Catching up with two young alumni from the Class of 2017: Rachel McCarthy, recently back from Japan, and Ellis Taylor, an American footballer in NYC.
Rachel McCarthy (shown here in Tokyo) will be a junior at Illinois Wesleyan University in downstate Bloomington.
Fenwick Graduation: 2017
Grade School: St. Mary School
Current School: Illinois Wesleyan University
Current Major: English Literature and Psychology
Summer Internship: This summer I was a teaching assistant at Technos College, where I spent an unforgettable seven weeks living in Tokyo and helping English students practice conversations/interviews with a native speaker. I also did a lot of behind-the-scenes planning for the college’s annual cultural exchange event with 10 other sister universities from around the world.
Career aspirations: I’ve looked at a few different career options in the past two years, but right now I’m exploring the possibility of being an English professor. I’ve always had an interest in academia, and my experience at Technos College taught me the joys of working one-on-one with students to help them blossom.
Fenwick Achievements/Activities: Lawless Scholar, Illinois State Scholar, Girls Cross Country, Blackfriars Guild and Novel Writing Club co-founder.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: A better question might be who didn’t inspire me, but one teacher I do think of on a regular basis is Mr. Arellano. Though his speech class was tough, the way he cared for each and every one of his students was readily apparent, and I still think of his encouraging feedback whenever I have to give a major presentation.
Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: My junior year AP Language and Composition class was pivotal in shaping me as a writer. That class pushed me to write critically about a wide range of fascinating, real-world topics, and I loved the freedom we were given to pursue our own interests. As I prepare to spend a year studying English as a visiting student at Oxford University, my heavily annotated APLAC textbook remains a valuable guide to this day.
Best Fenwick experience/the one you would like to live again: My final cross country meet was one of the most emotional days of my life, because of the sad goodbyes and the pride in what I had accomplished with the support of my teammates.
What Fenwick experience changed you the most: Our senior Kairos trip, without a doubt. The level of trust and respect that was shown as everyone shared their stories is something that I don’t think I’d find at any other high school. To me, it was a powerful experience of acceptance and healing.
Ellis Taylor (on campus with his mom) promises to be a force on the end of the Fordham Rams’ defensive line this upcoming football season.
Fenwick Graduation Year: 2017
Hometown: Oak Park
Grade School: Julian Middle School
College: Fordham University (New York City, the Bronx)
Major: Business Administration, concentration in Business Economics; Minor in Business Law
Career aspirations: A job at a management consulting firm or to be a lawyer.
Fenwick Achievements/Activities: two years of basketball; three years of football (sophomore team captain, senior year team captain); one year of Track and Field.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Mr. Perry was my English teacher for three of four years while at Fenwick. Through all of the papers written and work done in the class, my writing far improved over my four years. As someone who has to use writing on a daily basis, I would honestly say that this class improved my skills greatly and put me in a great position for college-level writing.
Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: Mr. Mulcahy’s World Religions class really had an impact on me because this was the first time I was taught about worldwide religions, which was very eye-opening to me to learn about different cultures other than my own.
Best Fenwick experience/the one you would like to live again: The 2016 state-semifinal football season was one of the best times of my life; being able to play my final season and have great success with some of my best friends for the last time. Although it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, this was one of the best times of my life.
Fenwick experience that changed you the most: Overall, just playing sports at Fenwick gave me some great experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. Even if you don’t play sports, I’d recommend branching out and joining a club or team at Fenwick because the experience will be worth it.
Fenwick instructors have honed developing minds of highly intelligent people over thecourse of 90 school years. From physics and politics to English and French, some of those students
took their passions for learning to the next level by pursuing research,
education and scholarship at some of the world’s most prestigious private and
Princeton, the Ivy League research school with New Jersey roots dating back to
1746, two Fenwick alumni-turned-professors can be found teaching on campus: Thomas Duffy ’78 (geophysics) and John Mulvey ’64 (operations
research/financial engineering). In Boston, Professor William Mayer ’74 has been a political-science guru at Northeastern
University (established in 1898) for the past 28 years. After Fenwick, Mayer
attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he also earned
a Ph.D. (in 1989). “I don’t like to move,” he dead-pans, “plus my wife loves
the New England area.”
On the West Coast, one of Prof. Duffy’s
classmates, Larry Cahill ’78, is a
neuroscientist and professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at
the University of California at Irvine. And in the Midwest, Robert Lysak ’72 is professor of
physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis – Saint
Additionally, two members of the Class of 1961 were college professors and are now retired: Terrence Doody (English Literature) at Rice University in Houston and Thomas Kavanagh (French), most recently at Yale University in Connecticut. Another Professor Emeritus isJohn Wendt ’69, who taught Ethics and Business Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) for 30 years. (Read more about them.) Spread out geographically across the United States, Fenwick is the common denominator for these seven Ph.D.’s and college professors. Read on for a glimpse at their impressive works.
Computing Love Affair
John Mulvey is a professor within
Princeton’s Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) Department,
which he founded. He also is a founding member of the interdisciplinary Bendheim
Center for Finance as well as the Statistics and Machine Learning Center at the
university. Mulvey is captivated by the ongoing revolution in information and machine-learning.
The ORFE Department focuses on the foundations of data science, probabilistic
modeling and optimal decision-making under uncertainty. “Our world is a very
uncertain place,” he stresses.
The work Mulvey does has applications
throughout the service sector, including in communications, economics/finance,
energy/the environment, health-care management, physical and biological
sciences, and transportation. In the past, he has worked with
aerospace/defense-technology firm TRW (now part of Northrop Grumman) to help
solve military problems, including developing strategic models for the Joint
Chiefs of Staff (U.S. Department of Defense).
“Today we work with major firms, including
some of the largest investors in the world, which are interested in integrating
their risk,” Mulvey explains. For example, “hedge funds and private-equity
firms need to manage their portfolios over time to protect themselves. When the
crash occurred in 2008, people thought
they were diversified. The banking and finance world refers to systemic risk as
contagion,” which is the spread of market changes or disturbances from one
regional market to others.
Mulvey also analyzes data for supply-chain
management, which he calls a “transformative industry. Production and distribution
models were separate before,” he points out, “but we’ve brought it all together
now. Amazon has built its whole system based on this commerce model.”
Machines running algorithms and computer
optimization became passions for him at a relatively young age. At Fenwick, Mr.
Edward Ludwig helped mathematics to make sense for young John. “He was an
amazing math teacher,” Mulvey says of Ludwig. “His class was fantastic. I didn’t
necessarily want to be an engineer but felt I could go into a technical area.
“In the 1960s we were at the cusp of computing, and the University of Illinois had one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the time,” recalls Mulvey, who grew up on the West Side of Chicago and attended the old St. Catherine of Siena Parish. “That’s why I wanted to go there, and I fell in love with computing.”
He next ventured west to study business
administration at the University of Southern California (USC) and the
University of California (Cal), then earned a second master’s degree in management
science in ’72 from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Three years
later Mulvey completed his Ph.D. at UCLA’s Graduate School of Management. His dissertation
topic, “Special Structures in Large Scale Network Models and Associated Applications,”
won the 1976 American Institute of Decision Sciences Doctoral Dissertation Competition.
Mulvey taught for three years at the Harvard
Business School and, 41 years ago, came to Princeton “to have an impact at a
smaller school,” he says. (Princeton has some 5,200 under-grads.) “I came here
to grow the basic, general engineering program for undergraduates.” The 72-year-old
thoroughly enjoys his work: “If you had a job like mine, you wouldn’t want to
Across campus, Tom Duffy is Director of
Princeton’s High-Pressure Mineral Physics & Material Science Laboratory and
Associate Chair of the Geosciences Department. His research focuses on
understanding the large-scale physical and chemical behavior of the Earth and
other planets through experimental study of geological materials under extreme
conditions. He and his colleagues employ high-tech tools, such as laser-heated
diamond anvil cells and optical spectroscopy along with X-rays, to explore
crystal structures, phase relations, elasticity and deformation behavior in a
range of materials at ultra-high pressure and temperature conditions.
