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Former Students Return to Thank Their Viatorian Teachers

March 1, 2018

It has been more than 50 years since Erik Blanc and Tom Wake graduated from Spalding Institute in Peoria, but they vividly remember the impact of their Viatorian teachers.

Erik Blanc, left, and Tom Wake, second from right, reunite with their former teachers, Fr. Donald Fitzsimmons, second from left, and Br. Don Houde, right

They returned recently to the Viatorian Province Center to thank their former teachers — Fr. Donald Fitzsimmons, CSV, and Br. Donald Houde, CSV. In the case of Fr. Fitzsimmons, the pair figures they had not seen him in 50 years, and it had been more than 20 since they had met up with Br. Houde.

“I still remember all the lessons and values they taught me,” says Wake, who ultimately became a veterinarian and practiced for 35 years on Chicago’s south side. “I hope I’ve lived up to what they deserved.”

Back in the early 1960s, when Blanc and Wake attended Spalding, there were 20 Viatorians among the faculty. They did everything in the school, including in Br. Houde’s case, direct the school plays.

Erik Blanc, class of 1965

Tom Wake, class of 1965

“During our senior year, we put on Macbeth,” says Blanc, who played the title role and ultimately went on to become a prosecutor and judge in central Illinois. “Br. Houde directed us (with Fr. George Auger, CSV) and he was the epitome of patience. That’s how we all got through it.”

While Blanc and Wake went on to pursue successful careers, so did their teachers. Br. Houde left Spalding to go Saint Viator High School, where he ultimately served as principal. He ended his career working for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools, as curriculum director.

Erik Blanc as Macbeth

Fr. Fitzsimmons left Spalding to attend the Viatorian seminary before being ordained. He later worked at Saint Viator High School, as a teacher and guidance counselor, before spending more than one dozen years as a substance abuse counselor at a pair of local hospitals.

“It was great to see them again,” Br. Houde said of his former students. “They’ve turned out all right.”