FortKnight Blog

By Jeff Siuda, English Teacher, Director

 

Picture it: it’s a surprisingly warm and clear March evening… the final notes of that true Broadway classic, “The Impossible Dream” dissipate into the heavens… a churning mass of young men and women (and even some adults!), cast and stage crew alike, burst out of the side door of the Fr. Leon Hogenkamp, S.J. auditorium and hurl themselves into an exuberant Simba cheer to celebrate four nights of fantastic performances and the four months of hard work that made that success possible… such was the scene as the curtain fell on the final night of McQuaid’s Jesuit’s 2024 production of Man of La Mancha.  

Putting on a play is no small feat. When I directed the comedy Epic Proportions that was performed this past November, I began work mid-summer, gathering all the members of the production team, from set, to costumes, to lights, to publicity, to chart a course toward opening night. Then comes auditions followed by the giddy excitement of the first read-through followed by the daily grind of rehearsals, fight choreography, costume fittings, and set construction (under the more-than-able leadership of Mr. Kevin Karnisky), all leading up to that first moment the curtain rises. My legendary colleague Mrs. Pamela Stoffel could certainly say the same for her work on Man of La Mancha, but make sure to add in vocal rehearsals, choreography, and coordinating with the orchestra (also led by Mr. Karnisky—boy that guy works hard!).

Like I said—no small feat: yet, since the beginnings of human civilization, when our ancestors huddled around a blazing fire under a vast night sky, draped in nothing but the skins of animals, our earliest impulse by which to pass the time was to tell stories—to get up and act out the tales of gods and heroes or just the drama of the latest hunt. Throughout the centuries, communities have gathered to sit in the dark and watch reflections of themselves explore just what it means to be human and to satisfy those most primal of urges—to laugh together, to cheer together, to weep together.

For a McQuaid Jesuit Knight, participating in a McQuaid drama production is an opportunity to enrich his life in so many ways—to gain confidence, to unearth hidden talents, to make new friends, to learn teamwork and what it means to put the needs of the group ahead of one’s own needs, just to name a few. Nothing makes me happier than watching that freshman, maybe new to McQuaid, maybe struggling to transition from middle school, find his footing, his home on the stage. “Wow I can’t believe that was so and so up there” or “Who knew so and so had it in him” inevitably say the audience members after the curtain falls. It is at that moment that I just nod my head and smile, knowing that everything it took to get to that moment was worth it—Simba cheer included!

By Dan Gorton ’90, English Department Chairman, Varsity Golf Coach

 

There is a certain kind of optimism at McQuaid Jesuit when the calendar turns to the Spring season. The energy in the hallways is a revival of the enthusiasm from the beginning of the school year with thoughts of outdoor games and activities. Seymour Field is cleared of the debris of Winter as student-athletes and coaches prepare to do battle on the turf and track. Fennell Field is lined and groomed to host “the boys of Summer” as their fans line the baselines all with the hope of capturing another Section V title. Of course, the golf season gets underway with what has been called, “the year’s first major… tryouts” and then a competitive season that can bring individual and team glory. Away from the athletic world, Seniors get ready to make their way across the stage of the Eastman Theater, Juniors look forward to celebrating prom, and the underclassmen enjoy class trips while gearing up for exams. The excitement of BASH cannot be left out. The entire community comes together for the common purpose of helping the school and building programs.

As a coach in the Spring season, and as a teacher, I appreciate the efforts of the students as the school year makes the turn toward its end. It is not easy for anyone to concentrate on whiteboards and iPads while the weather is turning warmer and the final opportunity looms for that sectional title. It is during these distractions of the season that I see McQuaid Jesuit come together. Students and teachers collaborate to help each other make it through the closing weeks. Coaches and athletes motivate each other to stay in the moment and appreciate what memories are being created. During the Awards Assembly and the Pamela Stoffel Senior Speech Competition, we come together and applaud the efforts of so many. Medals and scholarships are given to reward the hard work of many and also serve as a sign to younger students that greatness can be achieved with hard work and determination.

While we all can’t wait for the end of the year, it is important not to wish the time away. Traditions of white tuxedo jackets and Simba cheers on the street outside of the Eastman will be there for all, when it is their time. Just take the time and, like the early Spring sun, soak it all in. McQuaid Jesuit affords so many opportunities in the Spring for the faculty, students, coaches and administrators to share experiences and truly see God in all things.

By Adam Baber, Director of Service and Justice

 

You could hear the proverbial pin drop in the John H. Ryan, Jr. Memorial Gymnasium on Tuesday, October 25, 2022. The assembled high school students, faculty, and guests sat in focused silence as Steve Peacock, McQuaid Jesuit alumnus of the class of 1988, shared the story of his journey as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Donning his jersey from his time as a football Knight, Peacock courageously spoke of the consequences of the trauma he experienced, the impact on his relationships, and his ultimate choice to come forward and tell his story for the first time as a 52 year-old adult.

Steve did not return to his alma mater on his own. Joining him were Alex Prout and Elizabeth Ziegler from I Have The Right To, a national organization devoted to raising awareness among students and educators about sexual assault. Prout and his wife Susan founded I Have The Right To after their daughter Chessy was sexually assaulted while a student at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. The assault and subsequent trial garnered national media attention and laid bare the need to engage young people about sexual assault and the meaning of consent. Since 2017, I Have The Right To has emerged as a leading organization dedicated to creating an ecosystem of respect and support for students and survivors, partnering with schools to host speakers, review policies, and provide educational programming.  McQuaid Jesuit is the first all-boys school to partner with I Have The Right To, and in the past year the organization has connected with a number of other Catholic, all-boys schools, including several in the Jesuit network.

