24 Students Experienced Rainforest Ecology Firsthand in Costa Rica

A Fenwick junior from Oak Park offers up a web log on how a nine-day ‘fieldtrip’ to Central America was life changing.

By Ben Groll ’21

It was Tuesday, July 30, 2019. Our flight to Costa Rica landed late the night before, and after three hours of sleep, my roommate Vince’s alarm woke us up. Three hours of sleep is not great, so my three other roommates and I were understandably exhausted. The previous day’s traveling had drained us, and as we all start to get packed, Vince moved the blinds, and we looked out the window. I did not take a picture, but I see it as clearly now as I see this paper: The sight of a massive mountain towering in the sky as the sun rose behind it. I saw the bright rays of pink and red from the rising sun blasting through the dark blues of night, mixing to create a beautiful sight that is unlike any I had ever seen. The “Ecology of the Rainforest” trip was just that: unforgettable, breathtaking and incredible.

The ever-changing rainforest of Costa Rica acted as an excellent background to our ever-changing trip, as our experiences each day were different from the last. Our first day was spent traveling to Tortuguero, and even the several hour bus ride was fun. All around us, we witnessed the breathtaking sights of the country, from banana trees to mountains and everything in between. We even saw a sloth during breakfast. What followed was a unique ride to our hotel, and our form of transportation did not involve wheels. We spent an hour on a boat that took us to our secluded hotel, and we spent the next three days exploring the surrounding wildlife. We were able to live inside the magnificent rainforest for multiple days and experience its wonders first-hand. On one of our boat rides, however, the first-hand nature of our trip backfired. While on our boat, gentlemen’s volleyball coach and English teacher Mrs. Whitman had an unfortunate encounter with a caiman; an experience which she remembers as fondly as one would remember an encounter with a caiman. The lurking caiman rushed through the waters and tapped her side of the boat with a relatively small amount of force. We were all surprised by it, and thankfully, nobody was hurt. Even our tour guides were surprised by this encounter.

The trip was very busy but in a good way. One of the mornings, we were awoken around 4 a.m. by the sound of howler monkeys as they were just waking up. The ambient sounds of the rainforest had woken us on plenty of the mornings, and this was no exception. The busy-ness of the trip left little to be desired in terms of time spent sleeping. Still, the incredible coffee and excitement of our time there kept me energized the entire way.

The sheer awe and amazement of the sights around us is a theme of this trip. Arguably, the most incredible sight I witnessed was when we saw turtles come from the ocean and lay their eggs on the beach. This incredible process only occurs at night, and we were fortunate enough to see multiple, one-meter-long turtles emerge from the ocean, climb onto the beach, dig patches for their eggs, lay their eggs, cover up the eggs to protect them, and crawl back into the sea as elegantly as they came from it. The lengths at which these turtles go to protect their eggs, and their growing young, is remarkable and heartwarming. As we were waiting for our time to view the turtles, we waited on the side of the beach, and there I witnessed another one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen in my life: the clearest night sky filled with a seemingly infinite amount of stars.

On the trip, we took part in ecotourism, which is the process in which tourists experience nature first hand, but in a way that supports the environment and leaves little to no footprint on it. The country of Costa Rica does an incredible job of lowering its reliance on fossil fuels and relying on renewable energy, and its impact is clear. Their commitment to sustaining the environment was awesome to learn about, and it helped me see the efforts required to sustain this world of ours. While it seems complicated, it’s quite simple, and the impact is huge. We witnessed this impact while on the beach before we saw the turtles. Mr. Menich, my classmates and I sat on the beach and witnessed the sheer beauty of the night sky. The stars dotted the dark sky and gave it a blue hue; all while shooting stars temporary lit up the dark blue sky. The untainted atmosphere here sharply contrasts that of Chicago, and this is a testament to Costa Rica’s incredible ability to reduce emissions and help the environment. And the results are breathtaking.

Online Eco-courses

The Costa Rica trip was all part of the Ecology of the Rainforest course offered during the second semester at Fenwick. Each week, we were to complete modules online. The only time I spent in a classroom for this course was when I took tests and did the final presentation. While on the trip, we were split into groups and researched a specific aspect of the ecology of the rainforest. My group was assigned to research gene flow in plant populations. During our trip, we were able to see this gene flow through the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals. Both work together and benefit each other, and an example of this was with hummingbirds and Heliconias. On multiple hikes, we saw the curved Heliconias flower, which is specially adapted for the long beaks of hummingbirds. The hummingbirds’ beaks go into the heliconia flower, and the pollen is sneakily put onto the hummingbird’s forehead by the heliconia. Once the hummingbird reaches another heliconia, the pollen on its forehead pollinates that plant, and the cycle repeats. This incredible symbiotic relationship showcases the harmony in the rainforest, which I would not have been able to fully grasp had I not taken this course and gone on this trip.

