Fenwick Launches Engineering and Innovation Laboratory

Facility represents the ‘stem’ of flowering course offerings in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

By Mark Vruno

Science Department Co-chair Mr. Dave Kleinhans (right) works with a student on a laptop computer in the new STEM-focused facility.

Fenwick High School has ushered in its 91st academic year with a new Engineering & Innovation Laboratory. At the Open House in late September, prospective students and their families had an opportunity to see the modular classroom (Room 57), which features 25 new drafting and programming laptop computers, six 3D printers and five interactive, “smart” monitors. These technology equipment upgrades are a major part of the more than $70,000 investment in the refurbished lab space.

“We are teaching in the lab to packed computer-science classes,” Science Dept. Co-chair Dave Kleinhans reports. In an effort to prepare students for business and STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) degrees in college, he adds, many of these courses were co-developed with a University of Illinois, student-run consulting organization. At professional-development sessions in mid-September, faculty members received training on the three-dimensional (additive-manufacturing) printers. 

Principal Peter Groom adds, “The development of our Computer Science curriculum has been a collaborative effort. We put a lot of faith in our faculty, and they really ran with it. In some cases, our teachers took existing courses and tailored them to the 21st-century world,” Mr. Groom explains. “In other cases, we started brand new courses. The opening of the new lab is just the beginning of a facilities transformation that will allow our excellent CS/Physics faculty to maximize the student experience.”

Fenwick’s Engineering & Innovation Lab “is what software labs look like at some of the companies I still communicate with in the private sector,” notes Kleinhans, who started up three software firms over two decades before embarking on a career change to become a teacher. IBM (Cognos) acquired one of his companies, but Kleinhans insists that teaching and mentoring young people bring him far more satisfaction and joy “than any bonus check for selling a company or being a CEO.”

Mr. Don Nelson (center) joined the Fenwick faculty this year to help run the computer-science segments of the new lab.

Joining the Fenwick faculty for this school year is Donald Nelson, who is “taking over a lot of our CS [computer science] classes,” according to Kleinhans. “Principal Groom made a great, strategic new hire in Nelson,” Kleinhans believes. “Don is a 30-year business person/nuclear engineer who wants to be involved with students as a second career.” Nelson, who previously has taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology and DePaul Prep, holds a B.S. in engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.S. in computer science engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. 

Student input and involvement

“It was inspiring to watch Dave Kleinhans empower recent graduates and current Friars to be project managers for the new lab,” adds Math Teacher and alumnus Kevin Roche ’05.Kevin Brosnan ’20, Spencer Gallagher ’19 and Jack Vomacka ’18 [helped] make it all happen. They met with architects, researched the best equipment, presented to the Board and even were present for the painting and carpeting subcontractors to ensure the job got done. That was my favorite part of it all: those three gain valuable project-management experience thanks to Dave.

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Collegiate Friars: July 2019

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OLIVIA EVANS

Fenwick Graduation: 2018
Hometown: La Grange, IL
Grade School: St. John’s Lutheran
Current School: The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Current Major: Animal Science (Pre-Vet)

Summer Internship: I do not have a formal internship through the university this summer, but I work as a groom for a few Argentine polo pros. I gain experience through working with the horses as well as by assisting the vet when the horses need treatment. I am also involved in a biomedical research lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This lab work will extend through my entire undergraduate schooling.

Career aspirations: I aspire to go to go to vet school.

Fenwick achievements/activities: I was a member of the National Honors Society, Tri-M Honors Society, Friar Mentors, was an Illinois State Scholar, a Eucharistic minister and was on the State Team for WYSE. I also ran track for three years and was in choir for four years.

Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Mr. Kleinhans had the most influence on me. I learned a great deal in his physics class, but most of all I learned from his example as a role model, teacher, mentor and WYSE coach. Some of my favorite class memories are from his “feel good Fridays” where he connected life experience to prayer and the importance of being a genuine person while working hard and enjoying life.

Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: AP Biology with Mr. Wnek was one of my many favorite classes. Mr. Wnek is a fantastic teacher, and what I learned set me up for success in college biology and other lab work.