After Steve received a standing ovation from his McQuaid brothers in the audience, Prout and Ziegler zoomed out from the personal story to reveal the scope of the problem. The statistics are, frankly, alarming: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of women and almost 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. More than 4 in 5 female rape survivors report that they were first raped before age 25. Beyond the life-altering emotional trauma, the financial fallout is also significant, with some estimates putting the lifetime cost at $122,461 per survivor, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs. This scourge of sexual violence affects millions of Americans each year.

The challenge posed by sexual assault is compounded by the taboo surrounding discussions of it. Despite the #MeToo movement bringing the pernicious and widespread nature of the problem further into the open, many cases of sexual assault continue to go unreported and unprosecuted, with survivors deterred by shame, fear, embarrassment, and the personal and financial costs of litigation and medical care.

Determined to help break this taboo, following the October 2022 presentation, McQuaid Jesuit and I Have The Right To partnered to develop a summit for high school students, educators, and parents. The goal of this inaugural Summit on Healthy Relationships and Consent is to educate and empower around the topics of sexual violence prevention, supporting survivors, and the importance of respect as a precondition for any healthy relationship. A student team from McQuaid Jesuit and Our Lady of Mercy has been helping to guide preparations and planning for the event, in the process learning more about this critical topic and reading, as a group, Chessy Prout’s memoir I Have The Right To.

Headlining the summit is keynote speaker Don McPherson, former Syracuse University and NFL quarterback and author of You Throw Like a Girl: The Blind Spot of Masculinity.  McPherson is particularly passionate about engaging with young men and encouraging them to hold one another accountable to a higher standard of masculinity, leading them to live healthy, full and respectful lives. Joining McPherson at the summit will be noted psychotherapist and author Cheryl M. Bradshaw as well as representatives from Rochester and Buffalo area organizations. Steve Peacock will return, participating on a survivor panel in the morning that will humanize the issue and cultivate a spirit of empathy and understanding behind the statistics.

Our school’s mission statement cites “a lifelong commitment to justice” as one of the aspirations for a McQuaid Jesuit graduate. Steve Peacock’s courageous witness, Chessy Prout’s brave example, and the untold stories of many, many more survivors all summon us to acknowledge that the persistence of sexual assault in our culture is fundamentally an issue of justice, of recognizing the God-given dignity of each person. McQuaid Jesuit is proud to make its own contribution to this cause in the hopes of creating a future free from sexual assault.

On Saturday, March 16, the same Ryan gym that played host to Steve Peacock in October 2022 will welcome students, educators, and parents from McQuaid, Mercy, and other area schools for the inaugural Summit on Healthy Relationships and Consent. To learn more about the summit, you can reach out to me, Adam Baber, McQuaid Jesuit’s Director of Service and Justice, at ababer@mcquaid.org or at 585.256.6129.

By Shawn Nally, Assistant Athletic Director

I get excited to walk in the building every day. Whether it’s a fall Saturday morning practice for Freshman Football, preparing the facility for a home varsity basketball game, or just coming in for a regular old school day, every day is new and unique. And that is the best part of being here. It is truly the people in the building that make it so special. As a staff member and coach, I get most excited about having the chance to provide the best experience possible for our students. As we aim to be role models for them, I am constantly looking to my own role models and mentors at McQuaid to learn what it means to coach here and be a part of the community.

As a school, we strive to foster certain characteristics in each student over the course of their time here: Intellectually Competent, Open to Growth, Committed to Justice, Loving, Religious. As coaches, our job is to ensure that the athletic arena offers an environment where students acquire these traits, which make up the Profile of the McQuaid Jesuit Graduate. I picked a few coaches that I believe do this seamlessly in their programs.

Intellectually Competent: Todd Stewart, Cross Country/Track

In Coach Todd Stewart’s cross country program, there is a strong culture of being regimented both in the classroom and in all facets of athletic preparation. Coach Stewart promotes a culture where student-athletes aim to be their best inside and outside of the building. Alumni of his program have gone on to do remarkable things, and I believe a lot of that can be attributed to the leadership, passion, and energy that he pours into each athlete each day. He makes it known to his guys that it’s “cool” to be a great student, and his athletes push each other academically and athletically.

Committed to Justice: Christopher Parks, Volleyball

Coach Christopher Parks instills this in his volleyball players in several ways. Like many teams, they go above and beyond in serving the community. The volleyball players hold themselves to a very high standard as it relates to upholding the code of conduct. Coach Parks’ lessons extend far beyond just the game of volleyball, and he prepares his players to be model citizens in the community.

Religious: Dan Bates, Football

Coach Dan Bates truly exudes what it means to be a McQuaid Man for Others. Whether it’s getting daily mass set up in the chapel or leading retreats for our students, he lives the McQuaid mission every day and is a “give you the shirt off his back” type of man. Our students and coaches can look to Coach Bates as a tremendous role model of growth academically, athletically, and spiritually. Teams coming together to pray and worship is a very special opportunity that we have here.

Open to Growth: Bobby Bates, Football

While many people subscribe to the idea “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Coach Bobby Bates is constantly innovating – from installing new schemes and personnel groupings, to always aspiring to be a better coach and leader. There is certainly a lot of consistency in his program, but Coach Bates is a life-long learner and is never satisfied resting on his laurels. His willingness to constantly learn and adapt is part of what makes him such a great teacher and coach.

Loving:

I couldn’t highlight just one coach for this category because it is embodied across the whole department. At the end of the day, we want each student to love playing their sport, love their teammates, and love the overall experience. Every coach has a different style, but they all lead with the student-athletes’ best interest in mind, and that’s the most important thing. Alumni coming back to coach, attend games, or support from afar is a testament to our coaches and shows that kids love to play here.