“We study the behavior of materials under
extreme conditions – deep inside the Earth, for example, or under meteorite
impact,” Prof. Duffy explains. “We examine how structures and chemistries
change, then try to determine what these changes might mean for Earth and for
other planets, including recently discovered planets orbiting other stars.” One
big question with which he and his research associates grapple: How are these newly discovered planetsfundamentally different from Earth?
The youngest of six children from
Riverside, IL (St. Mary’s), Duffy describes his career pathway as “roundabout.”
He entered Boston College as a physics major. “I then was exposed to real- world
applications through a geology course I took as a senior, then came home and
worked in a food distribution warehouse,” Duffy says. After about one year he
returned to school for his master’s degree at the University of Illinois at
Chicago (UIC) in a new program that blended his interests in physics and
geology. After six years at California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in
Pasadena, earning a Ph.D., he returned home to pursue a research opportunity at
the University of Chicago. In 1997 Duffy landed at Princeton and has never
Duffy travels “home” to Argonne National
Laboratory in Lemont, IL, about six times per year to conduct research. He
credits Fenwick with developing his self-confidence as a young man who wasn’t
necessarily science oriented. Mr. Andrew Arellano was a newer teacher back
then, and Duffy got involved in speech and debate. “At tournaments we’d go up
against bright, hard-working kids from other schools. You wouldn’t think that
possessing strong writing and speaking skills are important in science, but
they are. I have to write well and explain complex concepts.
“I received a broad-based education at Fenwick — history, literature, math, art,” he continues. He remembers other “great teachers” who were dedicated to their craft: Fr. McGrath for math, Mr. Guerin for physics and Mr. Polka for biology. The late “Mr. Spitznagel was really tough,” Duffy recalls, “but I learned a lot” in his history class.
Differences in the Brain
In high school in the mid-1970s, Larry Cahill
was a self-described “little, smart guy with glasses” who everyone assumed
would grow up to be a physician. “I rode in from Elmhurst with my brothers,” he
recalls of his 12-mile daily commute eastward to Oak Park. Cahill’s father and
uncle also attended Fenwick.
“To show you what a ‘geek’ I was, I took Latin partly to get an advantage regarding medical terminology,” Prof. Cahill admits. Mrs. Mary Ann Spina was his Latin teacher. “She made learning Latin enjoyable,” he says. “As a matter of fact, some Fenwick friends and I started a philosophical group called ‘In Vino Veritas,’ which even had business cards (thanks to my Dad, a printer). I suppose the organization still lives, since philosophy never dies,” Cahill quips.
Despite being on the med-school track, “by
default,” Cahill discovered brain research as an undergraduate student in
Evanston at Northwestern University (NU). “I needed to stay in state to get
Illinois state scholarship money,” he reflects. At NU he continued to study
Latin and spent a semester in Rome his junior year. “Life works out in funny
ways,” he believes. “That [trip] was the benefit of taking Latin back at
While in college, the idea of medical
school faded. After working on memory-enhancing drugs at G.D. Searle in Illinois
for two years, Cahill earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1990 from the
University of California at Irvine. Following post-doctoral research in
Germany, he returned to UC Irvine to extend his research to studies of human subjects,
which in turn led to discoveries about sex influences on emotional memory and revolutionary
findings regarding sex influences on brain function, which he finds quite
For the past 18 years or so Cahill has
been immersed in the differences between the male and female brain. “We used to
believe that men and women were not so different outside of the ‘bikini zone,’”
he says. But research is proving that women and men are very different in other
ways, too: “The female heart, lungs, liver, immune system and brain are not the same as the male’s,” he informs,
adding that medical research has been built disproportionately on studies of
male organs and brains. “Women have not been treated equally because they have
been treated the same,” he asserts.
