Volunteer Spotlight: Gary Fencik (Kellogg 1985)
Former Bears “Hit Man” grateful to Kellogg for helping him shuffle from football to finance.
Gary Fencik (Kellogg 1985) always knew he’d go to graduate school. The only question was when. After all, he had a pretty steady gig that took up a fair amount of his time.
Fencik, a Yale alumnus, was in the middle of a 12-season career as a defensive back for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. He had gone to two Pro Bowls and was generally considered among the top players in the league at his position.
He knew, however, that his football career wasn’t going to last forever.
“My Yale roommate went to Kellogg and I recognized I needed more preparation for a life outside of football once I retired,” Fencik says. “In one season I broke my arm and had both knee and ankle injuries that required surgery. I rehabbed for six months and came back to make All-Pro. I started business school the following year.”
A Kellogg School of Management education clearly prepared him well for success away from the gridiron. Fencik is a partner and head of business development at Adams Street Partners—a global private equity investment management firm.
To show his appreciation to the school, he recently took a leadership role to support Kellogg during its campaign.
“I have been thinking about the influence Kellogg has had on my post-football career for some time and the opportunity to become involved with the campaign became the catalyst for my own contribution to Kellogg,” Fencik says.
Needless to say, not many finance experts spent a dozen seasons smashing into receivers and running backs. Selected in the 10th round of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, Fencik never played a snap for the Fins. After finding his way to the Bears, he recorded 38 interceptions in 12 seasons and made All-Pro in 1981 after a year in which he recorded six interceptions.
Along with teammate Doug Plank, Fencik was one of the Bears’ “Hit Men,” and was a part of Chicago’s famed “46 Defense” which propelled the Bears to a win in Super Bowl XX and post an overall record of 18-1. Fencik even got to rap in the celebrated “Super Bowl Shuffle.”
While all this was going on, Fencik was methodically setting the table for his next career. Fencik said balancing football with graduate school was a fairly seamless transition.
“During that time I was single and had a lot of free time during the off-season for school,” he said. “Going to school two nights a week was difficult but no more so than all the other people attending school downtown at night.”
Still, it made for some interesting challenges.
“I made the mistake one summer of taking a night class during the Bears training camp,” Fencik remembered. “It was a really hot summer and we had two practices per day. On my only free night without meetings, I’d head downtown to attend a micro econ class. The Phillips curves almost did me in.
“My final class was during the 1985 season so I won a Super Bowl and graduated from Kellogg. Not a bad year.”
Now he’s taken measures to help others reach their full potential at Kellogg, an institution that has strived to make strong leaders even stronger since 1908. Fencik recently pledged a significant gift to Kellogg and serves on the Chicago regional council for the Kellogg campaign, where he reaches out to others to share the school’s vision and urge them to contribute.
“The night program at Kellogg is a different graduate experience than going full-time,” Fencik said. “You are balancing work with school so there isn’t the same interaction you get from spending two years focusing on school. Living in Chicago provides a number of opportunities to become engaged, but this campaign has been a great opportunity for me to re-engage with Kellogg.”
By David Cordero