Fenwick celebrates meaningful successes
Chicago- The Eighty-first Fenwick High School Commencement at UIC Forum, in Chicago. Alexander Adaire receives his diploma. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:25PM
The values that distinguish a Fenwick Friar — academic and extracurricular excellence and commitment to other people — are instilled by consistent example and continued personal effort, not conferred by the circumstances of birth.
That was the message offered by both school faculty and guest speakers at Fenwick’s 2012 commencement ceremonies May 25 at the UIC Forum.
With 285 proud graduates in caps and gowns sitting before the assembled faculty and nearly 3,000 family and friends, Fenwick Principal Peter G. Groom reminded them they had not always been exemplars of the Fenwick ethos.
Groom recalled an afternoon in the fall of 2008, when Fenwick’s freshmen class sat restively in the balcony of the Lawless Gymnasium during a Mass.
“We were celebrating a Mass. Many of you were not,” Groom said, recalling that “many of you were talking and texting.”
“The freshman class is instructed to stay,” the group was told after the other students were dismissed.
“One thing was very clear,” said Groom. “You did not get what it means to be a Friar.”
Whatever was said that afternoon — and much was said, Groom noted without going into detail — the Class of 2012 got the message.
Groom praised the graduates for being part of a group that has through its own initiative and effort added significantly to Fenwick’s legacy.
“Even though you may have had a rough beginning, you sit here before us as Friars,” Groom said.
No one exemplified those school’s values more than student commencement speaker William A. DeMaio.
Associate Principal Richard A. Borsch ran down DeMaio’s impressive list of accomplishments. It includes being a national merit finalist, an Illinois Scholar, an unbroken string of A grades in all 53 semester classes and a perfect 36 on the collage ACT. DeMaio was one of just 580 out 1.6 million students who took the ACT to do so — and one of three from Fenwick.
Just as important, Borsch said, was DeMaio’s concern for others. When he was accepted to MIT, Borsch said, DeMaio withdrew all his other applications to numerous prestigious universities, in order to allow other applicants a better chance for acceptance.
“He cares about others,” said Borsch.
DeMaio acknowledged the academic and athletic achievements of his graduating class, but seconded Borsch’s notion that Fenwick is more than academic standards and athletic success.
In preparing his comments, DeMaio told his fellow graduates, his thoughts came back repeatedly to one word: community.
“Community is at the heart of everything that we learned here,” DeMaio said.
“This is the part of high school that cannot be structured, taught or defined. Community is the reason entire families go to Fenwick.”
DeMaio said trophies and honor rolls, while essential, tell only part of the Fenwick tale.
“In order to know Fenwick, you need to meet the people and live in this community,” he said. “It is a place where people care about people.”
DeMaio thanked the faculty and assembled parents for their roles in guiding them through adolescence to the frontier of adulthood.
“You not only encouraged us to succeed both by instruction and by example, but you also taught us to define our own personal measure of success.”
“We truly became products of our environment. We became Friars, not only by what we accomplished for ourselves, but by what we did for each other, as teammates and as friends.”