By Eric Ferkenhoff, Chicago Tribune Staff Writer,
April 3, 2000

Rev. James W. Regan, 88, a longtime theology teacher at Fenwick High School in Oak Park who remained a mentor and inspiration to many former students, died Thursday, March 30, in Oak Park Hospital after a brief battle with pneumonia.

Ordained in 1936, Rev. Regan joined Fenwick in the mid-1940s and spent nearly 30 years at the school, using humor and straight talk to inspire his students, said Robert Ras, a graduate of Fenwick and former chairman of the school's board of trustees.

"He was unquestionably the best classroom teacher that any student of his ever had," said Ras, 53, who graduated from Fenwick in 1963 but kept in touch with Rev. Regan. "He had the ability to challenge the brightest students, but taught the spectrum, whether you were a Rhodes Scholar or just someone going through the motions."

Ras said he spent the final hours with Rev. Regan at Oak Park Hospital, where he had been since suffering a stroke last month. While physically frail, Ras said Rev. Regan's mind remained strong and he was able to pray part of the Rosary with him shortly before he died.

"He couldn't say the whole thing out loud, but you knew he was praying along with you," Ras said. "We were approaching his moment of joy, as sad as it was going to be for the rest of us."

Rev. Regan, a native of Lawrence, Mass., attended Providence College and entered the Dominican Order in Springfield, Ky. He also studied at the House of Studies in River Forest and the Dominican House in Washington, D.C., where he was ordained in 1936.

In addition to Fenwick, Rev. Regan also taught at DePaul University and Rosary College in River Forest, and was active in weekend retreats and working with married couples.

Ras described his former teacher as someone who mostly kept to himself, but when approached, "he would take all the time in the world," often using humor to teach his lessons.

"He didn't force himself on you," Ras said. "People sought him out."

Rev. Regan is survived by his brother, Maurice, of Rhode Island, and several nieces and nephews.

A funeral mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, 7200 W. Division St., River Forest.


By Susan Dodge Staff Reporter
Chicago Sun Times, April 3,2000

His students included a physician-astronaut, a Heisman Trophy winner, an Olympic gold medalist and several CEOs of Fortune 100 corporations. The Rev. James W. Regan, O.P., left his mark on thousands of students at Oak Park's Fenwick High School by entertaining and challenging them in the classroom, said James Bowman, one of his students and former religion editor of the Chicago Daily News.

Father Regan died Thursday at Oak Park Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was 88.

"Oh, he was marvelous," Bowman said. "Any reference he made to Scripture or church teaching, he would pick up the events of the day and tie them into what he was teaching, whether it was something from Time magazine or something from the daily newspapers."

Father Regan taught theology based on concepts from Aquinas, using everyday examples to capture the attention of students, said Robert A. Ras, one of his students and a former chairman of Fenwick's board of trustees. "Father Regan was the most influential classroom teacher in the entire history of Fenwick High School, without question," Ras said.

After teaching theology at Fenwick for more than 30 years, Father Regan retired in the mid-1970s but still kept up with everyone's interests, from sports to current events. He was known for clipping articles that pertained to his former students' interests and mailing the articles to them, said the Rev. William Bernacki, subprior at the Dominican Priory in River Forest., where Father Regan lived. "He had a good sense of humor and a magnificent mind," Bernacki said. "His students said, 'He made you learn,' and he was just wonderful."

Some of Father Regan's former students included Joseph Kerwin, a physician-astronaut and member of the 1973 Skylab 2 crew; John Lattner, a 1953 Heisman Trophy winner; Kenneth Sitzberger, a 1964 Olympic gold medalist: in diving; Edward Brennan, former CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co., and Bernard Brennan, former chairman of Montgomery Ward & Co.

Born in Lawrence, Mass., Father Regan attended Providence College and entered the Dominican Order in Springfield, Ky. He studied at the House of Studies in River Forest and the Dominican House in Washington, D.C., where he was ordained in 1936. He is survived by his brother, Maurice, and several nieces and nephews.

Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, 7200 W. Division, River Forest. Interment will follow at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines.