St. John Fisher College Mourns the Loss of Rev. Leo Hetzler, C.S.B.

May 19, 2017

Reverend Leo Hetzler, C.S.B., passed away on Thursday, May 18, after a short illness. He was 91 years old.

Reverend Leo Hetzler, C.S.B.

Fr. Hetzler was born and raised in Rochester, and graduated from Aquinas Institute in 1943.  His graduation took place during World War II and he enlisted in the U.S. Army, becoming a combat infantryman in the 86th Division.  He traveled extensively during the war, from Germany to Austria and then to the Philippines and Japan.

In 1947, Fr. Hetzler returned to the United States with the intention of studying engineering.  His plans changed, and in September 1947, he entered the Congregation of St. Basil.  He subsequently enrolled in the University of Toronto, where he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature, and went on to receive his Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from St. Michael’s College and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Cornell University.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1955.

In 1959, the Basilian Fathers sent Fr. Hetzler to Fisher to serve as the chair of the English Department.  In 1964, he became a resident assistant and, under his tutelage, the first student RA was tested.  During that time, he was the first recipient of the Rev. Joseph Dorsey, C.S.B., Faculty Award for Service to Students.

Fr. Hetzler then spent several years teaching in Canada in the 1960s, where he began what would become his lifelong interest in the Chesterton Society.  In 2002, he inaugurated the annual Chesterton Conference at Fisher, and in 2007, he became the first recipient of the Life Achievement Award presented by the American Chesterton Society.

In 1994, Fr. Hetzler retired from teaching but continued his scholarly pursuits.  The following year, he became the National Chaplain for the Combat Infantry Association, and in 1998, he became a member of the Board of Trustees of Aquinas Institute.

Fr. Hetzler was honored during our 2014 Commencement Ceremony with the President’s Medal for Service to St. John Fisher College.  Last June, he was inducted into the Aquinas Institute Hall of Fame and recognized for “Meritorious Service” which honors a candidate who displays the allegiance and dedication to the core values and mission of the Institute.

He remained an active member of the Basilian Fathers, and kept Fisher very close to his heart. 

Funeral services for Fr. Hetzler are as follows:

  • Tuesday, May 23, 3-5 p.m., 6-7 p.m. - Visitation at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse Chapel
  • Wednesday, May 24, 11 a.m. - Funeral Mass at Christ the King Church, burial will follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery