Rev. William J. Bernacki, O.P., 93, died on May 13, 2018. A Fenwick Friar for more than 40 years, he was a revered teacher, coach, president-principal, life trustee, and hall-of-fame recipient of Fenwick High School. An ambassador for Fenwick and witness to the Friar mission, Fr. Bernacki served as Fenwick’s 11th president-principal from 1979 to 1987. His years here also saw him serve as business manager, counselor, golf coach and Fathers Club moderator.
Born in 1924 in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, Fr. Bernacki graduated from Loyola University in 1949, was called to priesthood and entered the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, and was ordained on June 16, 1956. In 1959, he began his service to Fenwick by teaching theology, business law, economics, geography, and civics. Twenty years later, after earning a master’s degree in education and counseling at Loyola University, he was named principal.
In 1987, after nearly 30 years as educator, coach, and administrator, he left Fenwick to become the prior at the Dominican Priory in River Forest and the president of Priory Press. However, he remained active with the high school in a support and advisory role.
He is a member of the Fenwick Hall of Fame, inducted in 1995, and was the 2011 recipient of the school’s Lumen Tranquillum (Quiet Light) Award. Fenwick’s Planned Giving Society is named for Fr. Bernacki. Through the decades, many alumni and families throughout our community came to know his friendship, commitment and impact.
“Fr. Bernacki was president-principal when I first joined the Fenwick faculty,” said Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., current president. “He always put Fenwick first and made it clear that the students are the visible manifestation of the mission of the school. The flourishing of each and every student was the goal of all of his hard work.”
Funeral arrangements are in process.