Cahill is a leading advocate for the need
to study biological sex differences in all of medicine. Adversaries have called
him a “neurosexist.” “There has been enormous resistance,” he admits. His
findings have been featured in the New
York Times, London Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, medium.com
and Quillette, an Australian online magazine focused on science,
technology, news, culture and politics. On television, he has been
interviewed by PBS, CNN and CBS. (Cahill’s “60 Minutes” piece was highlighted
on “The Colbert Report.”) At the lecture podium, he has been recognized as an
Outstanding Professor at UCI’s School of Biological Sciences in 2005-06 and in
Other than playing tennis as a senior,
Cahill says he wasn’t very involved in extra-curricular activities as a Friar.
“But I still know the words to the Fight Song,” he proudly declares. He remembers
Fenwick as “a serious place at all levels. This whole attitude of seriousness
was imbued on high school kids from the top down, including the concept of
discipline – which is much maligned today — and self-discipline. One of the
best things you can teach anyone is to suck it up and make it happen.”
“I learned more at Fenwick than I did at Harvard.”
– Prof. Bill Mayer ’74
Every four years, Bill Mayer’s phone rings
more than usual at Northeastern University in Boston. Members of the media seek
out his expert commentary during U.S. presidential election years. “I’ve done a
lot of research and writing on that topic,” he admits. Reporters from the Boston Herald, Newsweek and the Christian Science Monitor have quoted
Mayer. You can see him on videos aired by C-SPAN (the Cable-Satellite Public
Affairs Network), too.
Fielding such calls is a natural for Mayer,
whose forte is American politics. After graduating from Fenwick in 1974, Mayer
earned a B.A. in government in ’79 from Harvard, where he finished up his Ph.D.
in political science 10 years later. Prof. Mayer’s tenure at Northeastern began
in 1991. Under his American government specialty, he has taught introductory
classes as well as courses in “American Political Thought,” “Public Opinion,
Voting and Elections” and “Politics and the Mass Media.” Next spring, leading
up to the 2020 election, he again will teach his favorite course while the U.S.
presidential nomination process is taking place.
“I’m grateful for the teachers I had at
Fenwick,” says Mayer, a native of River Forest, IL, and St. Luke Parish &
School. His older brother, Joseph Mayer
’73 (both were valedictorians), paved the way to Fenwick. “Joe helped me so
much, especially with math,” says Bill. “I really owe a lot to him.” (The older
Mayer brother became a medical doctor and presently is a neurologist with
DuPage Medical Group.)
Young Bill served as editor of The Wick student newspaper for one semester and was on the Debate Team all four years as a Friar student. “I did well in debate,” he reports. “We advanced to the semi-finals of Catholic Nationals my senior year.” His debate partner was a junior, John McSweeney ’75. “Our coach was Father Motl for my first three years, then Mr. Arellano took over.”
In addition to teaching, Mayer is an accomplished author as well. He has published two of his own books, co-authored two other books, and edited and wrote chapters for seven other publications. He also has contributed some 50 scholarly articles to academic publications. (See “Alumni Authors.”) In the “Acknowledgements” section of his first book, The Changing American Mind (1992), Mayer thanks three of his teachers at Fenwick:
late Fr. Jordan McGrath, O.P., who passed away last August at age 86, was his
math teacher “for three of my four years. He taught me how to think
rigorously,” says Mayer, who points out that he taught statistics earlier in
John Heneghan “was a wonderful history teacher who taught [us]… how to take raw
materials and try to interpret how they fit into the larger sweep of American
English Teacher Mr. James Kucienski was “really good at passing along ideas
about the teaching of literature,” Mayer says. “I had him my senior year.”
