others. I am not saying everyone from the west suburbs is racist. I believe the interaction is just different with them. It’s not their fault that they grew up in a neighborhood that lacks diversity.

At Fenwick, you had two types of white kids — those who fit in with the minorities and those who didn’t. The kids who fit in seemed to have grown up in the Oak Park, Elmwood Park and Chicago area. Also known as the “east kids,” these students seemed to be more familiar with minorities due to their environment. So, it was not a problem of race but rather with environment.

I am grateful for the experiences I had at Fenwick. My classmates and teachers all made it a unique experience. Of course, academically we learned a lot and were challenged. Fenwick prepared me for college courses at UConn. Honestly, I felt like Fenwick was harder than college academically. I believe this is the reason I was able to graduate from college in three years and serve on the leadership board of the college of liberal arts and sciences.

Aside from the books, it was the people I appreciated learning from, especially Gene Nudo and Rena [Ciancio ’00] McMahon. Coach Nudo told me to be the kind of guy that colleges want to put on the front page of their advertisements. Nudo was my favorite coach throughout my sports career. He loved his players. Ms. McMahon was my counselor. She always believe in me and knew how to listen when I needed someone to talk to. If I wasn’t in class or practicing, I was talking to Rena or Nudo in their offices.

I learned how to be a young man at Fenwick, how to speak, how to treat people and, most importantly, how to keep God in your life. One of the statements we heard at Fenwick was “Everything in moderation,” which has stuck with me until this day!

Graduation Day at UConn: Aaron and his Fenwick alumna sister, Maya Garland ’14. READ HER BLOG.

My first job when I came back from college was with state senator Don Harmon, who is now the president of the Illinois Senate. This job came from the help of Fenwick alumnus Sean Harmon [Class of 2004], Don’s cousin. While working with Senator Harmon, I started coaching freshman football at Fenwick. I am currently working at the Cook County Board of Review as an appeals analyst. I say this to show that Fenwick opened up doors for me when it was time to join the “real world.” I am confident that the prestige of Fenwick will continue to do that. Moving forward, I am going to be a helping hand in bringing diversity, equity and inclusion to Fenwick so that more minorities will have the opportunity to attend one of the best schools in the state.

I encourage students to love one another and find things in common with people who don’t look like you. Whether it be academics, hobbies or sports, we all can relate somehow. Also, make time to have conversations with the adults in the building. There are many great minds in that building, whether it is the lunch ladies or those working in administration, from whom you can learn something.

I want to give thanks to the following people who were not mentioned above. Mrs. Nowicki (math teacher); Mr. Arellano (retired speech teacher); Tony McCormick [’78] and Becky (athletic trainers); Mr. Ruffino (friend, former coach and facilities director); Mr. Ori (admissions director, ’03) and Mrs. (Morris) Ori (English teacher, ’06); Mr. Schoeph (English teacher, ’95); the ladies in Student Services, Ms. Rowe and Ms. Shanahan; Kita (lunch lady); Mark Vruno (football coach); Mrs. Carraher (Spanish teacher, ’96); Mrs. Megall (retired Spanish teacher); and Coach Heldmann (RIP). Lastly, thank you to my Mom and Dad for sending me to Fenwick. I am sure a left a few out … thank you all!

IN ADDITION TO INTERCEPTIONS, HARD-HITTING TACKLES AND ACROBATIC PASS BREAK-UPS, AG’S SENIOR HIGHLIGHTS FROM FENWICK FOOTBALL FEATURE SOME ELECRIFYING KICK RETURNS, TOO!

BONUS BLOG by Maya Garland ’14 (Aaron’s sister):

Read why “west kid” Jack Henrichs ’22 thinks his commute from La Grange, IL, to Fenwick was worth the adjustment his freshman year.

MORE FRIAR BLACK HISTORY
Also read about:

The Fenwick Journey of Alumnus Michael Black ’09

Fenwick’s First Black Student in 1955

Why Marlon Hall Left Fenwick in the Early 1970s

Friars Not Just Local Power

By Ted Londos
(Originally published in the Oak Leaves newspaper, April 1972)

“There will always be a Fenwick. Yes indeed, the prep-renowned Friars will continue to make the usual good brand of history in both the academic and sports world for many years to come.”

These were the unequivocal utterances of youthful, brilliant Richard B. Kennedy , assistant principal of this great school when interviewed by this reporter.

My two-hour-long visit to Friarland was dictated by an abundance of disturbing rumors that Fenwick would eventually meet the same fate that befell a few of their Catholic high school counterparts, because of dire pecuniary straits. Well, after much talk and probing with other official Fenwick sources – I was assured, in no uncertain language, this just ain’t so!

Tony Lawless and Dan O’Brien in unison couldn’t conceive of anyone entertaining the idea of an exodus for the Friars from the Catholic prep ranks. Fenwick’s lofty status in the all-important fields of academics and athletics precludes such idle chatter. This writer evokes an Amen.

How many Oak Park-River Forest citizens know the splendid history of Fenwick?

I know that over the many, many years – folk from everywhere marveled at the architectural beauty of Fenwick High School. Our people exuded pride, and the school building was acclaimed by countless as “the most esthetic looking edifice in our village.” It is located on Washington Blvd., between Scoville and East avenues.

Variety is given in its 300-foot length by the wall in front of the gymnasium, the extended tower in the center of the building, and the castellated effect in the main entrance. Its three stories contain 19 class rooms, laboratories, library, cafeteria, swimming pool and gymnasium. Modern equipment in class rooms and laboratories add to the efficiency of its educational facilities.

Fenwick owes its birth to an invitation extended in 1928 by George Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago; to the Dominican Fathers, and the founding principal, the Rev. Leo C. Gainor, to erect and administer a new high school to serve the educational needs to the rapidly growing west side of Chicago and its western suburbs. The school, begun in November, 1928, was finished in August of 1929 and opened its doors to the first students in September of the same year.

Fenwick was chosen as its name in honor of the pioneer Dominican in the United States and the first Bishop of Cincinnati, Edward Dominic Fenwick, whose educational ideals and labors contributed so much to the early Catholic history of the Middle West.

It’s common knowledge that Fenwick is primarily a day school for boys – offering every facility for the highest and broadest mental culture. The big aim is to provide a thoroughly dependable foundation in solid elemental subjects conducive for college and for life in the world.

Fenwick’s faculty is second to none in the world of storied three or four R’s and higher learning. In addition to regular collegiate work – they have followed the seven year course of philosophical and theological subjects in the various Dominican Houses of Studies and have made special studies for advanced degrees in leading Catholic and European universities.

In the 43 years of its existence, Fenwick’s record in the field of sports can be tagged as truly spectacular – one of the finest athletic programs in the United States – always under the superlative coaching guidance of the great Tony Lawless. More important, countless members of its graduating classes have won exceptional recognition and honors in colleges throughout the United States. Add to this the many, many athletes who brought fame to their respective colleges as well as to the Friars [and] to Oak Park.

At the University of Notre Dame, out of representatives of 800 preparatory and secondary schools, the graduates of Fenwick have consistently ranked first in group excellence. At Xavier and Holy Cross, Fenwick alumni attained a Percentile mark of 90.9 percent, to rank second among graduates of 50 schools. Similar records at Purdue, St. Benedicts, and Providence College bear strong evidence of the type of training received at Fenwick and of the scholastic ability of its graduates.

We fervently pray and hope that this still-young school will ever remain the major force in the education and formation of the young men of Oak Park and the Chicago area.

Fenwick’s Staying Power Is Its People, says 9-year Friar Teaching Veteran

Fellowship among fellow teachers and their students is a key factor as to why faculty members stay with the Friars.

