Friars rank number one in Illinois’ Academic Challenge in Engineering and Science (ACES) STEM competition among schools with less than 1,500 students.
For the second consecutive year, Fenwick High School has finished first in Illinois in the Academic Challenge in Engineering and Science (ACES) competition, formerly known as the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) program. “We are the top STEM school in a division that includes all high schools in the state with 1,500 students or fewer,” reported David Kleinhans, ACES moderator and chair of the Fenwick Physics/ Computer Science Department. “Twenty-four schools competed at the State competition in our division.
“We also finished second when looking at schools in our multi-state region,” Mr. Kleinhans continued, “to Clayton High School in Missouri by eight points out of 500 total points. Congratulations to their team and all the other competitors.” This year marks the tenth consecutive year that the Friars have reached the state finals. Since 2012, Fenwick is the only Illinois school to win a first, second or third place State trophy each year — and the only Catholic school to finish in the top three spots.
Approximately one year ago, Kleinhans shared that Fenwick won the IL State ACES science contest for the 2019-21 academic year. “In addition, Fenwick bested all the Missouri schools in attendance to finish first in the Midwest region,” he noted. “I was so proud of our students and their perseverance through the switch to eLearning and eTesting amid the onset of COVID-19.” Like last year, the Fenwick 2021 team was undeterred by the online coaching and test-taking, demonstrating tremendous focus, perseverance and “wild intelligence,” according to their proud coach, to capture another state title. The top five students in each subject area received medals. Fenwick’s individual winners are:
Math – 1stFinley Huggins (perfect score!) Math – 2ndLogan Maue Physics – 3rdAnna Dray Physics – 3rdDaniel Majcher Physics – 3rdDmytro Olyva Chemistry – 4thFinley Huggins English – 4thKaty Nairn
The 14-member team (by class year and in alphabetical order):
Anna Abuzatoaie ’21 (Melrose Park, IL, Grace Lutheran School) – either Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, Romania, or University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Cluj-Napoca, Romania (TBD)
Anthony Battaglia ’21 (Melrose Park, IL, Grace Lutheran School) – University of Notre Dame
Katie Cahill ’21 (River Forest, IL, Roosevelt Middle School) – University of Michigan
Anna Dray ’21 (Elmhurst, IL, Immaculate Conception Grade School) – University of Notre Dame
Therese Giannini ’21 (Wood Dale, IL, Immaculate Conception Grade School, Elmhurst) – Loyola University Chicago
Jacob Korus ’21 (River Grove, IL, St. Cyprian Catholic School) – undecided
Daniel Majcher ’21 (Chicago, Keystone Montessori School, River Forest) – Northwestern University
Logan Maue ’21 (Oak Park, IL, St. Giles Catholic School) – University of Illinois
Mary Rose Nelligan ’21 (Oak Park, IL, Ascension Catholic School) – University of Notre Dame
Dmytro Olyva ’21 (Cicero, IL, St. Giles Catholic School, Oak Park) – University of Illinois
Vince Beltran ’22 (Berwyn, IL, Heritage Middle School)
Zach Dahhan ’22 (Elmwood Park, IL, Elm Middle School)
Finley Huggins ’22 (Oak Park, IL, Ascension Catholic School)
Katy Nairn ’22 (Lombard, IL, Glenn Westlake Middle School)
When their nanny died young and tragically from breast cancer last fall, Fenwick students Wil ’21 and Leah Gurski ’23 knew they had to do something for her young son, Adam. But what?
By Wil Gurski ’21 (Oak Park, IL)
When God calls someone to be a mother, that virtue doesn’t only nurture her own child but cultivates all of those she influences.
Hi! My name is Wil Gurski, and I would like to tell you a story about a woman who fulfilled God’s call to compassion and left a lasting impression on my sister Leah [a Fenwick sophomore] and me.
Eighteen years ago, I was blessed with a second mother, Viola, when she started to take care of me at six months old. She taught me how to count to 10 in Polish, read me bedtime stories from her hometown of Krakow, and she would always take my sister and me to the zoo. Most summers we would go to Brookfield Zoo at least once a week. And every time we went, Viola would insist that we stop by the giraffe enclosure to take pictures. Without a doubt her favorite animal was the giraffe, and, in hindsight, a proud, compassionate and protective mother giraffe perfectly embodies her.
A few years later she had a son, named Adam; naturally, he became a brother to Leah and me. To this day, Adam still gets me in trouble. We play basketball together in the backyard, Minecraft until 1 a.m., watch the exact same TV shows, and one summer we spent the entire day walking from park to park playing Pokémon Go.
Then, in August 2020, Viola was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it had tragically spread throughout her body. She soon passed away on September 26th, devastating everyone who had been touched by her kindness.
My sister and I knew we had to do something to help little Adam and his Dad. A few weeks later, Leah came up with the brilliant idea to sell clothing to raise money for Adam’s college tuition. She figured that it would make a big difference for the family if Adam’s future was more secure. So, we decided to create The Giraffe Plan LLC, inspired by Viola’s favorite animal, to spread her love and confidence the same way she did for us.
Leah and I know how much an average college charges in tuition, so we had to think big. A simple fundraiser could not cover the amount we needed to raise, but a business could. A business in which all of the profits go directly into Adam’s college savings plan.
With our mission in mind, we turned to the most gifted (and patient) graphic designer we knew, Fenwick junior Dylan Fu. He helped design our logos, sweatshirts, website, social media and so much more. Additionally, senior Maddie Miller drafted a six-page marketing plan and a seven-page sponsorship proposal. My Fenwick peers were vital help in securing an awesome sponsorship for our business. A sponsor paid for our entire stock of sweatshirts and financed our LLC, allowing us to donate all of the revenue we receive — without any overhead costs.
My sister and I are incredibly humbled by all of the support we have received in setting up this venture: from friends who have financially supported us, those who have donated their legal counsel, and all who have just believed in us and our mission. Most of all, we are truly grateful for people like you who take the time out of their day to listen to our story. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
Neighboring Catholic institutions on Washington Blvd. in Oak Park share a vision of more diversity, equity and inclusion for future students.
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.
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.”
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!”
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.
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 1stto March 15th.
● Three days per week, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. or 6 to 8 p.m. during the winterseason, 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 gymduring each season (fall, winter and spring).
● St. Catherine Siena – St. Lucy students will receive one free family pass to any paidFenwick 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
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.]
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.