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Bill Moredock advises SHG seniors Brian McMahon, Will Pufundt and Jessica Edwards.
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Student counsel
Bill Moredock is the man behind the advice
By John Moody

Any distance runner will tell you that running a good race more often than not requires a good start. Interesting that a guy like Bill Moredock would choose to start his days with a pretty good run. It's just two miles or so, not a great distance, but it's certainly no sprint.

Maybe he knows something. It's an easy parallel to draw, that life is akin to a running event - specifically, a marathon and not a short dash. Fitting that Moredock would get up early before the school day starts, put on good shoes and the appropriate clothing, and head out the door of his Southwoods home, getting the work done. He's a big-picture guy. He's interested in the present, to be sure; he has to be. But, the horizon up ahead has caught his eye, too, as he pushes his way step by step. He's also fixed on what's up over that hill, just out of sight - the parts that come later in a journey, the unexpected twists and turns that are revealed as the runner keeps moving, trudging forward.

There's plenty to like about Moredock - his intelligence and caring, his easy and welcoming manner, his patience and humanity - but this few minutes in the morning, the part of the day that is all his, is about the inner man. He can't be the trusted, wise counsel without nurturing this part. One begets the other, the inner and the outer, tied together by more than just bone and sinewy muscle. Heart and soul are in these details.

Moredock, a Ph.D. in psychology and the director of Student and Family Services at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, is a specialist in getting a good start. For 20 years, he's been helping kids at SHG, his alma mater, get off on the right foot in their lives.

Sister Margaret Joanne Grueter, SHG's principal, has worked with him for 14 years. She knows the importance of the good work he's doing.

"He's an expert when it comes to counseling students and families," Grueter says. "He's respected, well-known; his name is out there, and people have a sense of confidence in him because they know his reputation."

Grueter believes that Moredock is effective not only for his professional background, but because he's a family man himself.

Moredock and his "terrific and amazing staff" are about more than academic and college advisement, which are essential to their mission; they also focus on the individual and his or her growth and good health.

"It's not just counseling about classes," she says. "But, it's personal counseling, mentoring, trying to help kids make good decisions."

In his job, Moredock deals with a litany of potentially serious problems: divorce and remarriage issues; clinical depression; anxiety disorders; body image disorder; obsessive disorder; bullying; drugs and alcohol; and just an "overall angst of trying to get through this phase of life."

There are a lot of variables that impact kids' lives today, Moredock says, and school is just one of them.

"Kids want to know, 'Where do I fit?' and there's Facebook, the Internet, texting ..." he says. "There's so much now that parents can't control. I just told one of the kids here that he needs to simplify."

He has the look of a distance runner, not tall, and he's quite lean. His work garb is a pair of pressed khakis, comfortable leather shoes from Cabela's, an oxford blue shirt (SHG insignia) and a striped necktie. In the halls and in his office, kids and colleagues call him "Doc."

Moredock, 55, is a graduate of Christ the King grade school and Griffin High School, class of 1972. Then it was on to South Bend and the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated in 1976. Even now, he loves Irish football. In his day, it was Ara's Era. Tom Clements was the quarterback, sandwiched in the years between the two Joes - Theismann and Montana.

It was at ND, in a sophomore abnormal psychology class that he found his course of study.

"That clicked for me," Moredock says. "And then I took all the psychology courses I could from there."

Moredock's roommate in Grace Hall was an ND offensive lineman, Steve Sylvester, an Ohio boy. Sylvester went on to play nine years in the National Football League for the Raiders; he was on three Super Bowl championship teams.

One of those years, 1984, Sylvester arranged for Moredock, then living in California, and another ND buddy to fly on the Raiders family charter to the Super Bowl in Tampa. The team was already in Florida preparing for the game, but on the ride home, after the Raiders had dispatched the Redskins, they all flew back together - Raiders, Raiderettes, Moredock and all.

"We didn't watch an in-flight movie on the way back, instead we watched the Super Bowl," Moredock recalls. "So I got Marcus Allen sitting right there watching the Super Bowl with me."

Sylvester, or "Syl," as Moredock calls him, has fond memories from their early years together in Grace Hall. Sylvester and the guys in the dorm called Moredock "Bam," taken from a television commercial of the day.

"We lived in the same dorm for three years, and we were roommates for a year," Sylvester says. "Oh, great guy, good person and just funny as hell, great sense of humor. Bam would take everything right to the edge and stop right there.

"We had to create our own fun; there were no frats at Notre Dame and no girls, maybe 200 total. He was from a good middle-class background, which Notre Dame doesn't have anymore."

Sylvester is not surprised that his friend has spent his life helping people. He's even sought Moredock's professional help for his own loved ones over the years.

