Thursday, May 14, 2009

RIP ~ Br. René Sterner, FSC

My deepest sympathy to my LaSalle buddies...

- The Philadelphia Bulletin

Christian Brother and President Emeritus of La Salle College High School

Brother René Sterner, FSC, 71, died peacefully on Monday, May 11, 2009 at St. Catherine’s Infirmary in Philadelphia after a battle with cancer. Born Frederick Stephen Sterner in Hanover on June 8, 1937, he graduated from Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown and was valedictorian in its Class of 1955. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from La Salle College in 1959 and received Masters degrees from La Salle College and Dusquene University. He entered the Ammendale Novitiate for the Brothers of the Christian Schools in June 1955, received the religious habit and name Gregory René in September 1955 and pronounced perpetual vows in 1962.

He spent the early part of his 45-year teaching career at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh from 1960-1977, where he served as both vice-principal and a member of the faculty.

He was principal of Calvert Hall College in Towson, Md. for 10 years from 1980-1990 and the director of public relations at Delone Catholic High School in Hanover from 2006-2008. Brother René spent 18 years as a member of the faculty and administration of La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, serving as president for 14 of those years, from 1991-2005. While there, he energized the school community and was responsible for two major capital campaigns, which enlarged the school’s facilities and transformed its face.

Brother René was a patron of the Arts. He was a benefactor of the Susquehanna University Choir, and his love for music spurred him to establish a highly-successful choral program at La Salle. He is also responsible for bringing lacrosse to La Salle College High School — a program that is the reigning state champion and has grown to become a national powerhouse.

In the late 1990s, he spread the Lasallian mission to far reaches of the world when he took in boys from the turmoil of Bosnia and the Sudan and brought them to the school, where each of them graduated and went on to college. Brother René also served as moderator for the Mothers’ Club and was fixture at school activities.In 2003, Brother René co-founded La Salle Academy in North Philadelphia — a partnership between the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of St. Joseph. The school, modeled after the San Miguel Schools conducted by the Christian Brothers, is located at St. Michael Parish, where La Salle College High School first opened its doors in 1858. The school was established to educate children in grades 3-8 whose parents and guardians desire, but cannot afford a quality Catholic education.

Brother René was instrumental in establishing a lay Board of Trustees to help fund and guide the independent school.He was dedicated to the efforts of the Christian Brothers and believed the need for education based on the vision and mission of St. Jean-Baptiste De La Salle is greater today than ever before. He retired in 2008 and was living at the Christian Brothers’ Community at La Salle College High School.The Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Maryland and Pennsylvania Legislatures, the National Catholic Education Association, and the National American Legion all honored him.

For his services of behalf of Christian education and the larger community, Pope John Paul II conferred on him the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal in 1990. He served on numerous diocesan commissions, task forces and numerous Boards of Trustees, including: La Salle College High School, the Hannah More Center School, Roman Catholic High School and St. John’s College High School.For nearly 50 years, Brother René transformed the lives of hundreds of young people through the interscholastic activity of high school speech and debate, or forensics. From his first year as a teacher in 1960 until his retirement 49 years later, Brother René organized and led programs in four schools that reached an outstanding level of excellence and, in some cases, national prominence. He uniquely combined a value-driven approach to coaching with unfailing common sense, and his integrity caused his frequent election to leadership positions among his peers and memberships in several halls of fame.
Brother René’s storied forensics career began with his first teaching assignment as a Christian Brother at Central Catholic High School. Over the course of 17 years, Central’s speakers and debaters attained national distinction and solidified Brother René’s reputation for excellence.During these years, Central Catholic hosted one of the largest and most prestigious speech and debate tournaments over the Thanksgiving weekend , drawing scores of schools and hundreds of students from all over the country.

In 1977, when Brother René moved to La Salle College High School, his students received debate championships, including: two Pennsylvania High School Speech League (PHSSL) championships, one National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) championship and one National Forensic League (NFL) championship.During the 1980s, the decade when Brother René served as principal at Calvert Hall College, he founded and took yet another program to prominence, including coaching a national champion in extemporaneous speaking. Brother René’s return to La Salle College High School in 1990 marked the beginning of another period of notable achievement, which lasted 15 years and included numerous city and state championships in both speech and debate events.
During the twilight years of Brother René’s amazing career, while caring for his elderly father, he came home to his alma mater Delone Catholic High School, which he infused with his vitality and vigor.

A survey of Brother René’s forensics resume would be incomplete without reference to the leadership role he exercised among his colleagues throughout the country, or of the acclaim given him by his peers. For most of his career, he served on numerous councils and committees on the local, state and national levels. In the National Catholic Forensics League, Brother René held the positions of Treasurer, publicity director, vice president, president, and national tournament director; in the National Forensic League (NFL) he served a remarkable thirty-one year term on the executive council.Brother René was elected to the PHSSL Hall of Fame in 1986 and the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987 to honor his service to the field of forensics. Just this past year, the NFL further recognized him as the first recipient of the Alumni Lifetime Service Award, and the NCFL announced it will bestow a similar lifetime achievement award at its national tournament later this month.

Brother René Sterner is predeceased by his parents: Willard Riley Sterner and Theresa Klunk Sterner. He is survived by two sisters: Patricia Gurtizen and Margaret Kenworthy (Wayne); two brothers: Stephen (Lynn) and David; nieces and nephews: Tracey, Julie, Kelly, Bryan, Kim, Eric, David, Denise, Laura, Leah, Stephen; and numerous grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

A viewing will take place on Friday, May 15, 2009 from 4 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. at the Marian Chapel at La Salle College High School. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 7:30 pm and will take place in the school gymnasium. A second viewing will take place on Saturday, May 16, 2009 from 9 to 11 a.m. at La Salle Hall in Ammendale, Md, which will be followed by a private interment at the Brother’s cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to La Salle Academy, 1434 North Second Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122.

1 comment:

  1. Tom,

    Brother René Sterner was a great guy. I knew him well during my time at LaSalle. My brother and I used to work at the Brothers house every Sunday to earn a little money during high school so we got to know the brothers well.