Having these guys (and many other unmentioned coaches and colleagues) to look up to makes me feel like I couldn’t be in a better place to learn and grow. Whether it’s asking a coach about X’s and O’s or schemes, figuring out the best way to structure practice, or just having a random conversation about chicken wings or sandwiches, I always feel supported here. The time and energy I see these guys put in makes me want to do the same for the kids.

What Does it Mean to Be an IgKnighter?

12/15/2023

After a three-year hiatus, McQuaid will once again host the FIRST Lego League Regional Qualifier, tomorrow, December 16th. As we prepare to welcome twenty teams from all over the region, we hear from Aaron Schnittman, STEM and Makerspace teacher, and robotics coach.

Can you describe the year-over-year journey of a McQuaid student who is part of the robotics program?

Robotics is one of the only sports or competitive opportunities as a sixth grader. Our program is designed so that a student graduates from the Future IgKnighters, our middle school team and, in ninth grade, joins the FIRST Robotics Competition. That is where you build much larger-scale, almost industrial-level robots. So it’s a huge jump from Lego robotics in eighth grade to competitive robotics. A student who is intimidated by jumping into the high school team has an opportunity to do VEX Robotics, which is a credit-bearing class. 

Who oversees the robotics teams?

We have mentors from all over the region. In robotics, we use the words “mentor” and “coach” interchangeably. Their main job is to teach the students all the skills needed to build a competitive robot – how to build it safely, how to use all the tools and machines safely, but then step back and let the students do their own learning and make their own mistakes as they go.   

We have mentors that hold hundreds of patents. We have mentors that are at the cutting edge of computer software engineering. We have mentors that are experts with tools. We have mentors who are really good at teaching kids how to solve problems on their own. We have mentors who are really good at exposing kids to innovation. 

What skills and knowledge can students in the program expect to gain?

I think it’s the soft skill, which is the most important, of just being able to talk to your teammates and listen to your teammates and form a bond. It takes a long time to build trust and a rapport. Of course, we want the students to gradually advance in their problem solving and engineering as they progress. But mostly, they are just kids that are learning about each other. 

What are the parallels and distinctions between a robotics team and an athletic team?

The first thing we like to say about the robotics program is, “everybody’s a starter and nobody sits on the bench”. I know a lot of students in the athletic program who want to be on the field, but they’re not on the field all the time. But the parallel I would draw is: you could have somebody who’s really good at coding, or they know how to run all the machines, but if they’re not able to look around and see that they’re ultimately a member of a team, then they’re not bringing the team up. A huge element of FIRST is trying to make sure kids understand that they’re part of a team, and that the team relies on them.

Just like in running, or in soccer, or football, you’re never done. You don’t ever sit back and say, “oh, I guess I’m as fast as I’m gonna get.” You can always get a little stronger and a little faster. For the most part, the robot is never done. You’re never finished. If you have an extra day, you’re going to keep tweaking it. If our competition was two weeks from now, the kids would be tweaking their robots and working on their projects for another two weeks. There are going to be kids on Saturday that are fixing their code and updating their code and all that stuff right up to the last minute. 

Who should join the robotics team?

I definitely believe that every single person has a spot on a team like this. You need to be competitive, of course. You need to have that fire to say, “I am going to go the extra mile. I’m going to spend the extra hour. I’m going to get in that zone and get lost in what I’m doing.”

What are the long-term benefits of being part of a robotics team? 

It is important for people to know that there are a lot of areas in college and professionally out there for FIRST alumni. People who are looking to hire anyone who can work on a team, who can problem solve, who can be an engineer or a computer software ninja – they are almost always looking for somebody who went through the FIRST program. 

What sets the robotics program at McQuaid apart? 

McQuaid has done a fantastic job of supporting the program. It has made our robotics program a priority. One easy example is that we have the space and facilities to both build and drive the robot. A lot of schools don’t have a place to practice driving. The ability to have a space to practice without needing to carpool off-campus is huge. 

For someone who has never attended a robotics competition, what should we expect this weekend? 

The competition itself is broken down into four parts, and they’re all equally weighted. One part is the robot game, which the kids get the most excited about. One part is an innovation project where they need to follow a fairly vague prompt from FIRST. They need to do some research and come up with an innovative solution from that research. And then they present their idea in front of a panel of judges. There’s also a component called “Core Values”, which places an emphasis on sportsmanship: How do you work within your team? How do you work externally to demonstrate the values of FIRST in general? How do you solve problems within your team? And then the fourth part is robot design. So, how did you design your robot? How did you code it and how did you strategize the game? 

Robotics competitions are frequently compared to a combination between a circus and a science fair. There is a lot of loud music, a lot of weird dancing. The judges are going to be wearing crazy hats to disarm the kids. Every team comes in with fun t-shirts and a healthy dose of silliness.

 

Best of luck to tomorrow’s competitors!

 

FortKnight will take a brief recess until 2024. Thank you for reading!

They Get the Big Things 

12/1/2023

By Anna Koulouris, English Teacher

Kids these days sometimes get a bad rap. TikTok, Fortnite, shortened attention spans, and as a group of third-graders at a public school put it to me last year, “We’re the Covid kids.” “ —Yeah!” echoed his friend, “We’re the Covid kids.”

These are some of the associations slung their way, fairly or not.

