What a Father Means to Me

In a post-Father’s Day reflection, a Fenwick senior remembers his late father – and thanks his big brother.

Fenwick soon-to-be senior Patrick Feldmeier wrote this essay for the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Patrick was honored, along with his older brother, Danny (Class of 2018), on June 6 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

“One, two, three: Hi Daddy, we love you and we miss you.” (Mom always adds, ‘You’re in my heart, Sweetie.’)

Patrick (left) and Danny Feldmeier with their Dad, Bob, before his untimely death seven years ago.

These are the words my family says after grace every time we sit down for dinner. And simultaneously look at the open seat at the head of the table. Our hearts yearn for the man that God called up to Heaven seven years ago: Dad. It sends a shiver up my spine saying the word out loud, yet his presence still resonates in my family.

Every once in a while, his cologne can be smelled from his closet. His faded blue Ralph Lauren hat still hangs on the wall in my mom’s bedroom. His 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee may have finally been towed, but his K-Swiss “dad shoes” rest untouched in our mudroom. To say that Bob Feldmeier is a role model to me is an absolute understatement. Words will never express how much I miss him; how much I need him in my life; or how much I love him. Through my actions, I attempt to be like him every day.

Their father’s faded cap and “dad shoes” still can be found in the Feldmeier’s Western Springs home.

As a partner at Schiff Hardin, long hours seemed to swallow his work-week. Yet, somehow, someway, he always had time to play catch or take us to watch a White Sox game. After little-league games, my dad would take my brother and me out to “men’s dinners,” where he would teach us lessons such as, “It’s ok to admit it is cold, but it is not manly to complain about the cold.” He was also an avid Notre Dame alumnus and taught us the essence of hard work. The impression he left on me is what is most important. Through watching the way he treated my mom, my siblings and me, and kept God as a focal point in his life, I truly learned what it meant to be a father. His etiquette, manners and gentlemanliness are values I strive to model because I want my children to look up at me the way I look up to my Dad.

My father’s ultimate goal was for his family to live a life like his, which includes strong family bonds and an excellent, Catholic education. He continued to set an example of how to be a father and how to find strength through tragedy by protecting us until the very end.

Dad’s Gift of Peace

Robert Feldmeier
(1965-2012)

When he was first diagnosed with melanoma, he told my mother, “Do not tell the kids about my disease. I want to give them the gift of peace.” He truly was the perfect role model for a dad. It was more important to him to keep us happy and successful in life than for us to crumble under fear. His ultimate goal was for his family to live a life like his. Instead of succumbing to anger after his death, I honored his memory by achieving goals and setting the bar high for myself. I aspire to attend the University of Notre Dame, like him, and to provide for my family the same way that he did. His spirit lives on in my heart every day, and every day I thank God for one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me: my Dad. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from my Dad was that a man is not solely defined by his career and accomplishments, but by his display of love to his family. Perhaps that was why he was able to stay strong during his last days, because he truly had reached his ultimate goal of success in life: to love and be loved by his family.

After my Dad passed away from melanoma, great responsibility fell on my mother’s shoulders. With three children still in grade school and one daughter in high school, my mom devoted her time to making sure we would stay on track.

Dan the Man

College sophomore Danny Feldmeier ’18 is an Evans Scholar at the University of Notre Dame.

Being the youngest, and only in fourth grade at the time, I desperately needed another father figure in my life. This was when my brother, Danny, stepped up to be the man of the house. He may only be two years older than me, but after watching the way our father raised us, Danny knew exactly how to be a father figure. He raised me to act like a man — more specifically, to act like our Dad. When Danny entered his freshman year last year at the University of Notre Dame, it was my turn to be the man of the house.

To answer the question, what does a father mean to me? A true father is one that can be depended on in times of sorrow and in times of joy. My Dad taught me everything I need to be a man and a good father in the future by the way he loved his family. Due to the lessons learned from my Dad during our time together, and my brother’s ability to fill his shoes, my Dad and brother ideally exemplify what a father means to me.

About the Author

Pat Feldmeier ’20

Patrick Feldmeier is entering his senior year at Fenwick High School, where he is an Honor Roll/National Honor Society student and president of the Class of 2020. “Feldie” also plays on the Friars’ football team (he is a tight end) and rugby team. He lives in Western Springs, IL (St. John of the Cross Parish & School) and is hoping for acceptance this coming fall into the University of Notre Dame, where his Dad went and his Evans Scholar brother, Danny ’18, will be a sophomore. Their older sisters, Kelsey ’14 and Meghan ’16, also are proud Friars. Kelsey is an alumna of ND (Class of 2018; CPA ’19), and Meghan is on pace to graduate from Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana) next spring.

Forever Friars: The Late Franklin Capitanini ’50 of Italian Village fame

Like Fenwick, the storied downtown restaurant has stood the test of time for nine decades — and for three family generations.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

Alfredo Capitanini opened the Italian Village on Monroe Street in the Loop in 1927.

The impact that the late Franklin Delano Capitanini, Class of 1950, left on Chicago cannot be justly put into words. Instead, his impact resonates in his family, friends, Fenwick High School and the famed Italian Village Restaurant(s). Born in America in 1932 and named after U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frank lived a life founded on strong family ties and treated everyone who dined at the Italian Village as if they were old friends. Today, the Italian Village serves as a reminder of the kindness that Mr. Capitanini spread for 85 years.

Located at 71 W. Monroe Street in Chicago’s “Loop” for almost 92 years, the Italian Village was opened by Frank’s father, Alfredo, in September 1927 – two years before Fenwick opened its doors. Frank and his kid brother, Ray (Fenwick ’53), grew up knowing that the restaurant someday would be theirs to manage. Frank’s early years working there included responsibilities such as food preparation for the chefs and waiting tables, according to his close friend, Fenwick classmate and President Emeritus Father Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50. Learning how to talk to adults and serve their requests at an early age benefitted Frank greatly in the years to come. Frank’s son and fellow Friar alumnus, Al Capitanini ’81, says that the “best internship is waiting tables because you learn about customer service and how to handle people.”