Continue reading “24 Students Experienced Rainforest Ecology Firsthand in Costa Rica”

As Fenwick Turns 90, ‘We Give Thanks to You,’ Oak Parkers!

The Catholic high school’s spiritual leader does not take for granted the partnership forged with the greater, local community over nine decades.

By Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., President of Fenwick High School

Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Ninety years ago next week, the Dominican Order established a college-preparatory secondary school on Washington Blvd., bordered by East Ave., Scoville Ave. and Madison St. When Fenwick High School opened on September 9, 1929, some 200 boys ventured through its wooden, church-like doors. Many of them walked to school from their homes in Oak Park and on the West Side, while others coming from farther away in Chicago took streetcars.

Over these many years, Fenwick has survived and thrived, despite the Great Depression (which started six weeks after the school opened!), world wars and changing times, including enrolling female students in the early 1990s. However, the mission at the outset has stood the test of time: Guided by Dominican Catholic values, our priests, instructors, coaches, administrators and staff members inspire excellence and educate each student to lead, achieve and serve.

Fenwick today has a co-educational enrollment of nearly 1,150 students as well as two Golden Apple-winning teachers on its esteemed faculty. Our school’s impressive list of alumni includes a Skylab astronaut, Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, a Heisman Trophy recipient and other leaders making a positive influence locally and internationally.

Great neighbors

From our beginning, Fenwick and Oak Park always have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. “Fenwick and the Village of Oak Park have a long history of working together,” Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb has stated. “From its inception, our fortunes and our futures have been intertwined.”

As an investment in our future in Oak Park, last month we began construction on a six-story parking structure seeded with generous funding by former McDonald’s CEO and alumnus Michael R. Quinlan, Class of 1962. By next summer, some 325 cars will be taken off the streets, so to speak.

“With this new garage, Fenwick will be taking a major step toward reducing its impact on the neighborhood,” Mr. Abu-Talen noted at the August 13 garage groundbreaking ceremony. The private school “has always worked to be a great neighbor …,” and “also is a key partner in the development of the Madison corridor.

“Fenwick has been a great contributor to Oak Park in many ways,” the Mayor continued: “first, as an educational institution of national reputation; second, as a Catholic school filling the needs of a diverse and inclusive community.”

We are, indeed, proud of our racial and socio-economic diversity. More than 30% of our talented student body identifies as something other than Caucasian, and we provide nearly $2.5 million in need-based financial aid annually to our students through the generosity of many benefactors.

They come to Oak Park

As Mayor Abu-Taleb notes, “Fenwick always has been a reason why many families choose to live in Oak Park — and the reason many others visit the Village and support our local economy.” Last school year, our students came from more than 60 cities, towns and municipalities, including these top 20:

Continue reading “As Fenwick Turns 90, ‘We Give Thanks to You,’ Oak Parkers!”

Teaching Literature with Musical (and Written) Notes

Progressive Fenwick English Teacher Geralyn Magrady finds common ground with students; treats sophomores to live duet in classroom.

By Mark Vruno (photos and video by Scott Hardesty)

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Local musicians Rob Pierce (left) and Terry White performed recently for sophomores in Ms. Magrady’s English II College Prep course as part of their Tale of Two Cities literature lesson. (It was a pre-Christmas dress-down day for students.)

What’s on your playlist? A playlist is, of course, a list of digital, audio files that can be played back on a media player either sequentially or in a shuffled order. In its most general form, a playlist is simply a list of songs, according to Wikipedia. And almost all the kids have their favorite, thematically inspired lists these days — and they’re quite passionate about the music they like.

One may not think that playlists in 2019 have much in common with Charles Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities, the historical novel written about the French Revolution 160 years ago. Fenwick English Teacher Geralyn Magrady, however, would beg to differ. Ms. Magrady was introduced to a creative, character-analysis activity when she participated in Stevie Van Zandt’s (“Little Steven”) TeachRock professional-development program. (Yes, that Steven Van Zandt – Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Bandmate and of “The Sopranos” HBO/cable TV fame.)

“The idea is to develop a playlist for a main character, and I chose Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities,” Magrady explains. The next day, she asked her English II College Prep students to do the same. The assignment took off running.

“The final result turned into a virtual album with a mix of every student’s top song,” she reports. In addition to the collection, each morning the classes listened to part of a classmate’s pick. “They took notes as to the connections found between the characters and the lyrics,” she says, “and then discussion was opened to share those insights.”

The teacher asked students which of their peers’ selected songs worked best to describe the Carton character? Responses in one class were as eclectic as the children are diverse: “Humility” by the Gorillaz, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Lucid Dreams” by Juice Wrld, “Drinkin’ Problem” by Midland and “Reminds Me of You” by Van Morrison.

Along with her students, Magrady continued her own character-inspired playlist, which included original songs by some local musicians whom she knows. These two artists agreed to perform those tunes for her classes: Strumming their acoustic guitars at Fenwick, Rob Pierce sang “Rise Above” and Terry White played “When Your Hour Comes.”

That resurrection thing

Before beginning, Mr. Pierce offered some context for his young audience: “Just so you guys know, ‘the 101’ is a highway in Los Angeles.” One student recalled, “Hey, there’s a ‘Highway Man’ in the beginning of the book!” The song’s concept of rising ties into Dickens’ resurrection theme, which recurs throughout the story. Brain synapses clearly were firing as students diligently jotted down notes and observations while they listened to the live music. Pierce’s refrain was, “Rise above, rise above; all we do, we do for love.” Another student chimed in after the song was finished: “It makes sense. Sydney [Carton] will do anything for Lucy.”

Continue reading “Teaching Literature with Musical (and Written) Notes”

Alumni Spotlight on Richard Cochrane ’59

Black History Month 2019

Pioneering perspective: Fenwick’s first black graduate reflects on the segregated life of his youth. “Mine is a difficult story to tell,” he says, offering a history lesson in the process.

Interview by Mark Vruno

Introduction

School records dating back 64 years confirm that alumnus Richard Cochrane ’59 blazed a trail as Fenwick’s very first African-American student and graduate. Originally from Maywood, IL, Mr. Cochrane now lives in the sunny Southwest. In high school, he was active in student government (class treasurer and secretary) and played football and basketball (captain).

Last February, one-time Fenwick student turned educator Marlon Hall, PhD. shared his freshman-year experience of the early 1970s, when he endured verbal abuse and physical bullying – all racially inspired.  In one of several replies to Dr. Hall’s guest blog, Cochrane pointed out that his memories of Fenwick were quite different and much more positive 17 years earlier:

“Dr. Hall, I appreciate your sharing your Fenwick experiences and the strength they gave you. In context, in 1950 the world-renowned chemist Percy Julian became the first African-American to take up residence in Oak Park. His home was fire-bombed on Thanksgiving Day of that year and again in 1951. In May of 1954 the Supreme Court rendered the ‘Brown vs. Board of Education’ ruling. In September of 1955 I walked into Fenwick as a freshman, two years before the ‘Little Rock Nine,’ and I am black. There were no other black students and there would only be one more in the next four years.

“Many of my experiences were similar to yours but the negatives were overwhelmed by the support of the majority of the student body, and the faculty support cannot go without mention. There were whispers and some name-calling and even a fight or two, but the Dominican family pushed, nudged and refused to let me think of anything but finishing. I was also aware of the financial burden that I was placing on my family. In return, I received an excellent education both academically and socially….”

Cochrane’s heartfelt response prompted our Alumni Relations Team to reach out. We learned that Rich is “happily retired” and soaking up sunshine in New Mexico. Our questions and his answers:

Richard, where did you attend college? Please tell us about your professional background and STEM-related career.

RC: After graduating Fenwick in 1959, I attended St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, where I majored in chemistry. While there I played freshman basketball and varsity football for two years until my knee gave out. I got a job in the coatings and ink industry and, eventually, spent 35 years with Sun Chemical Corporation. I held positions in lab synthesis, tech service, lab management, operation management and national accounts. I retired from Sun in 2003.

What was it like being the only black student at the Fenwick?

Cochrane (bottom, center) was the only black student on this 1959 Yearbook page — and one of three in the entire school. (Sophomore Wayne Morgan ’61 and freshman Harry Smith ’62 were the others.)

RC: In 1955, I believe my freshman class enrolled about 354 students and the school enrollment was about 1,236. As I’ve said, I found the faculty very supportive and the student body mostly treating me like any other student, with a smaller group either curious or distant. Only one of the other three students from my parish in Maywood [St. James, which closed in 2006] was close to me at Fenwick.

On the first day of school, when I went to the office to pick up my class schedule, the staff called back one of the students I was with to ask if I was really going to attend school there. A notable few of the upper-classmen were kind enough to offer short words of encouragement. If I missed the Madison St. bus, I would walk west until the next bus came and would often find the Oak Park Police close behind to make sure I reached Harlem Ave. The single greatest factor was the Dominican community. I got the feeling that they would not let me fail (or even consider quitting).