I’ve openly, lovingly, joked with my students before about their generation, especially when the contrast between their wizardry on the iPads and my granny-like adoption of the Schoology platform comes into stark relief. One of the most glaring generational differences is easily observed in English class, where it seems that the cost of ubiquitous, convenient communication technology in our lives is that formal written expression has somehow backslid into being constantly casual. As a result, we, teachers, find ourselves more than ever re-explaining grammar rules and constantly reinforcing them.

I’ve often found myself wondering with exasperation what this means. Does a loosening grasp on formal language indicate an unpleasant parallel in terms of deep thought? Do students think about books the way the older generations did? Can we encourage all the contemporary leaps and bounds while still preserving the rigorous, admirable parts of the past?

Over the course of the year so far, which is my first at McQuaid, I’ve observed some promising things and I’m piecing together an answer to my own question. As we’ve gone deeper into the books, and deeper into deeper books, the students have picked up with the keenest of eyes and discerning of hearts, the literature’s most stirring messages.

“Our next novel is a heavy one,” I began my introduction to To Kill A Mockingbird with the freshmen, setting them up for an array of difficult subject matter. Race, class hierarchy, rape, injustice, courtrooms that still hand down electric chair sentences. It’s not merely that these are weighty subjects, it’s that there is no point to discuss these subjects in classrooms if you’re not prepared to take them to their most significant, often uncomfortable ends.

My students, the teenage boys who occasionally capitalize the wrong words for emotional emphasis, or leave off periods at the end of sentences for a more casual vibe, have blown me away with their sophistication of very human and spiritual insights. We are currently discussing the pivotal courtroom scenes where Atticus, a 1930s small-town Alabama lawyer, fights to defend an innocent black man falsely accused of a crime, which in that context amounted to automatic presumption of guilt, and death.

Leading up to these monumental scenes, Atticus’s young children learn lessons from their childhood adventures in the neighborhood which foreshadow the bigger lessons to come. In class, we’ve kept a kind of mental tab of these lessons, often articulated by the experienced, and tired, Atticus, who embodies a lifetime of wisdom. At 15 years old, our freshmen have not had much time nor independence to experience the world. But, like the kids in the book, their minds are wide open. Their willingness to put themselves in another’s shoes is immediate. Their capacity to envision a place they don’t know — a segregated small town in another region of the country with its idiosyncratic blessings and troubles — is boundless.

We’ve met a mean old lady who shouts obscenities to passersby but voluntarily dies painfully and alone because she doesn’t want to be beholden to her morphine addiction. They understood why this was brave. We’ve seen a series of corrupt witnesses shoddily but confidently testify that an innocent black man committed a crime. They understood that the integrity of the courts is directly linked to the integrity of the country. We’ve seen a mob bent on killing good men for twisted notions of justice disintegrate at the foot of a jailhouse. They understood that mobs, at the end of the day, are made up of individuals who may melt at the honesty of a child.

They understood these and other notions instantly. They actually explained them to me.

“Isn’t it strange?” I asked, “Why would Atticus compare the darkness of the ‘evil assumptions’ of ignorant men to the blackness of an innocent man’s black skin?”

“Because he’s using their own terms. It’s about skin color to them,” was the answer. Not a beat missed.

Lately, inescapably, nebulous cultural debate seems to be swirling, obscuring, and distorting our perceptions of one another – between generations, religions, political parties, and sexes. Education finds itself frequently at the center of these conversations, being the nucleus of thought, learning, and generation shaping. Notions of censorship and activism seem to rise and fall like the tide, as well as considerations that students are not up to snuff since Covid.

“What is it with this generation?” we might find ourselves asking, even in the classroom.

For what it’s worth, what I’ve found is this: Despite the occasional maddening grammatical liberty taken in formal essay writing (including a very clever “mic drop” at the end of a paper – true story), our students are lighting the path forward. In their youth their hearts are elastic and strong, and their minds spacious to hold truths that literature demands us to consider. The classroom is the space in which these traits are nurtured, even required of them. Language may shift, aided by technology and media, but as we grapple with preserving the rules and formalities which are thankfully the easier things to teach, we should measure where we are by their handling of the big things. So far, they seem to be getting it.

 

Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Cafeteria

11/17/2023

By Roger Henry, Kitchen Staff, Recipient of The Thomas A. Shields, Jr. McQuaid Jesuit Community Member of the Year Award in 2019

I hear my name two hundred times a day.

Imagine getting called two hundred times in one day. “Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger!” Sometimes they tell me they like my cookies. But mostly I hear, “What’s up Roger?! How we doin’ Rog?!” That’s what it’s like for me working at McQuaid. But I like that.

Back in 2007, Dave DelGaudio, the manager of the cafeteria, hired me. I started as a dishwasher and stayed there for a while. But then I moved up to Grill Cook. When they refurbished the kitchen, they put in a grill. We didn’t have a grill back in the day. When they offered me the job as the grill cook, I had no experience, so I was on-the-job training. I took some classes. My favorite thing to cook on the grill is Rodeo Burgers. Now, I’m a jack of all trades. I work the register, the grill, and I still sometimes wash dishes.

I used to squirt the boys with the hose when I was washing dishes. They’d be walking by on their way back to class. They’d come by, and I would hose them down. They loved it. There used to be more smart mouths around here. But it was all in fun. They’ve changed their style too. They’re more creative with their hair today than they were sixteen years ago.

I have always worked in customer service. There’s this thing called REACH. It means, “Remember Everyone Affects Customer Happiness.” You always have to put a smile on your face. You shake everyone’s hand, or, at McQuaid, give them a fistbump. You smile. You talk with them. That’s what you call good customer service. And in today’s field, not enough people have that.