Franklin’s 1950 yearbook portrait from Fenwick.

Frank continued his work at the Italian Village when he attended Fenwick, where he participated in football, basketball and track. Unfortunately, his athletic career was cut short due to an injury. Al remembers hearing how his father had to divert all of his attention to education after the injury because Frank’s parents highly valued education. Frank’s father, an Italian immigrant, wanted him to have a strong caring for education due to his own limited schooling opportunities in Italy. When Frank was not hitting the books, he left his friends drooling in the school cafeteria because of the sandwiches he brought daily from the Italian Village. The aroma of Italian lunch meats and cheeses made their palates jealous.

Frank and Fr. LaPata both went on to Notre Dame, but their paths did not cross much at the university: one entered the seminary while the other (Frank) was in the ROTC program. It was not until Father LaPata became president of Fenwick in 1998 that he developed a friendship with Frank, eating at the Capitanini home around once a month.

A Culinary Institution

Once out of college, Frank immediately went back to work at the Italian Village. In the 1950s and ’60s, opera drew huge crowds in big cities like Chicago, so the Capitaninis became well acquainted with some the world’s most famous opera singers. When asked about the relationship between it and the Italian Village, the Lyric Opera Company kindly stated, “American singers and Italian singers of the 1950s and 1960s dined at the Italian Village.” However, opera stars were not the only celebrities to frequent the restaurant. The walls of the Italian Village are lined with autographed pictures from well-known celebrities and sports figures, including Frank Sinatra, Lou Holtz, Mike Ditka, Florence Henderson, Ryne Sandberg and Jon Bon Jovi.


The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy.

The Italian Village has maintained its reputation of great service and hospitality because of Frank’s leadership and family values: “Hundreds [of restaurants] closed, but the Italian Village stayed strong due to its hospitality, charm and kindness,” praises Father LaPata. With an old-fashioned aura and breathtaking architecture, the Village has stood the test of time by adhering to its roots; something that many restaurants in Chicago have failed to do. Upon entering one of the three restaurants in the Italian Village, patrons are engulfed in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy. No windows are present, and it truly feels as if you are dining in Italy.

Frank greeted everyone with that smile!

Later in Frank’s life, he began to teach his kids how to manage the family restaurant. Fortunately, his four children, Lisa, Gina, Frank II ’78 and Al, had hands-on involvement for years. Al vividly remembers growing up at the Village: waiting tables and making food just like Frank did years ago. “We ate more than we actually learned,” he admits. Gina still works in the family business.

When the kids were a bit older, Frank would take them to the restaurant for breakfast, then walk with them to catch a Bears game. Al describes his father as an “old-school type, hardworking, honest to a fault, always there, and would help anyone in an emergency.” Frank served as a great mentor to Al and his other children, and they work hard to emulate their dad. His philanthropic contributions to Fenwick are greatly appreciated as well.

Visiting the Village

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Al this spring at the Italian Village. We talked about the history of the restaurants and Frank’s long-lasting impact on them. When the topic of Frank’s years in high school arose, Al was quick to mention that Fenwick was essential in molding Frank into the man he wanted to be. Frank may have had a career already set through the Italian Village, however, his success and achievements in life required the lessons learned from Fenwick to come to fruition. Through the stories Al shared about Frank’s life at Fenwick as well as his own, I was truly able to understand that Fenwick is great at preparing its students for life ahead.

Frank passed away one year ago at age 85. His funeral was held at his grade school, St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, and Father LaPata touchingly led the Mass. His presence will be missed, yet his spirit will live on in the lives of those around him. Frank Capitanini will forever be a Friar, and his impact on his family, the Italian Village and Fenwick High School will last for generations to come.

Coming soon: The Frank Capitanini Classroom at Fenwick


World Languages students in Fenwick’s “Italian Room” (Room 14), which is being renamed in honor of late alumnus/restaurateur Frank Capitanini ’50.

In addition to their generous classroom-naming donation, the Capitanini family also has created an endowed scholarship in their father’s memory. The fund will provide tuition assistance for a Fenwick student in need.

The students of Italian Teacher Ms. Shawna Hennessey (left) recently sent a “Grazie mille” video to the Capitanini family.

Read a Chicago Tribune article about Frank.

About the Author

Patrick Feldmeier is a finishing up his junior year at Fenwick High School, where he is an Honor Roll/National Honor Society student and president of the Class of 2020. Pat also plays on the Friars’ football and rugby teams. He lives in Western Springs, IL (St. John of the Cross) and is hoping for acceptance this coming fall into the University of Notre Dame, where his Evans Scholar brother, Danny ’18, will be a sophomore.

Please consider making a gift to Fenwick: CLICK HERE.

Alumni Spotlight: Ways in Which IP Lawyer Kenny Matuszewski ’09 Gives Back

In devastation left in the wake of 175-mph, hurricane-force winds, a Fenwick junior found his purpose 900 miles away from home.

By Mark Vruno

Kenny Matuszewski in 2009

Ten years ago in your life, where were you? If 50 is the new 40, then 40 is the new 30. A lot can happen in the span of a decade: Young alumni finish college, some attend graduate school, then begin to establish themselves in their professional careers; others contemplate marriage, perhaps. Slightly older alumni may have had children and started families. Older children in junior high school, hopefully, are considering taking the admissions test at Fenwick this coming December.

In the late winter of 2009, now 28-year-old Kenneth “Kenny” Matuszewski ’09 had a typical case of “senioritis” at Fenwick, counting the weeks until graduation and finalizing his plans to attend the University of Notre Dame. (In South Bend, he would major in biological sciences and Spanish.) But something profound happened during Christmas break of his junior year that, literally, changed the course of Matuszewski’s life, he says.

A total of 38 Friars drove to New Orleans during Christmas break in 2007: (from left) Morgan Gallagher, Madeleine Stroth, Kerry Burke, Dee McElhattan, Lauren Randolph and Kenny Matuszewski.

After the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Matuszewski and 37 of his classmates traveled to New Orleans to help people rebuild their homes. He vividly recalls “seeing the devastation, three years later.” More than 1,835 people died in the Category 5 hurricane and its subsequent floods, making it the deadliest storm in U.S. history.

After one grueling day of work to rebuild two Baptist churches, Fenwick students gathered at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter to enjoy cafe lattes and beignets. (Matuszewski is top left.)

“We went … as a part of the Mission New Orleans trip, a Fenwick organization,” Matuszewski explains. Their three chaperones were teachers Mr. Paulett, Mr. Ruffino and Ms. Logas, he notes. “While I had little experience with power tools or construction, I was still able to do something and help a family move into a home. That experience motivated me to find ways I could help people with my strengths; through my pro bono work, I realize I have found such opportunities.”

Fast-forward 11 years: “I have always felt it was my duty to use my talents as an attorney to give back to the community around me,” says Matuszewski, who grew up in La Grange Park and now resides in Westchester, IL. “That is why I have developed a commitment to pro bono work over the years. While this desire was instilled in me by my parents, who were and still are involved in the local library board and Special Religious Education (SPRED), Fenwick further honed it through the [Christian] Service Project.”

Latin students at Fenwick know that pro bono publico is a phrase used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike volunteerism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.

Matuszewski at a Glance

  • Graduated from Fenwick High School, 2009 (Kairos leader, Friar Mentor, JETS, Scholastic Bowl, NHS, football, band)
  • University of Notre Dame, B.S. in Biological Sciences and Spanish, 2013
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law, J.D., 2016 (Managing Editor of the Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property, 2015-16)
  • Presently an Associate at Rabicoff Law LLC in Chicago, where he specializes in intellectual property (IP).
  • On March 21st will be honored by United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with the 2018 Pro Bono Service Certificate for the second consecutive year.
  • Family of Friars: Kenny’s three younger siblings also are Fenwick alumni: Kevin ’10, Carly ’15 and Jasmine ’17.

Pro Bono and More

Today, Matuszewski serves the community in several ways. His pro-bono activities include work for the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub. “The patent process can be expensive, confusing and inaccessible to inventors. However, the barriers to entry for low-income inventors are even greater,” he explains. “As a volunteer attorney, I help low-income inventors obtain patents for their inventions. Over the past couple of years, I have worked with inventors who have invented devices ranging from simple footstools all the way to computer applications.” As a result of his efforts, Matuszewski earned the Patent Pro Bono Service Certificate from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for 2018 and 2017.

Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: Ways in Which IP Lawyer Kenny Matuszewski ’09 Gives Back”

Alumni Spotlight: Paul Tierney, Jr. ’60

Fenwick nurtured the service seeds planted by the parents of this alumnus, who has been employing the power of business to solve social problems for five decades.

By Mark Vruno

Image courtesy of Notre Dame Magazine.

Fenwick High School and University of Notre Dame alumnus Paul Tierney, Jr. ’60 resides on the East Coast in Darien, Connecticut, and New York City. But his humanitarian roots were planted at home in La Grange Park, IL, and at St. Francis Xavier Parish & School.

“My mother and father always talked about the importance of doing good works for your fellow man,” says Mr. Tierney, who is three months into his retirement as chairman of TechnoServe, an international, nonprofit organization that promotes business solutions to poverty. The company works with enterprising people in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. “Our clients are small, poor, grassroots,” he notes.

Tierney encourages the use of private equity and venture capital to fund entrepreneurial firms in locales such as Africa and Latin America. As he told Forbes magazine in 2010, he believes this funding approach “can be a superior alternative to the traditional development funds funneled through the likes of the World Bank,” the international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects.

Paul Tierney at a Glance

  • From La Grange Park, IL / St. Francis Xavier

  • Fenwick High School, Class of 1960

  • University Notre Dame, 1964 (magna cum laude)

  • Harvard Business School, 1968 (Baker scholar)

  • U.S. Peace Corps (Chile)

Tierney’s portrait in the 1960 Bkackfriars Yearbook.

Growing up Catholic had a lot to do with his public-service interests, especially helping those less fortunate. “My parents taught that with great gifts, great action is expected,” points out Tierney, who has had a highly successful career in investments. The then-youngster heeded the advice of Mr. & Mrs. Tierney, whose ideals and principles, in turn, were honed and nurtured by the Dominicans at Fenwick. Fifty years ago, using the power of business to solve social problems was somewhat radical; it definitely was not a mainstream notion.

Tierney graduated magna cum laude in 1964 from ND, where he majored in philosophy. He applied to law school, business school and several doctoral programs but instead chose the Peace Corps, U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s volunteer organization founded three years earlier. “I was sent to Chile on an economic-development program to work with farmers in the agrarian reform movement,” he explains. “My job was to help people structure and improve cooperatives.”

While in rural South America, Tierney says he met a lot of bright people in development. “but few of them knew business or had practical skills.” So, after his service, he went to Harvard Business School (HBS) on a fellowship from the Ford Foundation“to learn how commerce actually works. By the time I finished my MBA program [in ’68 as a Baker Scholar],” he adds, “I thought that more effective work in economic development would be done in the private sector.” In a 2002 profile written by the Harvard Business School, Tierney says he realized he could make a larger impact on society if he first succeeded in business. “I’ve really had two careers,” he observed, “one as a for-profit financial entrepreneur and one as a crusader for economic development.”

Tierney set out on what would be a 30-year career in investment management, first starting a merchant bank in London and then overseeing financial programs at the U.S. Railway Association, which would become Conrail (now CSX). Next, he was a senior vice president at White, Weld & Co., which Merrill Lynch purchased. In 1978, he co-founded Gollust, Tierney & Oliver, the general partner for Coniston Partners, which was a $1-billion value investment partnership focused on strategic block investing and private equity. The firm split up in the mid-1990s.