Did you have a sense that you were making “history” at Fenwick?

A young Cochrane using a slde rule in 1967.

RC: I had no sense of making history but there was a constant feeling of not being totally “at home.” Remember, at that time Oak Park had a population of 62,000 [there are 10,000 fewer residents today] and had only one black family — and their home had twice been bombed.

Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight on Richard Cochrane ’59”

Forever Friars: Remembering William Martin, Class of 1954

The young Assistant State’s Attorney stood at the center of “The Trial of the Century” in the mid-1960s — as the chief prosecutor of mass-murderer Richard Speck.

By Mark Vruno

As the Fenwick Bar Association celebrates its the 20th Annual Accipter Award Luncheon on May 18th, we remember 2006 recipient William Martin, who passed away last July at the age of 80, following a long battle with cancer.

Bill Martin (’54 FHS Yearbook).

During a legal career that spanned more than 50 years, Bill Martin lawyered — later as a defense attorney — and taught the law. After serving as editor of The Wick student newspaper and graduating from Fenwick in 1954, Martin attended Loyola University Chicago and its law school, where he was voted the outstanding student. He founded and was editor of the Loyola Law Times, a Journal of Opinion.

Martin at the Speck Trial 13 years later.

Until his death last year, the native Oak Parker (St. Giles) was a private practitioner specializing in attorney ethics and criminal law. He is, however, known best for putting a monster behind bars. The murderer’s name was Richard Speck, who went on a killing spree on Chicago’s southeast side the hot night of July 14, 1966.

An Assistant State’s Attorney at the time, the then 29-year-old Billy Martin had been selected from a pool of more than 30 criminal court prosecutors, many much older and with far more felony trial experience, according to an article in the spring 2018 edition of the Journal of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Despite his relative youth, Martin had earned the respect of Cook County State’s Attorney Dan Ward and his chief assistants, including John Stamos.

Twenty-five years later, Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times, “In a way, it was the end of innocence. In this case, eight women asleep in a middle-class, crime-free, virtually suburban neighborhood were subject to random violence from a killer who basically came out of the night.” Reflecting in a 2016 interview with the Wednesday Journal, he added, “By committing the first random mass murder in 20th-century America, Richard Speck opened the floodgates to a tragic phenomenon that haunts us today.”

The eight young women murdered at the hands of Richard Speck.

Martin believed that Speck was evil incarnate. The 24-year-old ex-convict from Texas stabbed or strangled (and, in one case, raped) the female nursing students. While in hiding two days after the grisly murders, Speck tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists with a broken wine bottle. But once he was locked up in Statesville Correctional Center, Illinois’ maximum-security prison near Joliet, the human monster never showed any remorse for the bloody, heinous acts he committed.

Scene of the crimes: The townhouses at 2319 E. 100th Street, Chicago.

There was one person who survived that horrible night: 85-pound student nurse Corazon Amurao. Originally from the Philippines, Ms. Amurao hid, terrified, under a bunk bed during the five-hour killing rampage. One by one, her nursing school classmates were ruthlessly slain by the madman. At dawn, in shock, she crawled through the carnage to the townhouse balcony. For 20 minutes she screamed, “Oh my God, they are all dead!”

WTTW Interview with Bill Martin (2016).

Continue reading “Forever Friars: Remembering William Martin, Class of 1954”

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

How the fictitious ‘school’ came to be – even though it never was a real college.

By Mark Vruno

The more I learn about Maguire University, the more my stomach hurts from laughing. It is difficult not to laugh, or at least smile and smirk a little. I first caught wind of Maguire U last winter in the Faculty Cafeteria at Fenwick, sitting and chewing the proverbial fat with John Quinn ’76, Fenwick alumnus, longtime social studies teacher and Catholic League Hall of Fame basketball coach.

The conversation turned to the late, great John Lattner, who had passed away about a year earlier. Mr. Quinn was laughing, almost snorting, between bites: “Did you ever hear about Maguire University?” he chuckled, nearly choking. No, I had never heard of that school, I said, wondering what the heck was so funny. Little did I know!

It is good that Quinn is one of Fenwick’s unofficial school historians because, as it turns out, there is nothing official about Maguire U. The infamous university was “created” 55 years ago in a semi-respectable Madison Street establishment in nearby Forest Park called, what else: Maguire’s. With the annual March Madness basketball craze upon us, this is how the story goes …

Humble Beginnings

The athletic recruiting game was quite different, for both Catholic high schools and major college sports programs, in the 1960s – three decades before the Internet was birthed and long before “social” media platforms such as Twitter reared their electronic heads. Back then, if a coach wanted an eighth-grader to play for him at a certain high school, it was in his best interest to find out where the kid’s old man hung out socially and maybe get invited to a confirmation or graduation party.