At McQuaid, it’s a great bunch of people to work with. I like the social aspect. I like talking with the boys, too. Sometimes they come up and hang out around my register. I like that a lot. They ask me about their tests. I’ve been out of school since ‘87, so I can’t help them with school that much anymore, but they still like to ask. I like to joke around with them.

I like being around this atmosphere with the boys. Over 16 years I’ve seen thousands of them come through. The majority of them I’ve talked to, so they know who I am. When I’m out at different places, they come up to me. That happens A LOT. I go to Chipotle and I see boys who graduated 2 or 3 years ago. I’ll be with my girlfriend and they make me look good. “Oh this guy is unbelievable,” and all this and that. I’m glad they remember me. I’m not surprised, though. They say my name two hundred times a day. “Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger!”

Roger’s secret barbecue sauce recipe:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding

And Everyone Decideth: The Best Graduating Class

11/3/2023

By Casey MacClaren, ’12, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations

McQuaid has formed young men for almost 70 years. But the question remains: Which year was “the best”?

Through my work as Alumni Director, I have the opportunity to speak with alumni spanning the life of McQuaid Jesuit. We work hand in hand planning reunions, gather across the country for JUG Nights, hit the links together, ring in the holiday season at Bull Roast, and so much more. I always enjoy learning more about the culture and traditions of McQuaid from each era. Alumni tend to note the differences they see these days, but also point out all the similarities and traditions that continue to live on. Though every class has had a different experience and comes with different stories to share, there is one thing I can always be sure of. Every alumnus believes his class was the best.

Well… there can’t be more than one best, so who is it?

Thinking back on what has been shared with me, I recall that oftentimes classes will speak of memories of their time spent with friends in the senior lounge, which has been revitalized in 2023 after being non-existent for many years. Many discuss their favorite – or at least most feared/respected – teachers that impacted them and so many around them. For others it is the championship season their class was a part of or a play that filled the auditorium! Not every year of graduates had the opportunity to participate in a retreat, but those that did may consider that to be the deciding factor.

In my reflection, I began to think that there was no common factor. Different teams, new teachers, changing facilities, and unique retreats all serve to create experiences that simply cannot be compared apples to apples.

I began to consider the 50th year reunion classes that I’ve worked with, all of whom were, naturally, “the best”. Time and time again I’ve seen friends from 50 years prior come together to enjoy a weekend with one another. Name tags become vitally important to place faces that have changed, especially for those who may not have seen each other in decades. But, without fail, as soon as a name tag is read, you can see the memories flood back. Suddenly, a group of men becomes a group of boys, back in the halls, picking up where they left off many years ago.

This is where I came to a realization… but before I crowned “the best” class I needed validation. So, I decided I had to ask the alums, “what made your years at McQuaid ‘the best’?” More specifically, I asked the alums who decided to return to McQuaid as faculty and staff. Here’s what they had to say:

“…[W]hat made my McQuaid experience the best were my teachers. To a person they were all outstanding. Not only were they masters of their disciplines they were also outstanding role models. They simply wouldn’t accept (sometimes at room filling volume) anything less than our best. Their expertise and tutelage gave me an enormous advantage in both college and graduate school.” – Jim Clar, ‘78

“For me, what made my McQuaid experience so memorable was the faculty.  The teachers I encountered were not only masters in their material, but also true gentlemen and modeled that each and every day.” – Dan Gorton, ‘90

“The friendships formed in the shared experiences of dress code, jug, challenging coursework, sports, activities, having to drive all over upstate NY to visit friends from all over… was what made my McQuaid experience so amazing…” – Matt Whelehan, ‘96

“What made McQuaid “the best” was the relationships I made among my classmates as we navigated the challenges and joys of middle school and high school together.  I still count those guys as my closest friends.” – Colin Orr, ‘01

“The support my class had for each other at every extracurricular activity such as sporting events, plays, coffee houses, etc. made my experience unmatched. McQuaid always felt like home to us.” – Cory Parker, ‘13

“What made my McQuaid experience special, is almost impossible to summarize in a sentence or two, but simply put it was/are the people in the building. Having these authentic relationships is a testament to the hard work of the faculty/staff, and these same relationships I developed years ago with my fellow brothers, still stay true to this day.” – Chris Zaepfel, ‘16

From these quotes it’s clear to me that the building, the championships, and the extracurriculars aren’t what make a year “the best”. Rather, it’s the teachers who formed you, the friends who laughed with you, and all of the people here that contributed to your McQuaid Jesuit experience in their own unique way.

Throughout the years, faculty retire, students graduate, and traditions change. However, as Andrew Boone used to famously say (I really was paying attention in AP Lit, I promise) “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. Each year, new faculty members join the community, eager to form young men. Every September, young men will set foot in 1800 S. Clinton for the first time. With every class new traditions will be born and old ones will live on!

In reality, no two classes in the history of McQuaid have ever had the same experience. With each unique experience comes countless reasons why they might consider their time “the best” and they’re not wrong! To each class their time was the best because it was their time with friends, faculty, and staff who each played a role in their formation.

Although, if you ask me, 2012 was “the best”.

From Generation to Generation: Aquinas Week 

10/20/2023

By Matthew Whelehan, ’96, P, ’25, ’28, Theology Teacher

 

I bleed Black & Gold.

I don’t say that lightly. Allow me to put it in context.

My father, Rick, graduated from McQuaid Jesuit in 1968. Six of my uncles graduated throughout the ’60s and ’70s. My brother, Tim, graduated in ’93, I in ’96, my brother, Brendan, in ’99, and my brother-in-law, Pat Ryan, in ’00. I have two sons, William (Liam) ’25 and Riordan ’28, who are current students. Almost all of us share something besides McQuaid in common: McQuaid football.