“After about 15 years of building my own company, I felt like I should come up for air,” Tierney reflects. “I’d made some money, I had some experience, I saw how the real world operated, and I understood capital markets. But I still had a taste for the work I was interested in when I was in the Peace Corps.”

Technology in the Service of Mankind

Tierney started looking for ways of getting re-engaged and surveyed several organizations. “I found many relief organizations, but I didn’t find many development-assistance organizations,” he told HBS. “I wanted something that was hands-on and firm-based, not just a think tank or a Band-Aid.” A friend mentioned TechnoServe, and Tierney’s world changed

Businessman and philanthropist Ed Bullard founded TechnoServe in 1968 after his experience volunteering at a hospital in rural Ghana, West Africa. Bullard was inspired to start an organization that would help hard-working people harness the power of private enterprise to lift themselves out of poverty. He launched TechnoServe – short for “technology in the service of mankind” – to help poor people by connecting them to information and market opportunities. “It was a much smaller organization back then, with a single office in Norwalk, CT, and an annual budget of around $5 million,” Tierney remembers.

“I visited four of the countries TechnoServe operated in and, as I saw what was going on in the field, I became more and more confident that this was an organization with a good approach that was making a real impact.” Tierney kept stepping up his involvement with TechnoServe, starting as a volunteer member, then a board member, then chairman of the Executive Committee and, ultimately, chairman in 1992.

Tierney in Ghana.

For 27 years he was at the helm, steering the philanthropic “ship” into countries such as Haiti in the Caribbean, India in South Asia and Mozambique in Southeast Africa along the Indian Ocean coast. Based in Washington, D.C., TechnoServe today has grown to more than 1,500 employees and operates in 29 countries. “Thirty-five years ago, there were only five or six [countries],” Tierney reports. TechnoServe has become a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. “By linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities,” proclaims its website.

One of his favorite success stories from the field is set in civil war-torn Mozambique, where Tierney encountered female workers in a cashew-processing facility who were grateful for their jobs. “It was very hard, grinding work, but these women told me they were happy to be able to do it in safe conditions,” he remembers. “They were sending their children to school with the money they were earning.”

At a coffee project in Tanzania, people literally broke out in song and dance, praising TechnoServe for the work it did, which has contributed to a greater level of education in the community. “It is gratifying to see how this type of work allows a second or third generation to continue on a trajectory of significantly increasing their standard of living,” he shares.

Meanwhile, at Aperture Venture Partners, the other half of Tierney’s time was spent assisting portfolio companies interested in healthcare in a variety of ways – from strategy and raising capital to M&A, business development and corporate governance. He also is co-founder, managing member and partner of Development Capital Partners, LLC, a New York-based investment firm with an exclusive focus on “frontier” and emerging markets such as Africa, India and Latin America. His son, Matthew, is the other co-founder.

Fenwick builds on foundation

When he thinks back to his high-school days 59+ years ago, Tierney cites the overall culture and style of Fenwick: “Its tradition of education and achievement,” he notes. Father Regan had a particularly strong influence over young Paul. “He was the best theology teacher, in my opinion, and made the most sense out of Christianity and Catholicism.”

As a Fenwick student, Tierney remembered Dean of Studies Fr. Jacobs as “approachable.”

Father Jacobs was Fenwick’s Dean of Studies in the late 1950s. “He was approachable,” Tierney recalls, “and talked a lot about [my] interests.” He has fond memories of Latin Teacher Fr. Hren’s invitation-only “Mozarteum” group that featured pizza and music. “For me, it added a level of sophistication to school,” says Tierney, admitting that Gene Autry cowboy songs were about the extent of his play-list genre early in life.

“At Fenwick, I participated in a lot of teams, clubs and activities,” he remembers. The 1960 Blackfriars yearbook lists Tierney as a member of the National Honor Society as well as the golf and debate teams. “Father Conway taught math and coached debate at that time,” he says. “We also competed in oratorical contests,” which is where Tierney developed his capacity to think on his feet, argue, debate and speak in public. He reflects: “These skills have served me well, always.”

Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: Paul Tierney, Jr. ’60”

Guest Blog: WHY DONATE TO FENWICK?

As 2018 draws to a close, an alumnus shares his personal story about the importance of all alumni Friars giving back to their beloved high school alma mater.

By Jack Flynn ’51

Jack Flynn, Fenwick Class of 1951

When I graduated from Fenwick in 1951 and moved on to the University of Notre Dame, I discovered that I was better prepared for college than many of my classmates. I also thought that I was at Fenwick during their Golden Years with almost a complete staff of Dominican priests in every position except athletics.

When my son, Michael, graduated from Fenwick in 1977 and went to Michigan, he also found that he was much more prepared for college than most of his classmates. He also discovered that he had such a wonderful group of Fenwick classmates that it was great to get a job in Chicago and be socially engaged with the same pals he had in high school, plus some from grammar school.

“Young men and women with strong learning skills, faith and discipline can succeed even during these difficult times.” – Fenwick Friar Jack Flynn

 

Jack’s son, Michael, graduated from Fenwick in 1977. (Photo courtesy of NAI Hiffman.)

Now I have four grandchildren who have graduated from Fenwick and seem to be on a path to do better than the parents or their grandparents. [One grandson presently is a junior.] Young men and women with strong learning skills, faith and discipline can succeed even during these difficult times. It takes great leadership and strong support from alumni and friends to keep Fenwick at the top of its game.

High school is very important in the development of young people, and I would guess that 80% of the students are indebted to Fenwick for a good portion of their success in college – and that carries forward. Close to 100% of the students that were serious about doing well in high school are probably delighted by the outcome.

We should all step forward to support Fenwick with a meaningful gift. Fenwick is not asking you for a great sacrifice, but at least to do something that indicates you feel good about the education you received.

Please consider making a gift today.

Continue reading “Guest Blog: WHY DONATE TO FENWICK?”

Nearly 50 Years of Imparting Wisdom and Collegiate Advice

Rich Borsch has been Fenwick’s lead college counselor for 47 years. What changes has he seen over five decades?

By Mark Vruno

Let the matriculation process commence for the Class of 2019! Now is the frenetic season for Fenwick’s college-counseling duo of Rich Borsch and Laura Docherty. Busy is an under-statement. Between early application and essay preparations leading up to January 1st, the two guidance gurus are up to their elbows in paper and student e-documentation.

It’s an annual rite at Fenwick and at high schools across the country, but few counselors have been immersed in the process as long as Mr. Borsch, who wouldn’t want it any other way. This school year marks his 51st at Fenwick, and he has been a college counselor for all but the first four.

In a typical, six-week period this fall – comprising 30 school days – representatives from 77 different colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Yale, came to Fenwick. A representative sampling of 11 other visiting schools (by date) during that time frame:

  • Lafayette College (Easton, PA)
  • Central Michigan University
  • Butler University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Tulane University
  • Juniata College (Huntingdon, PA)
  • Villanova University
  • Providence College
  • Boston College
  • University of Cincinnati

“These schools came from all areas of the country,” Borsch reports. “Ten of the top 50 colleges and universities were here; seven from the Big Ten came. We try to give our students exposure to all kinds of college options: from huge schools like Indiana University, with 43,000 students enrolled in the Bloomington campus, to tiny King’s College in Manhattan, New York, which has only 500 students.”

For Borsch, who says he loves working with the kids, it’s all about the right fit for each student. “We try to pick schools based on their individual needs,” he explains, which can be time-consuming. Graduates from the Friars’ Class of 2018 are attending 109 different colleges or universities in 32 states, Washington, DC and overseas in Scotland.

The University of St. Andrews was founded in Scotland in 1413.

“When I started doing this in the early 1970s, that number was 60 [schools],” Borsch notes. “We’ve had kids go away to Canada, Ireland and Italy, too.” Such international institutions as Trinity College Dublin and the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) “weren’t even a thought a generation ago,” he says.

TOP FIVE COLLEGES FOR THE CLASS OF ’18

  1. 37 Friars are studying at the University of Illinois (Urbana)

  2. 16 Friars are at Loyola University Chicago

  3. 15 are at Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

  4. 12 are at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

  5. 11 are at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana)

Besides the expanded geographic range of college choice, what other changes has Borsch seen during his 47 years of student-college matchmaking? “It certainly has evolved,” he observes. One big difference is the number of Fenwick students going out of state for school. “In 1975, about 70% of our students stayed within Illinois. By 2016, that number had dropped to 22%,” he reports. Thirty-two percent of the Class of ’18 (98 students) stayed in state.

Lately, there has been a trend toward test-optional college admissions — and not judging prospective students based on a three-hour exam. “The University of Chicago is one of hundreds of schools doing this now,” Borsch confirms. “But the fact remains that 75% [of schools] still require either the ACT or SAT, so our students will continue to be prepared. Fenwick is the only school I know of where freshmen take the PSAT exam,” Borsch adds.

Snapshot of Rich Borsch

Mr. Borsch is in his 51st year at Fenwick.

  • Graduate of Leo High School, Chicago.

  • B.A. in English and history from DePaul University, Chicago

  • M.A. in counseling and psychological services, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

  • Fenwick High School, Oak Park, IL, 1968 – Present (started as English Teacher)

  • Head Coach of the Friars’ freshman football team for 41 years (through 2015)

Continue reading “Nearly 50 Years of Imparting Wisdom and Collegiate Advice”

The Myth of Science vs. Religion

By Father Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Dr. Stephen Barr visited Fenwick’s Professional Development Day on Friday, September 14.

A recent Pew Research Center national poll revealed that a majority of Americans believe that science and religion are “mostly in conflict” with each other.  In light of this, people may be surprised to learn that the theorist behind the Big Bang Theory (Georges Lemaître), the founder of genetics (Gregor Mendel), the father of modern geology (Niels Stensen), and the discoverer of sunspots (Christoph Scheiner) were all Catholic priests. It’s as if the 17th century Galileo affair is taken as the norm for understanding the relationship between science and religion—when, according to Dr. Stephen Barr, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware, the Catholic Church has been one of the greatest patrons of the sciences.

Fenwick also welcomed Dr. Chris Baglow from Notre Dame.

Dr. Philip Sakimoto, also from Notre Dame.

Dr. Barr was at Fenwick High School on September 14th to engage theology and science teachers from around the Archdiocese of Chicago on the relationship between science and religion. The day-long in-service day was sponsored by the Science & Religion Initiative of the McGrath Institute for Church Life of the University of Notre Dame. It was organized by Fenwick’s Theology Department Chair, Br. Joseph Trout, O.P., and Science Department Chair, Marcus McKinley. Dr. Barr was joined by colleagues Dr. Chris Baglow (above) and Dr. Philip Sakimoto (left) — both of the University of Notre Dame.

According to Br. Trout, like Americans in general, a good number of high school students believe that science and religion are implacable enemies. Their sense is that one must choose one or the other. Moreover, many believe that science has outright disproved religious truth claims. When all is said and done, there is a sense that accepting the theory of evolution means that one must deny the existence of God.

In his presentation, Dr. Baglow admitted that some Christian groups do indeed attack and deny Darwin’s theory of evolution. They hold that it is contrary to biblical teaching. They espouse a literalist interpretation of the Book of Genesis, and deny the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community on the propriety of an evolutionary account of the origins of the cosmos, life and humanity. This is a real conflict; one cannot harmonize the science of biological evolution with a literal read of the first three chapters of Genesis.