It wasn’t much different for college coaches recruiting Chicago-area talent, particularly for the football gridiron and hardwood basketball courts. They knew where to go to meet a concentration of high school coaches in the city: Maguire’s.

Every February Chicago Catholic League (CCL) football coaches congregate at the league’s annual clinic in Oak Park at Fenwick, where the powwow has been held every winter for the past 72 years. Older fans will recall that, in the 1960s and ’70s, Fenwick and the CCL were recruiting hotbeds for Big Ten football coaches, including University of Michigan legend Bo Schembechler. Some coaches also may recall that, a few years back, a keg could be found tapped in the school’s lower-level student “green” cafeteria, where the post-clinic fraternizing commenced. Nowadays the coaches toast their religion and each other on Madison Street in Forest Park, which is exactly where the college coaches knew where to find them back in the day.

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

Giving the tavern a school’s name originally was the brainchild of college recruiters in town to woo the coaches of prospects from Chicago. Telling their athletic directors, to whom they reported back at the real universities, that they were conducting business at “Maguire University” sounded more respectable than Maguire’s Pub. Hence, the pseudonym was born.

Continue reading “If These Halls Could Talk: The Hilarious Case of Maguire University”

The Fenwick Love Connection

On Valentine’s Day last month, the FHS Facebook page posted about how Cupid’s arrow struck the hearts of our ‘First Friar Couple.’ Turns out, romance is in the air more than we first thought!

By Mark Vruno

Father LaPata ’50 baptized the Ori’s son, Joseph Thomas, on March 11th in the Fenwick Chapel. Godparents are Janessa and Frank Perna. ’03.

With St. Patrick’s Day 2018 in the rear-view mirror, today is, of course, St. Joesph’s Day. In honor of the feast day of the patron of the universal church, fathers, families, married people and much more, here is a rundown of couples who are sweet on each other — and who have Fenwick in common.

The Keating children.

 

We thought that Brendan Keating ’97 and his wife, Christa Battaglia ’97, may be the first double-alumnus couple from Fenwick to have gotten married (based on their wedding date). Perhaps it is fitting this St. Paddy’s-St. Joe’s “long weekend” that theirs is one of several mixed, Irish-Italian romances. Brendan grew up in Oak Park and went to St. Bernadine’s, Fenwick and Loyola U. Christa is a St. Giles’ girl. The couple has two children, ages six and three.

The Thies Family

Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 and his wife  Lea (nee Crawford) ’03 are the proud parents of three children: two boys and girl. Admissions Director Joe Ori ’03 and his wife Jen (nee Morris) ’03, an English teacher for the Friars, in January celebrated the birth of their first child: a son, Joseph, Jr.

The Lileks gave thank for Baby Ernie this past Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

From the Class of 2005, Paul and Chrissy (Tallarico) Lilek welcomed home a baby boy, Ernest, born on Thanksgiving Day 2017. (In addition to being a new mother, Mrs. Lilek also is a new Spanish Teacher at Fenwick.)

Alex gave the new Holmbergs the thumbs up in November ’16.

 

 

Social Studies Teacher Alex Holmberg ’05 married former Fenwick English Teacher Georgia Schulte ’04 in November 2016. The couple is expecting their first child literally any day now (March 20 due date!). “I think Mr. Arellano may have introduced the Holmbergs and the Ori’s at our New Teacher Cohort Summer Orientation Program,” says Faculty Mentor Dr. Jerry Lordan.

Ryan Alexander Holmberg was born on St. Joseph’s Day: March 19, 2018.

Thanks to more than 20 alumni comments on Facebook, Friars and their friends have chimed in to inform us that there is at least a baker’s dozen more romances that blossomed within Fenwick’s hallowed halls and have matured, resulting in the holy sacrament of marriage:

Class of ’96:

John & Marianne (Palmer) Carrozza

The Fantasias have resided in the Cayman Islands for the past 13 years.

Anthony & Margaret (Arts) Fantasia were married in June 2004.  The couple currently lives with their three children (Isabella, 9; Leo, 7; and Joseph, 6) in the Cayman Islands.

Class of ’97:

Chris & Chrissy (Gentile) Carlson

Pat McMahon with his hands full.

Mina McMahon in the driver’s seat.

 

 

Patrick & Mina (McGuire) McMahon

Jeff & Suzanne (Sharp) Williams 

 

Class of ’98:

Larry and Katie Dolendi with their twins.

The Dolendis are married “but we didn’t date in high school or college,” writes Katie (Morelli) ’98. “It happened a in our mid-20s.” She and husband Larry Dolendi ’99 are the proud parents of six-year-old twins Reese and Riley.

TJ and Sue Maloney and family.

 

 

Andrea and Mike Mostardi ’98

Tim & Maureen (Goggin) Funke

TJ & Sue (Atella) Mahoney

Michael & Andrea (Geis) Mostardi

Class of ’99:

Lena and Kevin McMahon ’99

Kevin & Lena (Lloyd) McMahon

 

Class of ’00

Dan & Colleen (Dan) Doherty

 

Class of ’01:

Sam and Megan (Kenny) Kucia

The Kucia Family

“We never dated in high school, but we attended senior prom together and reconnected after college,” Megan reports. “We married in 2010, and we had more than 30 Fenwick alumni in attendance.”

Class of ’01 & ’02:

Paul & Jessie (Drevs) Wilhelm

The Wilhelm’s look of love.

 

“We met in Madame Schnabel’s French II Class back in 1999!” Jessie writes. “We still look back on the pictures of us both from the French Club’s trip to France (over the summer of 2000, I believe). Although we didn’t find our l’amour while at Fenwick, we reconnected after college and were married in 2014. We are both proud to be Fenwick alums, but even more so we are grateful to be as we may not have found one another otherwise.”

Class of ’02:

Dan & Kate (Maloy) Ferri

Mike & Edna (Romero) Tallarico

Brian & Erin (Jones) Megall

Ben & Roselyn (Chanchai) Swan

Class of ’04:

Father LaPata married the Flahertys in November 2016.

Kevin & Bianca (Reggi) Flaherty

David & Teresa (Nierzwicki) Pollitz

 

Class of ’05:

Patrick & Sondra (Tenorio) Healy

The Italian destination wedding of Meg Scanlon & Michael McGillen ’07 was featured in Vogue magazine.

 

 

 

 

Class of ’06:

Tim & Nanci (Reggi) Gallo

Michael & Meg (Scanlon) ’07 McGillen

Class of ’07:

Brian & Anastasia (Tesfaye) DeMaio

Class of ’09:

Alex & Kim (Nelson) Furth

Continue reading “The Fenwick Love Connection”

COACH CORNER: PETE KOWALCZUK, WRESTLING

Meet the former U.S. Olympic hopeful from Oak Park (OPRF) who is relentlessly pursuing a state title for Fenwick.

By Mark Vruno

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The first observation most people make upon meeting Pete Kowalczuk, Fenwick’s first-year Head Varsity Wrestling Coach, is that he is a very large man with a broad frame. When he still was competing five years ago, Kowalczuk wrestled as a 265-lb. heavyweight. That weight class was trimmed down by 20 pounds from his high school days at Oak Park River Forest, where he was named All-State and finished as the #2 heavyweight wrestler in Illinois as a senior in 2007. (For three seasons, he also played on both sides of the line for the Huskies’ football team.)

Wrestling is the sporting circle in which the K name is best known. In 2008 after high school, Kowalczuk placed fourth at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Greco-Roman wrestling and was a Junior World Qualifier at the Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associées (FILA), which is the sport’s international governing body (and changed its name to United World Wrestling in 2014). Since his days of grappling on the mat officially ended five years ago, the XL man known by friends and former teammates as “Big Petey” answers to a different moniker: Coach K.

The 28-year-old still likes rolling around on the Wrestling Room floor at Fenwick and maybe even clamping on a vise-like, “figure-four” leglock move, especially with 200-pound Jacob Kaminski ’20. Kaminski is last season’s All-State freshman phenom — 22-2 record, CCL and Sectional Champ — who has his sights set on being a legitimate state championship contender in early 2018. He was undefeated heading into the Christmas Break, currently competing in the 220-lb. class.

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Fenwick’s “Coach K” demonstrates a take-down technique on sophomore sensation Jacob Kaminiski.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines relentless as showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength or pace: unrelenting. There is a highly intense, physical brand of wrestling that Kowalczuk is trying to instill into FHS’s hallowed halls. “I was brought in here to change the culture,” he notes, “to bring an element of toughness back to Fenwick Wrestling.”

The young coach is beginning to make his tough, hard-nosed mark. During their daily practice grind, he preaches to his sweat-drenched matmen about “giving your best” and the quest for ongoing improvement. There are 21 wrestlers on Fenwick’s Boys’ Wrestling Team this season; Kowalzcuk wants to get that number up to around 35. “We will never be at 100 kids like a [large] public school,” he realizes, “but that [35] is a good number for us.”

