Brother Richard Gerlach, SMU’s oldest alum, dies at 96


Brother Richard Gerlach, FSC — a 1935 alumnus of Saint Mary’s University and the oldest Christian Brother in the Midwest District — passed away Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010 at St. Anne Hospice in Winona, Minn.

On his birthday, Dec. 25, he would have turned 97.

Brother Richard was born in St. Paul to William Gerlach and Margaret (Hechtl) Gerlach. He joined the Christian Brothers in 1930 and graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1935, just two years after the Brothers assumed administration of the Winona, Minn., college. He went on to earn his master’s degree from St. Louis University in 1940.

Throughout his career, Brother Richard taught history, and he also served as principal at a number of schools in Appleton, Wis.; St. Paul; Evanston, Ill.; Memphis, Tenn.; and St. Louis, Mo.

Although he enjoyed his work in administration, Brother Richard said his heart always remained in the classroom, where he felt he could best help students. In 1968, he returned to Saint Mary’s, and although he retired in 1979, he continued teaching part-time for many years.

A Christian Brother for 79 years, Brother Richard celebrated his 75th anniversary in August 2006. An ardent reader, he was also an avid bridge player and swimmer. He attended the SMU Homecoming events every year, including this past June, when he celebrated his 75th class reunion. Survivors include several nephews and the community of Christian Brothers at Saint Mary’s University.

“The entire Saint Mary’s community joins me in mourning the loss of a lifelong educator, an inspirational Christian Brother and a valued alum,” said Brother William Mann, Saint Mary’s president. “We are all blessed for having known Brother Richard.”

Funeral arrangements are tentatively planned for Monday, January 3 at the Saint Thomas More Chapel on Saint Mary’s Winona campus.

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