By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/15/09
A Funeral Mass will be held tonight at 7:30 in the La Salle College High gymnasium for Brother Rene Sterner, 71, former president of the school and the man responsible for starting what has evolved into a national lacrosse program.
Friends may call from 4 to 7:15 p.m. today at Marian Chapel at La Salle at 8605 Cheltenham Ave., Wyndmoor. On Saturday, friends may call from 9 to 11 a.m. at La Salle Hall, 6001 Ammendale Road, Beltsville, Md.
Brother Sterner, the school’s president from 1991 to 2005, died of liver cancer Monday at St. Catherine’s Infirmary in East Germantown.
One of Brother Sterner’s first tasks when he came to La Salle was to start a lacrosse program. He recruited a mere college senior named Bill Leahy, a student he knew from his days as principal at Calvert Hall in Baltimore, to be the head coach. Leahy was soon hired to be the first coach and a religion teacher in 1992 after just one semester as an assistant coach at Loyola, his alma mater.
All Leahy has done in his 17 years at La Salle is win 14 Catholic League championship, post a record of 318-62 and claim two state titles, including the 2008 crown when the Explorers finished the year 31-2 and No. 1 in the country according to Lacrosse Magazine.
“He loved lacrosse and one day he called me and asked me if I was interested in the job,” Leahy recalled. “I had no idea I ever wanted to be a coach; I was still a senior in college.
“He was a great friend to me, and the first important figure in my life to have passed on.”
Sterner’s list of accomplishment, however, go way beyond the lacrosse fields. Pope John Paul II awarded him with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal in 1990 for outstanding service to the church. He also started a choral program, coached the debate team, and led national caliber Speech and Forensics teams while raising enough money for the construction of St. Michael Hall in 1993 and the West Wing in 2001.
Brother Sterner also helped found La Salle Academy in North Philadelphia.
Born Frederick S. Sterner in Hanover, Pa., he was valedictorian of the Class of 1955 at Delone CatholicHigh School in McSherrystown and graduated magna cum laude from what is now La Salle University in 1959. He earned master’s degrees in theology from La Salle in 1960 and in history from Duquesne University in 1967.
Brother Sterner’s first teaching job was in 1960 at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh. He became vice principal before leaving in 1977 to teach for three years at La Salle University. He became principal at Calvert Hall in 1980.
Brother Sterner is survived by brothers Stephen and David, sisters Patricia Gurtizen and Margaret Kenworthy, and 11 nieces and nephews.
Tags: La Salle