And I’ve been teaching theology at McQuaid Jesuit for more than 21 years. I was a founding member of the Simba Society (shout-out to Zach Nowak ‘95) as a student and was the faculty moderator of Simba for more than 10 years.

So this McQuaid vs. Aquinas game is kind of a big deal for me and my family.

Especially since my grandfather was an Aquinas graduate and I had many cousins and friends attend and play football for the “Institute on Dewey Avenue.”

But being born into a McQuaid family, I’ve been cheering on the Knights since before I could walk. I remember helping Mrs. Hahn serve up sausage with peppers and onions before the big game. I remember asking my dad if the Pittsburgh Steelers were McQuaid playing on television. I’ve broken drumsticks upon a bass drum in the stands and screamed “A-Q-WHO?!?!” until I was hoarse. My own sons learned the Simba cheer while they were in elementary school.

And I remember the strange mixture of tension and honor in being able to play in the game against Aquinas. We played at their old field. Sadly, we lost my year on varsity. My teammates won the following year.

What hallowed history led to this moment – two teams clashing tomorrow at Fauver Stadium on the U of R campus? The story of how the rivalry began was first told to me by my father, and then Tom Sprague, long-time coach, math teacher, and McQuaid Jesuit Athletic Hall of Fame inductee. Here’s how I understand it:

Throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s, Aquinas was a national powerhouse in high school football. They flew across the country… to play high school football. They had a 20,000 seat stadium (where the Bills won their first ever game in the AFL). They were nationally ranked year after year, and their own team name, the “Little Irish”, comes from the fact that so many of their players graduated and moved on to play for one of the elite college football programs: the University of Notre Dame.

So, when the younger all-boys school finally played this long-established national powerhouse in 1964, in Aquinas Memorial Stadium (which would later be renamed Holleder Memorial Stadium), the smart money was on Aquinas.

But we stunned them that first game. They weren’t ready for the new upstart team from the other side of the Genesee River. McQuaid won 14-13.

We defied everyone’s expectations, and a rivalry was born.

Crowds cheering for their teams, their schools, their families, and athletes striving for their teammates… even if one team is struggling in a particular season, this game always hits different. You can never count McQuaid or Aquinas out. I remember how hard it was NOT to look forward to that game. Trying to focus on the game you had that week while knowing the Aquinas game was three weeks away was always a challenge.

And now, my son Liam is on the Varsity Football team. He will be part of the same rivalry in which his grandfather, great uncles, uncles, and father played. He will don the uniform, join with his brother Knights, go out on that field and play, cheer, and support his teammates. He has my support, along with that of his great uncles, uncles, and grandfather. He and the Knights have the support of hundreds of their classmates, and thousands and thousands of alumni who have stood in the bleachers, battled on the field, and striven to beat Aquinas since 1964.

When the rivalry is at its best, it’s amazing. Through the years, both fanbases have raised money and donated canned goods for hungry people in our community. They have also paid honor to fallen heroes, as well as ill students and coaches.

That will always surpass any game, score, or ill will between McQuaid and Aquinas: Two Catholic schools working to make our world better. To live out the gospels as best we can.

I hope that this game is a game for the ages. I pray that nobody on either team gets injured. I pray that we fans are loud, proud, and positive. And I, along with all the thousands and thousands of Knights, hope for a McQuaid victory.

Are.

You.

READY?!?!

 

Please revisit FortKnight in two weeks to read Casey MacClaren, ’12 offering his opinion on which class of graduates is the best.

A Lingering-Out Sweet Skill: Sophomore Conversations

10/6/2023

By Jim Clar ’78,  Theology Teacher

 

“But Jesus said, ‘Suffer the children and forbid them not to come onto me: for

to such belong the kingdom of heaven’.”

-Matthew 19.14

Those who teach them might well quip that Jesus, in the oft-quoted passage from Matthew above, could not have been talking about sophomores. Then again, maybe he was … at least as far as the “suffer” part is concerned. Some rabbinical scholars also suggest that Isaac, at the time of Abraham’s preempted sacrifice, may have been fifteen or sixteen years old. One might reasonably wonder therefore at the venerable patriarch’s actual motivation.

Jocularity aside, it was observed by our administration some years ago that sophomores were a bit “under-served.” Freshmen, by necessity, get a great deal of attention as they begin to navigate the treacherous shoals of high school while still (perhaps) hearing the siren call of childish behavior. Juniors, especially toward the end of the year, are beginning the dreaded college application process and likewise require a good deal of guidance and encouragement. Seniors are seniors and need frequent, shall we say, re-direction. Of all the classes, therefore, sophomores tend to fly under the radar. (That, by the way, is part of the reason that my own sophomore year at McQuaid back in the 1970’s was a favorite time. For better or worse, we were left pretty much on our own with our corduroys, loud ties and big hair).

To address this gap, a program called Sophomore Conversations was begun. Each year, every 10th grader in the building sits down with an adult and has a rather free-flowing conversation. The point of that dialogue – which may be with an adult that sophomore does not know particularly well, if at all – is basically to “check the oil,” to get a sense of where that student is currently, where they have been and where they yet hope to go in what remains of their journey here at McQuaid. The lens that is used to guide those discussions is the McQuaid Jesuit Profile of the Graduate at Graduation or, more colloquially, the “grad at grad.” The grad at grad consists of five aspirational elements – open to growth, intellectually competent, committed to justice, loving and religious.