Fenwick experience you would like to live again: I would relive the whole experience. From classes, sports and clubs, to friends, I had a great experience at Fenwick. I am extremely grateful for the community and for the way it set me up for success in college and in the future. I am thankful for the relationships I formed with teachers and the way that impacted my growth as a student and as a person.

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A Mother’s Heartfelt Reflection

The mom of five Friars addressed fellow Mothers’ Club members at the 2019 Fenwick Senior Mass & Brunch celebration earlier this month.

By Susan Lasek

The Fenwick Mothers’ Club Annual Senior Mass & Brunch
was held on Sunday, May 12 at Oak Brook Hills Resort.

Good afternoon Fenwick mothers, guardians, the Senior Class of 2019, Father Peddicord, Mr. Groom and Faculty. I am honored to be here speaking to you about my family’s Fenwick experience: a faith-filled journey that began in August of 2009 and will end on May 24 of this year.

Boy, 10 years go by quickly, especially with five children, all with different personalities and interests who participated in a variety of clubs and sports offered at Fenwick. Why did my family choose Fenwick? Well, I go back to two very precious gifts that were given to me and my husband:

  1. the gift of family and parenthood
  2. the gift of faith

Both Mark and I were lucky enough to grow up in families that were very close and where family was always #1. We also feel the gift of faith is immeasurable — one that our families value very deeply. This is why Mark and I decided to send our kids to a Catholic high school. After researching all the private and public schools, Fenwick was our first choice, hands down, no questions. We felt that it was important for our kids to be reminded of their faith every day. We felt they would have an excellent education that would prepare them for college. Bottom line, as a mother: It was most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.

Why Fenwick? “It was most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.”

What made Fenwick unique in our mind was the entire Fenwick community. You are not just going to high school; you are joining the Fenwick family. You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life. Whether you are the class of 2019 or the class of 1990, it doesn’t matter because you are all part of the Fenwick family.

Mrs. Sue Lasek speaking from her heart … about Fenwick.

Some of the things that make Fenwick unique and stand out:

  • Prayers are included in every aspect of a student’s life, from the start of the day, to sporting events, theater and other activities.
  • How beautiful it is that Father Peddicord greets everyone by name after school and wishes them a good rest of the day?
  • Kairos is one of the most emotional, faith-filled experiences that touches every student. The three-day retreat brings students together who may not know each other very well and provides an opportunity for support and friendship.
  • Fenwick is truly a college-prep school. Every one of my children that went off to college thanked us for sending them to Fenwick because they felt so well prepared for their college education and campus life.

What is Friar Nation: “You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life.”

To sum it up, we are thankful for the leadership that helped guide our children from being impressionable kids to strong, independent-minded young adults. We are grateful for their experiences that provided a strong base of faith and knowledge that will carry them into the next phase of their lives. We are appreciative of the entire leadership and staff at Fenwick for genuinely caring for each and every student. Teachers at Fenwick forge great relationships with their students, providing support, guidance and instruction.

Overall, Fenwick instilled a sense of tradition in our kids that make them feel as though they are a part of something bigger. I’d like to close with the following phrase our kids hear during the morning announcements at the beginning of every school day:

“Remember. our experiences are defined by our choices. Today, make great choices. Make today a great day or not, that choice is yours!”

Fenwick is forever in our hearts and minds. God Bless the Friars!

About the Author

Sue Lasek and her husband, Mark, reside in Hinsdale. All five of the couple’s five children have attended Fenwick. A quick update on each one:

Sue with Mark, her “baby.”
  • Mark II, a current graduate (Class of ’19), will attend the University of Wisconsin – Madison this fall and study physics with a minor in finance. 
  • Josephine ’18 just finished her freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is studying nursing. 
  • Charlotte attended Fenwick from 2011-13. She will graduate from DePaul University on June 15, 2019, with a degree in neuropsychology. Charlotte had the opportunity to work with DePaul/NASA on a project that involved researching astronauts’ brains. 
  • Chris ’14 is currently working on his degree in architecture at College of DuPage and is working on a few projects with area architectural firms.
  • Rich ’13 graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2017 with a degree in economics. He is employed by Core Spaces, one of the country’s top leaders in student housing. Rich manages the Ambassador Program across the United States and conducts market research for the firm; he also is involved with business development.
The Lasek family.

79th Edition of March Madness Has Fenwick Ties

Three Fenwick Friars are among the teams selected for the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments this year.

By Mark Vruno

Loyola-Chicago (28-5) won the Missouri Valley Conference this season and punched its ticket to the Big Dance. (Chicago Tribune photo)

The 2018 edition of March Madness commences today as the NCAA Basketball Tournament play-in games tip off. There’s still a buzz coming from Rogers Park on the North Side of Chicago, where the Loyola University men’s team is in the “Big Dance” for the first time in more than 30 years (since 1985). Presently, there are 17 Friars enrolled at Loyola, including Kevin Latz ’16, who exclaims, “Students are more excited about Loyola basketball than ever before! I know some students who are even flying to Texas for their first game. A lot of students are talking about watching their basketball games for the first time, which is great for school spirit.” Latz and his classmates are cheering loudly for the 11th-seeded Ramblers, which take on the 6th-seeded Miami Hurricanes on Thursday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. in Dallas.

Fifty-five years ago, the Ramblers defeated Mississippi State to win the National Championship amid Civil Rights tension.

Fenwick’s own math-teaching whiz Roger Finnell ’59 was a student on campus in the early 1960s, when the Ramblers won the National Championship. Mr. Finnell’s memories of that special time:

“1963 was my senior year at Loyola. I remember everyone being amazed at all of the really good teams we were beating, including Ohio State early in the season — sort of like how Loyola first got noticed this season when they upset Florida, ranked top 5 at the time.

“First semester I was in a tough Political Science class with two basketball bench players. They did not survive to be eligible second semester!

“I remember the night of the championship game. It was a Saturday night, and the game was only on the radio with a television replay that night at around 10:00. Certainly nothing like the coverage these days.

“I remember the famous story of when we were going to play Mississippi or Mississippi State in an early tournament game. The Mississippi governor was threatening not to let the team play us because we had African-Americans on the team (four of five starters). Their coach literally snuck the team out of the state a day early to prevent the governor from blocking their travel to the game site.

“The championship game was very exciting to listen to and very close all the way. I remember the play-by-play announcer (Red Rush?) going wild when we won in overtime.

“I believe the present Loyola team is only one victory shy of matching the 1963 win total. Go Ramblers!”

Selection Sunday

Planek and the “other” Friars are in!

The Friars of Providence College punched their ticket to the 2018 NCAA Division I Tournament by beating Creighton in overtime in the Big East Tourney quarter-finals last Thursday. Fenwick double-Friar Tom Planek ’14, a 6’7″ senior forward on Provie’s men’s basketball team in Rhode Island, walked on and subsequently earned a scholarship. Those Friars have posted a win-loss record of 21-13 and lost an exciting overtime game to Villanova on Saturday night in the Big East Tournament. On Friday, their 10th-seeded team will play Texas A&M (#7 seed) at 11:15 a.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina (so-called West Region). Planek, who has seen action in 12 games to date this season, earned his bachelor’s degree in three years and will graduate this spring with an M.B.A. He is from Oak Park.

Danny Dwyer is the second of seven members of FHS’s Class of 2014 who played college basketball in the 2017-18 season. Dwyer is a 6’8” senior forward for the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), which won the Ivy league conference tourney on Sunday with a 68-65 victory over Harvard. In the Midwest bracket, the 16th-seeded Quakers will take on the mighty Kansas Jayhawks in the first round on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Wichita. Originally from River Forest, Dwyer has faced some health-related challenges this season but still is on the team.

Nixon’s MSU team is in the NCAA Division II Tourney.

Jamal Nixon is a 6’4” freshman guard for the Minnesota State Mavericks (Mankato) in the Northern Sun Conference; hometown: Plainfield. The 24-9 Mavs earned an at-large berth in the Division II NCAA Tournament and are seeded 8th in the Central Region. On Saturday they upset defending national champion Northwest Missouri State, then defeated Southwest Minnesota State 74-70 in the semifinal game on Sunday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Next, they face Northern State (from South Dakota) for the region championship and a berth in the final eight. Tipoff is 7 p.m. on Tuesday night in Maryville, Missouri.

Nixon, Dwyer and Planek join these other Friars who hooped it up at the next level this season:

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