Among the team’s members are nine freshmen boys, about half of whom played football and are in the process of losing their “baby fat,” getting into optimal shape. But Coach K is not happy about that number, either. “I want between 16 and 20 frosh next year,” he states, stressing that number as critical to his program’s growth, development and future success.

Kowalczuk and his creative coaching staff welcome inexperienced “newbies” and are trying their best to make practices more fun. On social media, they are employing hashtags such as #scratchandclaw and #enjoythejourney to help inspire their athlete-followers. “For me, it’s all about giving maximum effort and trying to get better every day. I tell my guys to enjoy the journey and not be as concerned about the outcome.” Kowalczuk adds what he knows from experience: that once the kids buy into his methods of teaching physicality and being relentlessness, the victories will come.

A Sophomore Shall Lead Them

Kowalczuk and Fenwick Wrestling are pinning their championship hopes largely on the strong shoulders of sophomore Kaminiski, who aspires to greatness and already is one of the best wrestlers in the United States, let alone in Illinois. Coach K knows who the national competition is. For the past three off-seasons, he has led Team Illinois’ frosh/soph Greco-Roman wrestling program to a national title and a third-place finish. So the 16-year-old protégé wants to prove to his new mentor just how dominant he can be. The coach admits to Kaminski being a “huge pull” for him taking the Fenwick job, and expectations already are sky high for late February at the State Farm Center in Champaign, IL. (Last season, Kaminski was undefeated heading downstate and was the only underclassman among his 16-man field.)

Continue reading “COACH CORNER: PETE KOWALCZUK, WRESTLING”

Friars Basketball Legends to Have Jerseys Retired

Three women’s basketball superstars from Fenwick – Erin Lawless, Devereaux Peters and Tricia Liston — soon will have their numbers hanging from the rafters in the Catholic school’s gym.

Compiled by Mark Vruno

All_Three

Tricia Liston (from left), Devereaux Peters and Erin Lawless back in their Fenwick days.

In the illustrious, nearly 90-year history of Fenwick High School, only two retired jerseys have been displayed atop the Fieldhouse Gymnasium: those of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner ’50 (football) and former NBA player Corey Maggette ’98 (boys’ basketball). But that number is about to more than double in a pregame ceremony (2:30 p.m.) on January 13th, when the jersey numbers of three alumnae will be added: Erin Lawless #34Tricia Liston #32 and Devereaux Peters #14.

“Lattner and Maggette: That’s some elite athletic company,” observes Dave Power, Head Girls’ Varsity Basketball Coach who mentored all three of the honorees when they played for his Friars. “Each of these women is so well deserving of this recognition from our school,” adds Coach Power, now in his 41st year of coaching (first at Proviso West, then at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westchester).

Power is one of only three 900 (935 now and counting) game-winning basketball coaches in Illinois history, and teams on which the trio of Lawless, Peters and Liston played contributed to nearly 43% of that win total. Keep in mind that Fenwick was an all-boys institution for its first 63 years; it went coed in 1992 – the year Power came to Fenwick. Here, in chronological order, is who these players are, what they did at Fenwick, and what they’ve done since moving on from Oak Park:

#34 Shoots, She Scores!

ErinLawless_at_Purdue

Lawless played her powerball for the Boilermakers.

Erin Lawless ’03 is no relation to legendary Fenwick Coach Tony Lawless, but the 6’2” Berwyn native set her own reputation as a center on the hardwood. Post-Fenwick, Lawless played in the Big Ten at women’s basketball powerhouse Purdue University. She also played professionally, briefly for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and then in Europe, where she enjoyed an eight-year career.

As a Friar Lawless won a state championship* (AA) as a sophomore and twice earned first-team All-State honors (as a junior and senior). Other highlights:

  • scored more than 2,000 career points in high school
  • averaged 21.6 points per game as a senior
  • as a junior, averaged 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 3.7 assists (the Friars went 30-4)
  • scored a school-record 51 points vs. St. Ignatius
  • overall record: 125-12

Lawless was the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year in ’03 and a McDonald’s and Nike/WBCA All-American. She was first runner-up for the Chicago Tribune’s Ms. Basketball in Illinois. (Naperville Central junior Candace Parker won her second Ms. Basketball title that year, and would win her third as a senior in 2004. In the ’03 state title game, the Friars lost to Parker’s Redhawks by four points in overtime.) Lawless was named second-team Parade All-American and third-team USA Today All-American.