By Laura (Dixon) Gallinari, English Teacher

In the spring of 2011, on the verge of graduation from my MFA poetry program, I applied for every high school English and Spanish opening in Chicagoland, from Waukegan to Wheaton to Orland Park. I grew up in south Oak Park, and my husband and I had just purchased a house here. On a lark, I submitted my resume to Fenwick, even though no job was posted. So, why am I here? To start with, I figured it would be cool to live seven blocks from school.

Having attended OPRF, I was minimally familiar with Fenwick, aware of it as the local Catholic school that went co-ed while I was in high school. Kathy Curtin called to set up an interview. At the time, one of my mom’s best friends, Kathy Miller, had a sister who taught at Fenwick and agreed to meet with me in the teacher cafe before my interview. So my introduction to Fenwick was coffee with the unforgettable Mariana Curtin, who charmed me with her sincerity, warmth, wisdom, humor and occasional curse words.

To my great fortune, it turned out that Fenwick did have a need for one more English teacher, in a year that saw 17 new Fenwick teachers, several of them in the English department. I walked home from the interview, not quite a mile, and when Pete Groom called to say yes, it felt like providence.

That year marked a huge transition for me. I had taught and coached for 10 years before taking a break for my MFA, but for the past three years I had been paid to attend a few classes and write poetry. I read for hours every day and wrote hundreds of poems. I played basketball every week and even watched TV. It was dreamy. Then, I graduated, moved back to Chicago, bought a house, got married, got a dog, got a new job, and — yep, got pregnant. You know, just a few small changes.

I had long been told by doctors that it might be hard for me to get pregnant or to carry a pregnancy to term due to my unusual womb that has an extra wall in the middle, like a valentine heart. So Gabriel, our wedding-night baby, came as a bit of a surprise. In August before school started, I walked over to Fenwick and found Pete Groom shooting baskets with one of his kids in the gym. I sheepishly informed him that I hoped I would need a maternity sub in March, and in the meantime I would need to back out on coaching volleyball and basketball due to the high-risk nature of the pregnancy. I was more than a little nervous to be such a ‘problem child’ right out of the gates, but Pete met the news with a resigned but affable, nodding, red-faced smile that seemed to say, ‘Ah. Of course you do.’ (You all know that look.) I then apologetically explained the situation to Trish [Grigg in Human Resources], who just smiled and said, ‘That’s what God wanted.’ Somewhere else I might have been at risk of a pink slip, but not at Fenwick.

That first year, so many people helped me to find my way — both figuratively and, indeed, literally (as in the time I was assigned to sub in, uh, Room 46??). Andy Arellano, Jerry Lordan, Mary Marcotte, and John Schoeph shepherded me through. And a quick shout-out to Rick O’Connor, too, whose camaraderie in our first year meant the world.

Mutual respect and blessings

The first and most compelling reason that I have stayed at Fenwick is the people. I both like and respect all the people I answer to, and I have never before at another school been able to say that so uniformly. And my colleagues, all of you, are amazing. Truly. I am wowed by your dedication, expertise and enthusiasm every day. If I’m having a tough time, Pete Gallo will both crack me up and pray for me. When I need to respond to a tricky email, John Schoeph will sit down and talk it through with me. Coach [Kevin] Roche sets the bar so high that he makes us all better people. Arthur [Wickiewicz] greets me with an exploding fist bump daily. Hope [(Feist) Zelmer] gives me Hope. Maria Nowicki gives me hugs and pumpkin bread. Theresa Steinmeyer tells everyone, ‘You’re my favorite and sincerely means it every, single time. When I suffered my second of three miscarriages, Brigid Esposito brought me two roses and made me feel seen. Time and again, we lift each other up.