In my sophomore Theology classes, I have gotten into the habit of beginning each school year by asking my students to reflect on the grad at grad. Not only is this something that I think is useful for them to do for its own sake, but it also serves as preparation (prelection) for the Sophomore Conversations they will have beginning next week on October 10th. Reading their reflections each year is a joy. I am frequently amazed at the honesty, sincerity and insightfulness of their responses. This year, the reflections I was privileged to read were particularly astute and provocative. And, yes, I am still talking about sophomores!

One of the questions I asked the guys to consider was which of the five elements of the grad at grad they thought was most important and why. The consensus opinion among the students this year was that “open to growth” deserved pre-eminent place. Many reasoned that being open to growth was in some important ways a “precondition” for all the other elements. As one young man put it, “being open to growth means that you are willing to learn. It also means that you are more likely to be aware of and to empathize with the circumstances of others. That includes stuff like loving and committed to justice.”

Another reason, perhaps, that the students this year were so keen on “open to growth” is a shift in the focus of education over the past decade or so. As one particularly perceptive young man wrote: “the thing is, we don’t just need to be given information. We have access to all sorts of stuff on our phones and iPads. We need to be taught how to figure out what information is good and [then] become flexible enough to put it to good use.”

Unknowingly, this last student is echoing an observation made by the educational theorist, Sugata Mitra. Mitra argues that for generations students were educated by having information crammed into their heads “just in case” they, like Robinson Crusoe, were ever marooned on a deserted island. Under such conditions, the student would need to come pre-packaged with all the information needed to survive. Mitra contends that given today’s technology the need for “just in case” education has long since passed.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of students who identified “loving” as the most important element. I don’t know about you, but I find it quite remarkable that “loving” would make the grade with any group of high school students.

Overall, the responses elicited by this assignment have reinforced my conviction that such reflection in class – and conversations such as the boys will be having next week – are eminently fruitful and even necessary. Not only are they powerful exercises in meta-thinking, they can also, if properly attended to and processed, guide teachers and administrators in shaping the way they educate the young men in front of them to be persons for and with others; persons, that is to say, who are open to growth, committed to justice, intellectually competent, loving and religious.

In his mighty poem, “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins asserts that progress/conversion of the heart can be either “once at a crash” or (as is often the case with 10th graders) more a “lingering-out sweet skill.” Whether fast or slow, judging by the student reflections I’ve read over the years, I’d say we are certainly on the right track even – or maybe especially – with sophomores.

 

Please revisit FortKnight in two weeks to read Matthew Whelehan’s, ’96, P ’25, ’28  generational preview of the McQuaid vs. Aquinas football game.

To Strive, To Seek, To Find and Not to Yield: Curriculum Innovation 
9/22/2023

By Mario Morales-Bermúdez, Latin Teacher; Publisher, The Shield

 

I have never taught a class the same way twice.

That’s no idle boast. Ask any of my students what, say, their second year of Latin was like, and
have fun comparing stories.

Frankly, it’s not much of a boast at all.

It’s a lot of work to tear a curriculum down to its true successes, year after year, and try to build
something better around them, especially when there are four or five curricula that require that
treatment.

Plus, when you change things around every year, you lose the stability and familiarity that
repeated experience provides. You introduce even more variables into the immensely complex
human equation that is education.

So why do I do it? Well, because I get bored easily, but also because if I think there’s a better
way to teach than what I’m doing right now, I owe it to my students to try it. I owe it to myself to
try it.

All of which brings me to the newest addition to the Foreign Language department: the
Language 1A course, which fuses important elements of its Language Seminar predecessor
with the typical coursework you’d get in the first level of a language.

Over the summer, the Foreign Language department met several times to iron out the entirety of
the English-focused first semester, which we are effectively co-teaching. During those hours, we
outlined interesting projects, found fun videos and activities, and chose the most important
topics to help our seventh graders become precise, passionate, and energetic writers.

Now, I did teach a year of seventh-grade language in 2020 . . . but that was Intro to Language,
not Language Seminar. I haven’t co-taught a class since 2014, when I last taught Spanish 1. (I
wasn’t even married then.) As some of my newest students found out during schola brevis, I
have never taught a project-based class.

In other words, this should be a wonderful experience, right? I just spent the first several
paragraphs of this post talking about my constant need to tinker with my classes, didn’t I?
Surely this is just the next level of that challenge.

Unfortunately, a desire to modify and improve a class presupposes that you’ve taught that class
at least once.

So as I write this, somewhere under twelve hours from my first Latin 1A class, I’m also
somewhere between terrified and restless—and thankful my students aren’t going to read this
for another two weeks.

The reason I’m terrified is simple: I’ve never done this before. Even if I had, you never know
how the next class of students will react to the parts of your curriculum you’ve kept the same.

Assignments that fit perfectly into your schedule last time become impractical quagmires you
abandon.  Activities you considered ironclad bounce off a class so hard that you wonder whether
they’re worth doing ever again.

Despite all of that, though, I can’t wait to teach this class.

Partly, that’s because our department did such amazing work preparing this class. I’d like to take
this moment to thank my colleagues—Gena Stoll-Ewart, Vanessa Bucukovski, Lena DeLuca,
Jennifer Martínez, and our intrepid chair Susan Hickman—for all of their work over the summer
on making this course a worthy new offering at McQuaid Jesuit. We think everything we’ve put
into this course exemplifies not just good pedagogy, but the true spirit of Jesuit education.

Partly, it’s because I’m a total grammar fiend, and this first semester is a chance to shift my
thinking on how to teach writing. English isn’t my first language, and when I learned to write and
speak formally, I did it with a big book of grammar drills and a lot of practice writing essays in
longhand. Somehow, it became why I chose to specialize in teaching languages (quit laughing,
I’m serious), and now I have the opportunity to transmit that passion in new ways.