Such accolades are even more impressive for the tall, former seventh grader — Lawless was 5’11” at age 12 — who started playing hoops on doctor’s orders at Lincoln Middle School (Berwyn). Two years earlier, “I was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called ITP,” she was quoted in a Purdue University publication as a college freshman in 2003. ITP is short for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an autoimmune disease that causes a low platelet count in the blood. (Sonya Lawless, Erin’s mother, also suffers from the condition.) “My hematologist told me that if I picked up a basketball, it actually builds up my immune system and would help keep me active and keep me healthy,” Lawless said.

Once she caught the basketball bug, Erin’s late Uncle Bud helped her to hone her skills. Fast forward three years, to when Lawless cracked the starting varsity line-up as a Fenwick freshman in 1999-2000. The rest, as they say, is history. The ITP has gone into remission, and basketball probably played a large role in helping to build up her immune system and get the platelet count to a safe level.

Today, Lawless is in her second year of coaching at La Plata High School in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and two-year-old daughter. She also teaches Chemistry and AP Environmental Science. “The team I coach has not had a successful track record, and I am working on changing that for the program,” she reports. The 32-year-old adds, “While I have ‘retired’ from basketball, I continue to get offers to play — and if the opportunity presents itself, I may just go back!”

#14 Perseveres through Adversity

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Forever Friars: The Dobber

Fenwick High School periodically profiles people affiliated with our community who have since passed on …

Dan O’Brien ’34 (1917-2003)

Remembering DOB, “the Dobber:” a coaching/training legend affiliated with Fenwick for seven decades.

By Mark Vruno

In the basement of Fenwick High School sets the Dan O’Brien Natatorium. Our swimming Friars will host the 30th Annual Dan O’Brien Relays this coming January. Younger alumni and present-day students may wonder: Who was this O’Brien guy and why is he a such a legend at Fenwick?

DanOBrien_plaque

Dan O’Brien was more than a stellar swim/dive guru; he was versatile. DOB was a FHS student (Class of 1934) who then served as a physical education teacher at his alma mater. “Dan’s first Fenwick paycheck predated the Social Security system and had no social security withholding,” deadpans Jerry Lordan, PhD., who teaches social studies at Fenwick and wrote the preface for O’Brien’s oral history, a hardcover book entitled Fenwick Over the Years.

In 1937 Football Coach Tony Lawless hired O’Brien to lead his freshman team. Football was O’Brien’s first love in sports. In the fall of 1930, seven years earlier, Fenwick was only one year old. Dan was a scrawny, 128-pound freshman who showed up for tryouts at the new school, only to be snickered at by burly classmates and upper-classmen. “Sorry, son,” said Lawless, according to a 1972 Oak Leaves article. “I can’t use you. You’ve come out for the wrong team.”

O’Brien, however, was determined and refused to give up easily. Here’s how reporter Ted Londos recounted the story 42 years later:

“The kid faced the wise, young coach and replied firmly, ‘Mr. Lawless, I’ve come out for the team. You’ve asked for candidates. Here I am. You’ve got to give me a chance to show you what I can do.’ And so, to get rid of that reckless kid, Tony put him into a scrimmage – just for laughs. But on the first play, Coach Lawless’s eyes popped when he saw the tiny freshman bring a varsity giant down with a devastating tackle. Again he tried him out, and another regular bit the dust. Young Lawless shrugged his shoulders and decided to let the gutsy little guy hang around. ‘What’s your name?’ asked the coach.”

But the feisty O’Brien’s gridiron career with the Fighting Friars was short-lived. As a sophomore he suffered severe medical complications from the surgical removal of a kidney, which kept 15-year-old Daniel out of school for an extended period of time in 1931-32. “His surgeon warned him that the procedure may either fail and/or kill him,” Lordan later learned. “Dan outlived the surgeon and saw the surgeon’s grandchildren (twin boys) attend Fenwick.”

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Dan O’Brien circa 1954.

 

Fast-forward 45 years, to when two of his former swimmers-turned-doctors came to O’Brien’s aid. “I had come back to Chicago in 1977,” recalls Leonard Vertuno ’57, M.D., a Loyola-educated nephrologist (kidney specialist), “and Pete Geis knocked on my door.” Dr. Peter Geis ’60 was a transplant surgeon and an All-State swimmer three years ahead of Vertuno at Fenwick. “Pete said, ‘Dan needs a doctor, and you’re it.’”

So began a reuniting of player and coach – and an adult friendship that would span more than a quarter-century. It was Dr. Vertuno who would give the eulogy at Dan O’Brien’s funeral in 2003. “He was an amazing man,” the retired doc said in early November from Sarasota, FL. “Dan was renowned nationally and internationally. He chose to stay at Fenwick and work with Tony [Lawless].”

From field to pool

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