I am also here because I have a deep and abiding love for grading. KIDDING. NO. Like all of you, I am primarily here because of my students. Because my students are motivated, engaged, prepared, respectful and helpful, I am able to do my best work in the classroom. I can manage serious discipline issues, but here I mostly don’t have to. My students are allies in learning, and their intellectual curiosity propels us forward. With students so ready and eager to learn, I am free to show them what more is possible, to acquaint them with new ideas and engage in closer readings. Beyond their high level of academic accomplishment, my students’ decency, kindness, creativity and insight daily show me what more is possible. I’m here because Nate Jakaitis [Class of 2016] still sends me the latest cool thing he wrote in college; because Abbey Nowicki [also ’16] also sends me pumpkin bread; and because Robert Metaxatos [’17] takes the time to write me a letter by hand because he is reading Crime and Punishment and I first introduced him to Dostoevsky years ago in our Brothers Karamavoz reading group. My students are incredible people. They are incredible blessings.

Faculty and staff members read chapters of Moby-Dick at “Moby-Con” in January 2019.

I have been fortunate to teach subjects here that speak to my own intellectual passions — American literature and creative writing. And I think it’s an open secret that I sneak in 12 chapters of Moby-Dick when everyone else does two. I’m at Fenwick because six years ago my AP students were jealous of the Honors classes who got to read those 12 chapters and asked me to stay after school with them on Mondays to discuss the entire book. I’m here because every year since then, my Moby-Dick readers have recruited the next year’s crew. I’m here because when I brought our lunatic notion of Moby-Con to Pete Groom and Jerry Ruffino, they didn’t say no. They came aboard, as did dozens of you. I’m here because you tolerate (or dare I say even enjoy?) my whaling and sailing puns. It made my heart full that so many colleagues stepped up to chaperone and read at Moby-Con, that Father Peddicord was game to play Father Mapple, that Ernesto screened four film versions, that Rick O’Connor live-streamed the whole event with his Broadcasting club. Those students will never forget our marathon voyage, and I don’t know whether it would have happened at another school.

All of this adds up to true community, and people filled with genuine affection and compassion for their coworkers and students. People say teaching is a thankless job, but at least at Fenwick, I disagree. My students depart class daily with a parade of thank-yous — I mean, even in study hall! Seriously!

‘God wants me to be here’

One thing that makes Fenwick special is that we treat our work here as a vocation, a ministry. We are called to this work, and we are here to shape more than minds. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our Kairos program and the teachers and student leaders who work tirelessly to offer that spiritual experience to our students.

As a Protestant, I had no idea what to expect in coming here. Would I be out of place? How would people here treat the non-Catholic minority? Would even the statues give me the side-eye? I could not have imagined that Lucy White would ask me to speak at Kairos about the Christian Family or that Maria and Mary Beth would invite me to speak today at a Dominican spiritual retreat.

I am here because God wants me to be here. (Please write this down and look up when you have finished: I am here because — sorry, Kairos humor — but that is why I’m here.) As a religious institution, we are a community of learning and also a community of prayer. We celebrate God in our service to one another. And when you’re in need you can always be sure that Pete Gallo is not the only one praying for you.

To wrap up, I’d like to just tell a few anecdotes that speak to my time at Fenwick:

Continue reading “Fenwick’s Staying Power Is Its People, says 9-year Friar Teaching Veteran”

Why Commute to Fenwick?

Leading into Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 26 – Feb. 1), a sophomore student shares his Fenwick story – and explains why traveling from La Grange to Oak Park is worth it.

By Jack Henrichs ’22

Standing 6′ 4″ tall, the “Stork” cast a long, lean shadow during his freshman football season for the Friars in 2018. (This past season, his sophomore team posted an impressive 6-1-1 record.)

On a warm spring day at the end of 7th grade, I received a text message from my mom: “We are going to Fenwick’s Open House tomorrow.” Why would I be going there? I live within walking distance between two high school campuses where ALL of my friends would attend.

I argued with my parents until it was pointless. We attended the Open House and, of course, they loved Fenwick. They mentioned strong academics, Catholic values, small class sizes. I don’t remember much about that night, but I did pass the entrance exam that fall. My life was ruined. Or so I thought.