"He's a great communicator, which is obvious based on what he does for work," he says. "I have called him on a number of occasions to help people on the phone - these are family members and friends. He always takes the call, no charge or anything. I've even called him Christmas morning. He never says no."

The college buddies remain close, speaking by phone regularly and gathering every fall for a football game at South Bend with a group of their old friends. It's a group Sylvester started by sending out 40 invites. From that, 30 guys showed up the first year. They still meet up, with their numbers holding pretty strong at 25.

"Back then, we (football players) lived among the student body," Sylvester says with pride in the fact that most of his friends at school were not athletes.

To that end, of that mini reunion, which they call "Club Inc," only two guys, Sylvester is one, are football players.

After Notre Dame, Moredock went for graduate work at the University of Dayton, another Catholic institution. There, he picked up more psych credits and an enduring passion for Dayton Flyers basketball.

He loved the Marianist priests and brothers at Dayton, loved their devotion to service and their warm, engaging way. He had known back in his undergrad days that he wanted a Ph.D. program, and at Dayton he found a path that led westward.

He headed to San Diego for master's and doctorate degrees at the California School of Professional Psychology.

"All the research was being done there, very cutting edge," he says of his decision to pursue studies and training in California.

Once there, he studied hard, went to work in counseling for Catholic Charities and in private practice as a clinical psychologist. Eventually, he fell in love with a California girl, Sue Fead.

He and Sue met at his graduate school, where she happened to be working. Moredock took more than a year to work up nerve enough to ask her out. Sue jokes that he might have been intimidated by her boss, a Michigan State fan.

It turns out she had some Midwestern roots in her own family, and he learned with time that she was more than willing to move to the Midwest to raise a family. For her, it wouldn't be like moving to a distant planet. She had a feel for the terrain and the people. So, they had their long-term plan.

They married October 12, 1985, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus at Notre Dame.

A dozen years in California ended for Moredock when he was hired as a guidance counselor at SHG. He came back for a visit in 1990 during an Easter break. With two toddlers at home, he thought he might open a private practice, but fate intervened in the form of Sister Mary Paul, then-principal of SHG.

"She was a mover and a shaker," Moredock says of his meeting with her that week. "There was no position open, but you could see her wheels turning. It was a perfect match."

The diocesan grade schools needed psychological services, too, and he could consult there during lunch hours. That program, started by an intuitive nun and a young guy who simply wanted to come home and do worthy work, continues to this day.

Good friend Sylvester talks of the blessings in Bam's life: "He has three of the nicest kids in the world and the nicest wife you could ever meet."

Moredock is indeed a family person. He and Sue have three children. Kaitlin is 23 and in her second year at Notre Dame's law school. Greg, 21, is a senior at Dayton; he plans to apply for law school. McKenzie, 15, is a freshman at SHG and an athlete participating in softball and cross country. Dad has coached lots of teams over the years.

Moredock had his own good start in life, coming from a good, loving family. His parents, Don and Joann (nee Rondelli), both gone now, showed Moredock and his younger sisters, Donna and Karen, the proper way to live as they were growing up.

"From Dad, we learned work ethic and doing the right thing and loyalty," Moredock says. "From Mom, the Italian side, it was warmth, affection and hospitality, Sunday dinner with the family and my faith."

Moredock is a grateful person, too; the Dominican Sisters are a part of that feeling of gratitude he feels, he says.

"The Dominican Sisters really value what the department has to offer," Moredock says of his work. "We don't just push paper here; we're meeting with kids, and it's always been this way."

To be effective in this type of work, Moredock says you need a number of tools: You have to be able to connect to teens, speak their language; be affirming and non-judgmental; be patient and affirming with a sense of humor. But, he says, "you've got to be able to challenge them when they need it."

Evidence of the value placed on the department is seen, Moredock says, in the office's central location in the building.

"Many places push this office to another wing, but we're right in the middle of things."

One of the best parts of his job, he says, is that kids stay in touch ... even when they are all grown up and have kids of their own.

"We get to see the fruits of our labors," he says simply, humbly, adding that every day he gets to make a positive difference in someone's life.

The number of SHG kids who go on to college is at 98 percent. Some of that is simple opportunity and means, but others have made opportunities for themselves with the aid of good parents and people like Moredock and staff. In other words, that number is not an accident, and it's a nod to the importance of starting well in life.

"I'm so blessed to come to a place like this at such an important time in (students') lives," he says. "High school ... you don't forget these years."

It is likely that graduates, now grown, look back to their days at SHG and remember a pleasant guy who offered help and his ear and a bit of encouragement at a challenging time in life. Their voices wake up the echoes and come rolling down the years, one on the other:  "Thanks, Doc." You can almost hear it. 

 

Story published Friday, January 8, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 1 )

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