But most of all, it’s because I refuse to ask anything of my students that I would not do myself.
Some of you know that I address my students formally, using “Mr.” or “Domne” followed by their
surname, because I consider it only fair if I am asking them to do the same for me.

By that same token, I can’t ask them to take on the challenge of learning a whole new language
if I’m not willing to be a little uncomfortable, even a little scared, in order to teach them one.

Have a great year, Knights.

FortKnight 

The biweekly chronicles of 1800 South Clinton by McQuaid Jesuit community members.

Hope Springs Eternal: The First Day of School

By Ben Bogdan ‘17, Associate Director of Admissions

 

What day marks the dawn of a new year?

The calendar says it’s January 1st, but – if you’re like me – this date can feel a bit arbitrary.
When I was a kid and the biggest Boston Red Sox fan in New York State, Opening Day
represented the true “beginning”. For many families in our community, there’s a
different, natural answer: yesterday, the first day of school.

The start of a new year brings endless uncertainty with it. Before our beloved team’s first game, the
internal monologue of a baseball diehard reads like an optimistic line by Alexander Pope. “Hope
springs eternal,” is the mantra. In this context it means, “This could be our year!”

The relative quiet of summer at McQuaid Jesuit becomes a crescendo in its waning weeks. As
students and faculty gradually emerged in the halls, visiting the bookstore or organizing a
classroom, I asked them to indulge a brief, impromptu, and anonymous (to encourage
participation) survey: “What do you feel is the greatest unknown entering this new year?
And what is your greatest hope for it?” Here are some responses.

1. Incoming Student, McQuaid Jesuit Class of 2030 (6th Grade)

Unknown: “Well, I’m kind of worried about how I’m going to get to all the rooms. It’s a big school,
so I’m worried about that, but *with a cool confidence* I’m going to make it work.”

Hope: “I really hope for a fresh start. I’m going to be able to experience a new environment, and
it’s gonna be nice. I have high hopes.”

2. Mother of the Above Student

Unknown: “The structure and rigor. I think that school has been relatively easy to date, but
moving to McQuaid for 6th grade is like graduating to the next chapter. I think the McQuaid
curriculum will be a good challenge.”

Hope: “My hope is that this is a year when he’s really able to find and explore his passions. This
is a new environment. It’s beyond academics. And that’s what me, my husband, and my son
really are so excited about.”

3. Jesuit Priest, McQuaid Jesuit First Graduating Class of 1958 (I promise not to spoil all of them)

Unknown: “Who will be the next president of the school?”

Hope: “That we will live up to the ideals of McQuaid, especially in the development of Men for
Others.”

4. Former Principal, Current Staff (relax, he doesn’t mind)

Unknown: “The margin by which the Bills will win the Super Bowl.”

Hope: “My greatest hope for the upcoming school year is that each of our students discovers
something about themselves.”

5. Senior, Executive Council Member

Unknown: “What’s the next step? Figuring out everything with college… Where am I going to be
after McQuaid?”

Hope: “Just to make a lot of memories, honestly. It’s senior year, my last year. I want to make
as many memories as possible. I want to stay present.”

6. Teacher

Unknown: “Will the lingering effects of students’ educational experience during the pandemic
continue in some way? How will we help them succeed despite the impact?”

Hope: “My greatest hope is that every student tries something new this year and is open to
growth.”

7. Freshman

Unknown: “Will I bond with the other kids? Will I meet new friends?”

Hope: “That I get a good part in the musical production. I also hope to get enough sleep.”

8. Two Staff Members in the Same Room

Staff A: “My greatest unknown is what my favorite meal is going to be in the cafeteria. I hope the
walking tacos will be back.”

Staff B: “They’ll think that’s me. Thanks.”

9. Junior

Unknown: “I think the biggest unknown for me is the amount of work I’m going to get. Last year I
only took one AP class. This year, I’m taking four.”

Hope: “To do well in all my classes and build a healthy relationship with my teachers. Also, to
win a World Championship in robotics.”

10. Teacher

Unknown: “What will be the culture of the year, the feel of the year? And I think the senior class
is going to define that. I have a lot of confidence in them.”

Hope: “That our students encounter God in a meaningful way and know in a greater sense how
much they’re loved.”

Yesterday, I walked down to the cafeteria and ran into respondent #1, the 6th grader. I asked
how his first day was going. “Good,” he said cheerfully. “This is my second lunch. I went to the
wrong lunch period earlier, but now, this is my right one.” “Bonus lunch!” I exclaimed. It sounded
like he was “making it work”, indeed. “How were your classes this morning?” “Easy.” Sorry,
Mom.

Still in the cafeteria, I observed a student approach a classmate who was eating alone. The two
then walked together and sat down at a crowded, lively table. It reminded me of respondent #7,
the freshman who wondered if he’d make new friends, and respondent #3, the Jesuit who aimed
to mold Men for Others.

Around 3 pm, I followed up with respondent #5, the senior. I asked what he was going to
remember about his last first day at McQuaid. “Definitely messing up on the announcements,”
he replied with a grin.

I’ve all but given up on my Sox at this point in early September. But yesterday, the now-noisy
halls brought me back to that preseason mantra. To every Knight: I hope this is your year.

 

Please revisit FortKnight in two weeks to read Mario Morales-Bermudez’ reflection on curriculum
innovation.

Welcome to FortKnight, McQuaid Jesuit’s new biweekly blog. We want to tell the day-to-day stories that you might not otherwise hear. Every 2 weeks, a different individual will write a post. We hope you enjoy, and encourage you to share your favorite columns.