I didn’t even know how to tie a tie on the first day of school. I kept thinking about how my friends were walking to school, wearing shorts and T-shirts and excited about high school. I was one of the only kids from my junior high school at Fenwick. When my dad drove a neighbor and me to the train station, we passed the public school. I took a car, train and bus to school. This seemed absurd. But I had been practicing football since the end of June with my new team, so I was excited about seeing my football friends in my classes.

Jack heads out for his first day of sophomore year this past August. (His mom, Michelle, made him pose!)

Joining the football team made my transition to Fenwick so much easier. The first few days of freshman football summer camp were difficult though. I was nervous because I didn’t know a single person on my team. There were kids who were already friends with former elementary and middle school classmates, but there were also kids like me who knew no one around them for the first few practices. After several days of learning plays and running drills, we were all becoming friends. We knew we were going to be with each other for the next four years, and we were excited to prepare for our first high school season.

“Joining the football team made my transition to Fenwick so much easier.”

Ted Hendricks, the original “Stork” (and NFL Hall of Famer), prowled the gridiron for the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s.

I entered the school year with a new nickname —“Stork.” Head Freshman Football Coach, Mr. Vruno, approached me before a drill and asked if I knew who “The Stork” was. I had never heard of him, but he explained that Ted Hendricks was a 6’7” outside linebacker (and one of the best NFL players of all time), with my similar height and name. When a football coach gives you a nickname, it sticks. Teammates, classmates and teachers often call me Stork. A mom even called my mom “Mrs. Stork” last year. Joining a team had impacted my experience in ways I never thought it would, and it made my high school experience much easier.

School started and although I didn’t have many of my football friends in my classes, I saw them in the hallways, and we’d hang out before school. By the end of the first month of school, I was doing more work than I had done in my entire middle school life! I adjusted well to new teachers and classes, and even attending Mass (which was new for me since I attended a public school). I actually liked the prayers before classes and Mass was a reminder for me to keep God in my life.

The Henrichs family resides in La Grange, Illinois.

My English teacher, Mr. Schoeph, made the class fun and interesting. He hopped up on desks and acted out stories for us. The grammar lessons were not as entertaining, but I knew they were important. Freshman year is said to be the hardest. And to me, it was. First semester was a challenge, but it prepared me for second semester, which went much smoother. I’m also glad I didn’t have many football friends in my classes because I met so many new people. The school days were busy and exhausting, with football and then basketball after school every day and heavy homework every night. So when the weekend came, it was like a summer day. I felt like I deserved a break because of how hard I had worked.

‘Do you want to transfer?’

At the end of the year my parents asked me if I was happy at Fenwick or if I wanted to transfer. They insisted I give it a try freshman year and said we would reevaluate the decision in June. Several friends took the train home with me on the last day of school, and I couldn’t imagine going to school anywhere else. I still had my neighborhood grade school friends, and I had my high school friends. It’s the best of both worlds.

Sophomore year has been much easier than freshman year. My workload may seem less, but it’s about the same because I’ve adjusted to the academics and expectations. I played football again this year and am still called “Stork” everywhere I go. I am also looking forward to our football team playing in Dublin [Ireland] in August.

Continue reading “Why Commute to Fenwick?”

Learning about the Big 3: Facts, Ideas and Values

A Forty-Niner alumnus and former Fenwick teacher reflects on the heels of his 70th class reunion.

By Jack Spatafora, PhD. ’49

In addition to reforming curricula, Fenwick alumnus Jack Spatafora, PhD. was a White House speech writer.

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!

Jack Spatafora as a Fenwick junior in 1948.

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
Mr. Spatafora’s Fenwick Faculty photo from 1957.

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.

Continue reading “Learning about the Big 3: Facts, Ideas and Values”

Fenwick Produced More Than 120 AP Scholars in 2018-19!