A dialog between faith and reason

His Holiness Pope Pius XII

The Catholic tradition of theological reflection, however, is not committed to a literal approach to biblical exegesis. Over 1,500 years ago, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) espoused a metaphorical and symbolic approach to interpreting the sacred text. St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274) argued that the Bible teaches that God created the world, but “the manner and the order according to which creation took place concerns faith only incidentally.” In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani generis paved the way for Catholics to hold that God creates through the process of evolution. Theological propositions can and do develop over time, given the growth of human knowledge and more penetrating insights into reality.

Continue reading “The Myth of Science vs. Religion”

Choosing a Catholic Education

GUEST BLOGGER

How a grade-school speech contest led a South Sider to send his boys to Fenwick — despite proximity to two other high-school options near Countryside/La Grange.

By Patrick Heslin

Patrick, Jr. ’09 (from left) and his younger brother, Sean ’17, with their dad, Pat Heslin, Sr.

The road to Fenwick for my boys started when my son Patrick was in the 5th grade. He attended St. Cletus La Grange and brought a letter home about a Fenwick speech contest one day.

I grew up on the southside in Englewood and knew very little about Fenwick. I lived about a ½ mile from the original St. Rita High School at 63rd and Claremont in Chicago. On Sunday afternoons I would occasionally attend football games in their walled-in stadium. I could get in for 50 cents, if I had to pay at all, and the hot dogs with mustard were my Sunday dinner. What I vividly remember was St. Rita playing on a hot Sunday afternoon against a Fenwick team dressed in black. I thought these guys had to be tough wearing black in that sun!

Fast forward a few years. I am now a dad and I am reading this invitation to the Fenwick speech contest. My career has been in technology sales, and the only public speaking I have had is a class in college and a Toastmasters class when I got my first sales job. Toastmasters is a great, community-based public speaking program where you learn by writing and delivering speeches to your peers.

Throughout my career I have always looked at how effortlessly some people are able to speak in front of an audience while others look like a deer in headlights. In these situations, I am often reminded of the quote from Jerry Seinfield: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I am sure that all the above experiences were going through my mind when I committed to taking Patrick to his first speech contest at Fenwick in 5th grade.  The speech contest was on an early Saturday morning in November. Walking up to Fenwick for the first time can be intimidating! It’s got that Gothic look to it. We made it to the cafeteria and met our very small team from St. Cletus. We were surrounded by many larger teams from other Catholic grade schools.

Mr. Heslin says it didn’t hurt that Fenwick speech guru Mr. Arellano is a White Sox fan. (Andy, center, is pictured in his classroom last September during a surprise visit from team radio announcer and former big-leaguer Ed Farmer, left.)

Andy Arellano welcomed us and explained the rules for the contest. Then Andy took some time to talk about Fenwick. You could tell he was passionate about it as Andy explained the history of Fenwick and why it was a great choice for my son’s high school education.  He may also have mentioned at some point that he was a White Sox fan, so I then knew he was also a man of great intelligence.

Time to Choose

In 2005 young Patrick told his dad he’d walk to Fenwick from Countryside rather than go to closer high schools. (’09 FHS Yearbook photo.)

As they say, “rinse and repeat,” so we did the speech contest for three more years. I actually became a judge in the contest in subsequent years. Fast forward and Patrick is now in 8th grade. I tell Patrick that we live within a mile of two great schools, but immediately I could see in his face that his heart was elsewhere. I told him it would be four years of taking trains and buses if he went to Fenwick, and he told me he would walk every day if he had to.

Continue reading “Choosing a Catholic Education”

Fighting Hatred with Hope (Parts 2, 3 and 4)

Brian Hickey ’12 returned home to Western Springs, IL, from North Africa earlier this month. The Fenwick and Valpo alumnus reflected on his past four months teaching refugee children in Djibouti:

December 28,  2017

  Although there is no evidence of Christmas in Djibouti, our community was able to celebrate and reflect on the Word becoming flesh. After living in the birthplace of Jesus for a year, Christmas will never quite be the same. There is a power the mind can hardly comprehend in experiencing where love came down in the form of a baby boy in a place that animals feed. In a few days, I also hope you get to celebrate the gift of life we have been given in living another year in this world.

It is easy to constantly have the difficult moments or stories at the forefront of my mind when speaking or writing about my experiences in the Middle East and Africa. However, there are also moments of joy and triumph amidst many personal challenges or communal problems that come living in an underdeveloped country.  In the spirit of light coming into the world at Christmas to overcome darkness, I will highlight a few of these moments from the past four months.

Saturday Morning Soccer

It rarely rains in Djibouti.  However, when it does it usually pours for a short amount of time and produces huge pools of water and minor flooding due to a nonexistent sewage system. This can cause frustration and annoyance. It poured briefly one Saturday while I was serving breakfast to our boys at Caritas. On Saturday mornings, we bring about 40 of the boys to an open area to play soccer.

The “field” turned into a slippery mess of rainwater, mud and cement. This only enhanced the fun as we slipped and muddied ourselves for a couple hours. All the boys were able to laugh at themselves and each other. It didn’t matter that we do not play on a real field, have proper equipment or are competing for a prize. We had one another.

5th Grade Mohamed

Mohamed is a new student at the school this year. When school began in September, he knew only a few English words. He soon became overwhelmed because everyone in the class was way ahead of him and he would usually sit in class all day staring off into space and not doing anything. Honestly, I sometimes wondered how long he would stay in the school. You would never guess this is the same student I have in my class today.

I’m not sure if I said something that gave him a spark or something else clicked for him, but Mohamed has become the hardest working student in the class. He is always trying to understand what we read or work on in class. Whenever he comes to ask me a question and subsequently understands, a giant smile comes across his face as he gives me a fist pump.

This smile and proclamation of understanding is another moment of joy that sticks with me. Mohamed also enjoys testing me with written Arabic words as I continue to try to understand the language. I believe most people, especially kids, are not “bad” or “dumb” but just need someone to believe in them.