Additionally, Mayer is grateful for taking
four years of Latin (two were required at the time). “Latin is a great way to
learn about language,” he contends, “because it is constructed in a different
way than English, where meaning is determined by word endings rather than
position in the sentence. It, therefore, makes you much more conscious of noun
cases and verb tenses.”
With the benefit of hindsight, he also now
realizes how important freshman English class was to a youthful, 14-year-old
Friar. “Our grammar textbook was thick, and the study could be tedious: subject-verb
agreement, dangling participles and so forth. These disciplines are not terribly
popular today, but I hope they still do it at Fenwick.
“I’ve always been regarded as a good
writer,” he adds, attributing that reputation to his high school grammar
instruction. “Trust me: There are some poor writers among political
scientists!” Truth be told, “I learned more at Fenwick than I did at Harvard,”
Northern Lights Man
Bob Lysak, a professor of physics and
astronomy, is interested in Theoretical Space Plasma Physics, especially
magnetospheric physics, auroral particle acceleration, the dynamics of
ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves in the magnetosphere, magnetosphere-ionosphere
coupling, and the dynamics of field-aligned currents. He is fascinated by aurorae: the natural light displayed in
the Earth’s sky; the phenomenon also is referred to as polar lights or northern
lights (aurora borealis).
This infatuation is, perhaps, part of the
reason why he has been located for the past 37 years at the University of
Minnesota in the Twin Cities, which are four latitudinal degrees north of his
hometown of Westchester, IL. “I’m a glutton for winters,” jokes Lysak, who
attended Divine Infant Parish as a child. This past semester he was on
sabbatical in Australia, collaborating on southern lights (aurora australis) research around the Antarctic and designing
computer models of the Earth’s magnetic-field oscillations.
After graduating from Fenwick in 1972,
Lysak enrolled at Michigan State (earning a B.S. degree in three years) and
then at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D.
in physics in 1980. His post-doctoral studies, conducted near Munich, Germany,
focused on extraterrestrial physics.
Recognized among his peers for making
significant scientific contributions to society, the professor was selected the
by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) as a 2011 Fellow, a designation conferred
upon fewer than 0.1% of all AGU members in any given year. The European
Geosciences Union also awarded Lysak the Hannes Alfvén Medal, which honors
scientists who have achieved exceptional international standing in
When he reflects on his time at Fenwick
some 50 years ago, Lysak points to two non-scientific events that positively
affected his illustrious career:
Serving as editor-in-chief of The Wick student newspaper, where “I learned to write to a deadline.” (English Teacher and alumnus Mr. George Wendt ’65 was the moderator.)
Participating in stage plays as part of the Blackfriars Guild, where “I was in front of people and talking.” Lysak, who has been lecturing for nearly four decades, adds that he took part in Debate & Forensics, run by Fr. James Motl, O.P. “but I wasn’t very good.”
Lysak and his Honors Math classmates were
taught all four years by the aforementioned Mr. Ludwig, who had a reputation
among students as a somewhat stern disciplinarian. “It was early-1970’s
turmoil,” he laughs. “We had our issues, but we developed a good relationship. During
our senior year we worked on problems and asked a lot of questions. Mr. Ludwig
encouraged us to go at our own pace and [to] explore.” Also influential was
Science Teacher Fr. Dave Delich, O.P., who would “let us hang around the lab
after school and ‘play’ with the equipment.”
All of these experiences taught Lysak
valuable lessons and skills, as did commuting: “I got used to taking public
transportation and buses,” he says. “St. Joe’s was less than a mile from our
house, but I had a pretty good academic record in grade school and wanted to go
to Fenwick. It was worth it.”
Oops, Did We Miss Someone?
The seven professors highlighted here only scratches the surface of Fenwick alumni in academia. If you know of an alumnus or alumna who has a Ph.D. and/or is a college professor, tell us about him or her!