When it comes to the Friars’ highest-achieving students, demand drives supply for course offerings.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick AP students study together diligently.

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.”

A mixture of sophomores and seniors participate in mock trial activities during Fenwick’s AP Government & Politics class, which is taught by Mrs. Mary Beth Logas.

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.
Students take a quiz in Ms. Marianne (Palmer ’96) Carrozza’s AP Spanish class.

“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 Chemistry.”

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.

Eager freshman students absorb advanced knowledge in Mrs. Amy Christophell’s AP biology class.

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.

Continue reading “Fenwick Produced More Than 120 AP Scholars in 2018-19!”

Alumni Spotlight: John Giannini, PhD., Class of 1980

Coach G. taught and motivated players on basketball’s big stage for 22 years, including one special season when his La Salle U. team ‘danced’ to the Sweet 16.

By Mark Vruno

As basketball season draws nearer, Fenwick alumnus John Giannini ’80 gets antsy. He hears the echo of his whistle and the orange, leather balls bouncing in the gym, but those sounds now are memories thumping in his head. It’s only natural because this past year marked the first time in 30 seasons that he was not coaching a college basketball team.

For 14 years (2004-18), Giannini, who was raised in Elmwood Park, IL, was head coach of the La Salle University men’s basketball team, an NCAA Division I program in Philadelphia. Giannini quickly turned the program around when, in his second year, the 2005-06 Explorers set a school record for Atlantic 10 Conference wins and tallied their first winning season in 13 years. Coach G. was named as a candidate for the National Coach of the Year. In 2011-12, La Salle won 21 games and was asked to participate in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).

A year later, the Explorers punched a ticket to the lauded NCAA Tournament, where they were seeded 13th in their region. They defeated Boise State in the opening round, and then beat Kansas State and Ole Miss. The run ended in the Sweet 16, where La Salle fell to Wichita State. The team finished with a No. 24 national ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Before La Salle, Coach Giannini built up the program at Rowan University in New Jersey. He led the team to a pair of Division III Final Four appearances, in 1993 and 1995, before the “Profs,” as they are known, won the small-college national championship in ’96. Coach G. came to the NJ school in 1989 by way of the University of Illinois, where he served for two seasons as a graduate assistant on Lou Henson’s coaching staff. (The 1988-89 Fighting Illini (31-5) danced their way through the NCAA Tournament, past Syracuse and all the way to the Final 4 in Seattle.)

Following his success at Rowan, Giannini accepted the head coaching position at the University of Maine, where he stayed for eight years. Under him on the hardwood, the Black Bears enjoyed a 20-win season, which never had before happened, and then another. Giannini achieved the best career winning percentage in school history. Over the course of his 29-year collegiate head coaching career, he compiled an overall record of 508 victories and 375 defeats.

Coaching path

Giannini (right) looks to pass to a Friar teammate.

Coach and his wife, Donna, have two daughters, but Giannini grew up with boys. The oldest of four brothers, he is a “Double Friar,” playing football and basketball at St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest before enrolling at Fenwick in 1976. “I looked up to Fenwick’s coaches and athletes,” Giannini recalls. As a 13-year-old, the late coach “George Badke met with me, and I felt like I was meeting George Halas.” (“Papa Bear” was, of course, coach/owner of the Chicago Bears.)

“People thought Fenwick was the best school academically in the area, but I was not a motivated student at all in grade school,” Giannini admits. Even in high school, he says, he was “clearly in the bottom half of my class. But I was far more prepared for college and life after than I ever realized.” Why? The coach points to two primary factors:

  1. “I had wonderful, passionate teachers at Fenwick.”
  2. “I also had really motivated, smart classmates, so I had to keep up!”

Most importantly, though, he believes, “Fenwick taught me how to live. We were encouraged to leave Fenwick with a philosophy of life at age 18. I knew what was important to me.”

Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: John Giannini, PhD., Class of 1980”