Morning Runs

Several times per week, I enjoy going for a run in the morning. There is a small stretch of sand along the sea on my running route. Many of the street children sleep on this stretch of sand along with other homeless people. It is obviously striking to see these boys waking up and wandering the streets before going to Caritas.

Often times as I run, I’ll hear the boys shout in my direction off the road. They love telling me at Caritas that they saw me running as well. The moments of great joy are when they come and run barefoot beside me for a distance. Many people driving or walking give a funny look to a street kid and a white westerner running together. However, they do not understand our relationship. This is always my favorite part of my day.

Final Thoughts

As you [may] know, last year I lived and worked in Bethlehem in the West Bank.  Even more than my time in South Africa and Zambia, Bethlehem will always feel like home because it was my first full-time job and I built many close relationships. Three weeks ago, I had tremendous sorrow as old neighbors, close friends and former students felt neglect and betrayal due to our country’s announcement about Jerusalem. No matter one’s opinion about the announcement, the consequences are real for all those I came to love in Palestine. I could hardly believe my eyes as I saw a video, directly outside my old apartment, of the aftermath of a truck coming into Palestinian territory and mowing down residents before crashing into another car.

All the students I was able to communicate with in wake of the announcement and initial protests were certain that the 3rd Intifada [Palestinian uprising] is imminent. They feel that they will be even more forgotten by the rest of the world and lose the few opportunities they have. A family, who was always generous in taking care of me, is in danger of shutting down their restaurant (next to the separation wall) for an extended time due to constant protests. Other friends will be negatively impacted by what the announcement will do to the tourism industry in Bethlehem. Please pray for peace and that our leaders are cognizant of our neglected Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem as well as all Palestinians.

Finally, as the New Year commences I invite you to seek joy in every situation.  Like the day of muddy morning soccer, forget what you don’t have and focus on what you do and the opportunities in front of you. Just as Mohamed has done, stop thinking about what you cannot do and chase the dream or opportunity you believe is too difficult or inconvenient. Just as I am energized by running with migrants and refugees, seek out a marginalized person or people group to invest financially or with your attention and time. This will bring you more energy or joy than simply investing in yourself.

A baby born, on the run from violence, in the Middle East has brought more meaning and light in my life (and hopefully yours) than I could have imagined. That light overcomes complacency or darkness in our lives and leads us to our final destination. Invest in that relationship this year whether it is investigating the doubts you have or spending more time with Him.

February 13, 2018

For as long as I can remember, I always eagerly anticipated springtime and the weather getting warmer at this time of year. Perhaps, it was just looking forward to March Madness, high school tennis season or our annual Spring Break trip in college. I am sure you are looking forward to getting rid of the snow and embracing warmer weather and sunshine. In Djibouti, the weather is getting to that point in the afternoon when you cannot be outside for more than five to 10 minutes before beginning to sweat.

The days can certainly feel long, but, as usual, the weeks and months have been going fast. Spring is almost here! The following are a few happenings/highlights since my last update.

Christmas Party

In early January, we loaded up a few buses and took the Caritas boys to a nearby beach (away from the beach where many of them sleep). We spent most of the day on the beach playing soccer, throwing a football, blasting music and swimming in the sea. We also enjoyed lunch and snacks. At the end of our day at the beach, the boys received Christmas gifts consisting of shoes/sandals, a shirt, pants and some candy. This was the only Christmas gift that they received. I know this day will most likely be the highlight of the year for each of the boys. It was also probably my favorite day thus far in Djibouti.

Rhakeem

As you can imagine, there are many stories from Caritas that stick with me. Rhakeem, only about four or five years younger than me, was a bit slow and off when I first met him. He would always seem to be just staring off into space, and he kept a small notebook with the names of the people at Caritas to remember. Sometimes, he would come up to me and say (in broken English) that his head was banging. Younger boys, not knowing any better, would say that he is crazy.

Rhakeem could be considered an ‘economic migrant’ when he fled desperate conditions in Ethiopia. Soon after, Rhakeem got in contact with a human smuggler that would bring him by boat to Yemen. Due to the instability and civil war in the country, many African migrants and refugees take the risk to go through Yemen in hope for greater opportunities in neighboring countries. They certainly do not know the true dangers that await in the war-torn country and are given deceitful assurances by the smugglers.

Although all the details are not known, when Rhakeem arrived by boat to Yemen he was held hostage possibly by smugglers or another group in the country. He was raped and struck in the head by an AK-47. Rhakeem was rescued by an aid organization and brought back to Djibouti, but not without certain brain damage and emotional trauma from the experience. Somehow, he made it to Caritas. Early last month, he was brought back to Ethiopia by the international migration force in Africa to hopefully receive the treatment he desperately needs. I always enjoyed interacting with Rhakeem. As with many here, it is frustrating and frightening to think about his needs and not knowing what his future holds.

Caritas 5K

Last month, Caritas hosted the inaugural “All Brothers and Sisters 5K Race.” When the idea came up for something like this in early October, I was skeptical that it would come to fruition because events like this do not typically occur in Djibouti. We brought the event to the proper authorities for permission and it took them a month to respond to approve the race. Three days before the race was to occur, the local authorities said we had to postpone because the president had a meeting the same morning. The government certainly does not like to make things easy for outsiders, especially when a Christian organization is seeking cooperation with an event.

Nonetheless, the race was rescheduled for the following Friday and we had over 250 people come, including several foreign militaries, kids from my school and others, a running team from Caritas, and ex-pats from NGOs and embassies. The event focused on bringing everyone together from Christians and Muslims to locals and foreigners. There is often tension and prejudice toward different groups in Djibouti such as Christians being referred to as ‘criminals’ or ‘pigs.’  It was a great event to experience these different people groups coming together in the name of Caritas.

