Rev. Victor F. Leeber, S.J., "Father of Athletics" and founding faculty member at Fairfield University, dies at 87

Rev. Victor F. Leeber, S.J., "Father of Athletics" and founding faculty member at Fairfield University, dies at 87

Image: Victor F. Leeber Rev. Victor F. Leeber, S.J., a member of the original faculty that greeted students when Fairfield University opened its doors in 1947 and dubbed the "Father of Athletics" there, passed away Friday evening at Campion Center in Weston, Mass. He was 87.

Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, university president, said, "We have truly lost one of our founding fathers. Fr. Leeber not only helped to successfully launch Fairfield University, but his many years of dedicated service helped it to thrive. He will long be remembered through the countless lives he impacted as a priest, teacher and mentor.

During 45 years at Fairfield University, Fr. Leeber founded and chaired, for 26 years, the modern languages and literature department, where he taught Spanish, French and Italian to generations of students.

He also is credited with founding five varsity sports programs and was chaplain and mentor to scores of student athletes. Surveying Fairfield University's pristine 200-acre campus in 1947, he envisioned cross-country running trails and urged then-President James Dolan, S.J., to let him start a cross-country running team. He went on to found track, football, men's and women's swimming and men's basketball programs at Fairfield.

Athletic Director Gene Doris said, "Everyone just loved Fr. Leeber. He had a great sense of humor and a great loyalty to our student-athletes. They could always depend on him for his good counsel and encouragement."

Fr. Leeber retired from teaching in 1992, but remained active as a tutor and mentor to student athletes. He was chaplain to several teams, frequently traveling to away games. Fr. Leeber entered the Jesuits in 1940 and was ordained a priest in 1953.

In 1992, he was inducted into the Alumni Association's Hall of Fame and in 2003 was honored at The Fairfield Awards Dinner with the Honorary Alumnus Award. For 32 years Fairfield has hosted the Victor F. Leeber, S.J. Cross Country Invitational.

In 1992, the first scholarship was established in his name through the generosity of countless friends, family, faculty and staff. Eight years later, in 2000, a second scholarship was named for Fr. Leeber through the generosity of alumnus and former trustee William Egan and his wife Jacalyn. In addition, former students recognized him with an anonymous donation, a statue of the Blessed Mother nestled in a grotto near the DiMenna-Nyselius Library, along with a nearby bench for reflection at the statue.

A Wake will be held for Fr. Leeber on Wednesday, Aug. 19 from 3 to 5 p.m., with a 4:30 prayer service, at Campion Center, 319 Concord Road in Weston, Mass. The funeral will take place on Thursday, Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. at Campion Center, with burial immediately following the funeral. A memorial service will be held in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola on the Fairfield University campus during the fall semester.

Posted On: 08-17-2009 10:08 AM

Volume: 41 Number: 34