Father Leon J. Hogenkamp, SJ, vice president of McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton, died July 17 due to complications from cancer. He was 65.
His friends and admirers described the soft-spoken priest as an enormously talented man who was gifted with a dry wit, financial acumen, an ability to attend to detail and a passion for the school’s mission.
“He just made things happen,” said Tom Wahl Jr., a 1974 graduate of McQuaid. “I think now that (Father Hogenkamp) has gone, we will appreciate what he did more than we ever did before.”
A native of Buffalo, Father Hogenkamp entered the Society of Jesus in 1957 and joined the McQuaid faculty in 1964. He left McQuaid in 1967 to pursue a master’s of divinity degree in theology at Woodstock College in New York City, although he continued to serve as acting principal of the summer-school program in 1968 and 1969. He was ordained a priest in 1970.
In 1971, Father Hogenkamp returned to McQuaid after pursuing his doctoral studies at Columbia University. According to a McQuaid statement, Father Hogenkamp took the helm as principal at a time when the school was experiencing an uncertain future due to the declining number of Jesuits, lower enrollment and financial pressures. At age 31, Father Hogenkamp was the youngest Jesuit principal in the United States.
Father Hogenkamp “brought the school back to life after the stresses of possible closing,” said Franklin L. Kamp, McQuaid’s principal from 1991 to 2000. “He strengthened morale and confidence in faculty and staff, he encouraged creativity in programs and activities, and he gave McQuaid a sense of direction in living out its Jesuit educational mission.”
“Father Hogenkamp was a unifier because people trusted him,” added Robert Kidera, McQuaid’s social-studies teacher and biodiversity director. “He had a lot of faith in the people around him and he was not afraid to delegate responsibility. His belief in people helped transform the school.”
In 1980, Father Hogenkamp left McQuaid for a year of sabbatical studies. He returned to McQuaid in 1981 as assistant to the president, and remained in that position through 1984. From 1984 to 1987, Father Hogenkamp was director of Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse. From 1987 to 1989, he served as McQuaid’s executive vice president. From 1989 to 1992, he served as director of St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, N.Y.
From 1992 to 1994, Father Hogenkamp was assistant to McQuaid’s president. In 1994, Father Hogenkamp was named vice president of advancement and held that position through 1998. In 1998, Father Hogenkamp was named McQuaid’s vice president. During the last years of his life, he oversaw construction of McQuaid’s art annex as well as renovation of the school’s gymnasium and chapel. A paralegal, Father Hogenkamp also designed and taught a street law course for juniors and seniors, the first of its kind at McQuaid.
James E. Whelehan, McQuaid’s president, was effusive in his praise for Father Hogenkamp, whom he called a great man, mentor and priest. Father Hogenkamp shunned the spotlight and worked tirelessly to improve McQuaid, Whelehan said.
“What was front and center to Leon was the mission of the school,” Whelehan said.
A funeral Mass was celebrated July 20 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Brighton.
Memorial donations may be made to the Father Leon J. Hogenkamp Endowment Fund for Faculty Development, McQuaid Jesuit High School, 1800 S. Clinton Ave., Rochester, NY 14618. Checks should be made payable to McQuaid Jesuit High School — Father Hogenkamp Fund.