Final Thoughts

As winter turns to spring, we also welcome the season leading to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years later, we exalt and give our lives to a man given a criminal’s death on a cross. Of course, this was not just ‘a man,’ and the Roman capital punishment was only a tool to magnify what our Heavenly Father did to destroy death. I am not sure it can be fully comprehended that the creator of the universe did this for you and me to have abundant life at the present moment in the year 2018.

It is so easy to only stay focused on our own concerns, comfort, present or future. I know I can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of severe poverty, despair or violence in the region that it is easy to just freeze and want to give up. However, this is when the knowledge of Christ comes to the forefront of my mind and the acknowledgment of the power that lives within me becomes fully alive. We are wasting our time if we are not making an impact for Christ wherever we are planted.

Whether working at a hedge fund or a faraway country, realize the space around you is to be used to bring Heaven unto earth. Look to the things that are above our culture and situation. Focus on what transcends current circumstances and remember that our victory has already been won. There is nothing left to claim or prove that can be greater than what has already been obtained.

April 10, 2018

Almost eight months ago, I set off to a country I did not know much about except that it was surrounded by war-torn countries: Somalia and Yemen.  I certainly won’t forget walking off the airplane in Djibouti in the middle of the night and feeling like I’ve entered a sauna.  Djibouti has had unique challenges and a culture distinct from the other countries where I’ve served. The days sometimes felt long, but the months went by quickly.  In a few days, I will begin the 36-hour travel back to Chicago.

I’ve seen the effects of war and hunger, hopelessness and despair, but I’ve also seen sacrificial love in people providing for one another.  I’ve seen differences in nationalities or religion transcended by a desire to counter suffering.  I’ve seen the power of friendships in walking through whatever comes one’s way in life.  I’ve seen joy in what looks like massive struggle. The following is what has stuck with me since my last update.

Brian’s students wished him a happy birthday.

Walks of Life

Throughout my time in Djibouti, I’ve been fortunate to encounter people from various walks of life.  I’ve met a team of people that have spent time in the some of the worst humanitarian situations in our lifetime.  I heard firsthand accounts of ISIS in Mosul, blown-out cities in Syria, deep despair in South Sudan, and death of children in Yemen.  I’ve met Yemeni and Somali refugees trudging through their new situations after having their lives uprooted by violence and war.

While I’ve formed friendships with members of the military from several countries, I also am friendly with people who sleep on cardboard during the night and see me when they begin their day on the street.  I’ve truly experienced that as iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens another with one deep friendship I’ve had in Djibouti.  I’ve walked with boys trying to survive life on their own on the streets of a foreign country.

Life Lost, Saved and Found

Last month, we received word that a 1st grader at our school had suddenly died. The boy had a high fever and his parents took him to a hospital.  The hospital injected him with medication before being directed to another hospital.  The next hospital also injected him with medication and it is believed the mixed injections probably killed him.  Obviously, it was pretty shocking that a healthy young boy would suddenly die within a couple days of being sick.  Many of the people here attributed the death to simply being “God’s (Allah) will.”  They do not know that the God we know brings abundant life and is not a thief in taking the presence of this young boy from his family, friends, and school.

In addition to the work with the boys at Caritas, there is also a small medical clinic at the facility for the poor, migrants and refugees.  Recently, a foreign pediatrician from one of the militaries was at the clinic for the day.  A Somali woman came in to seek sustenance for her baby.  The pediatrician checked on a cleft on the baby’s face and stated that the baby had to get to the local hospital immediately.  While the woman was hesitant to go, it was determined that if the baby did not get treatment that day she would probably die.  Thankfully, the child received the necessary treatment to keep her alive.

Over the past few months, there has been a local addition to our Christian community.  A Djiboutian police officer, Ayele, in his late 20s has been volunteering at Caritas and been around our compound quite a bit.  He comes from a Muslim background (as do nearly all Djiboutians) but has come to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and was first attracted to Christianity due to our services to the poor and vulnerable. There is certainly animosity toward Christians in Djibouti so, especially as a government employee, Ayele will face persecution in his decision to follow Christ. He will be baptized in a few weeks. Ayele’s story makes all the difficult conditions and challenges in Djibouti worth it.

Personal Journey

At the beginning of August, I will continue my mission in a different capacity than Bethlehem and Djibouti.  I will be attending the University of Notre Dame to study Global Affairs with a specialization for two years. I could not be more excited to join 35-40 talented students from around the world at Notre Dame.  We will be interacting with policy influencers such as former White House chiefs of staff, CIA directors and heads of states. It will certainly be a change to go from the Middle East and North Africa to a place I’m quite familiar with in ND, but I’m eager for a challenging and rewarding experience in preparing to further impact the world for the Kingdom of God.

Final Thoughts

It is difficult to find the right words to finish out this last update. The last few years have left me shaking my head in wonder of how I’ve been able to have these life experiences I could never have even imagined several years ago.  Yet, I realize this all blossomed from my knees in Stellenbosch, South Africa, as I said “yes” to God to take me where my trust is without borders.

The day after Easter I shared the story of Jesus from start to finish to my class as I further explained why we did not have school on Easter Sunday. I received numerous questions from my Muslim students and the class was as quiet as it has been since the school year began. I could tell it had a major effect on at least two Muslim boys in the class. One of them stared off into the distance for five to 10 minutes after asking if we will meet Jesus in Heaven if we make it.  Another boy was asking me more questions the next day.

I know the Gospel shook those in my class to their core in hearing, for the first time, the radical way God seeks to have a relationship with us. If you had the cure for cancer would you not want to tell everyone about it? Well, we have the cure to laying down all bitterness, ego, pride and shame to live life abundantly and proclaim the good news of the empty tomb. We know the cure for death and have the ability to live forever. We have the opportunity to make decisions to impact lives that will echo into eternity.

Thank you for all your support and encouragement in many capacities over the past few years. As I’ve written, this could not have been possible alone.

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  – Galatians 2:20

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

Continue reading “Friars Basketball Legends to Have Jerseys Retired”