Honoring 80 years of the Prestigious Heitefuss Award

Carol Heitefuss Westmoreland and her husband, William Westmoreland, join Fr. Lahart for a photo with past recipients of the Heitefuss Award.

To mark the celebration of the Heitefuss Award’s 80th anniversary, Carol Westmoreland, Dr. Heitefuss’s daughter, and her husband, William Westmoreland, traveled from their home in Newark, Delaware on June 1 to join a special gathering at Regis for Heitefuss Award recipients. At graduation the next day, the Westmorelands presented this year’s Heitefuss Award to Christopher Scazzero ’18.

Hugo Heitefuss was born on October 25, 1903 in Manhattan. His father, Adolf, was of German descent and worked as an oil manufacturer. His mother, Marie Guarmani, was of Italian descent. They had seven children. Hugo’s older brother, Mario, died as an infant. He had two other brothers, Fred and Oscar, as well as a sister who also died and an adopted sister named Marie.

The family lived in an apartment on Manhattan Ave. between 118th St. and 119th St. just north of Central Park and east of Morningside Park. Hugo was called “Sonny” growing up, and he attended Holy Name Parochial School.

Even before matriculating to Regis, Hugo proved to be a talented young man. In 1911, at the age of just 7 years old, Master Hugo Heitefuss was part of a concert in the Myrtle Room of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where he played the violin part for a rendition of “Ave Maria.”

In the fall of 1918, Hugo began at Regis as a freshman. Not much is known of his time as a student, other than the fact that he distinguished himself among his classmates for his many talents and his upstanding character. It is also known that he loved oratory and debating—true of many Regians, even to this day.

After graduating Regis as a member of the class of 1922, Hugo earned his undergraduate degree at Fordham University. At Fordham, he was the Treasurer of the Mendel Club, a group for men “interested in the furtherance of biological research.” Not surprising, given his ultimate profession.

In 1928, he graduated from the Medical School of the Long Island College Hospital. He married Louise Howell and moved to Delaware. They raised two children: a son, Laurence, and a daughter, Carol.

In Delaware he also distinguished himself in his professional and in civic life. Indeed, he was listed in the Delaware State Medical Journal as “one of the most popular younger physicians of Wilmington.” He held various professional roles in Delaware, including Chief of Medicine at St. Francis Hospital, but mostly he was a family physician in private practice.

In addition to his medical practice, he continued to be invested in Catholic education. He was involved with a Big Brother Program at Archmere Academy School for Boys. He was also involved with the Salesianum school and it is stated that he developed athletics relations between Salesianum in Delaware and Regis High School. Supposedly, Hugo organized a football game between Regis and Salesianum in 1929. (It is unclear who may have won that game...)

In 1936 Dr. Heitefuss died of a heart attack much too young, only 31 years old. On the day he died, he had given a talk at St. Francis College of Nursing in the morning, another sign of his commitment to Catholic education and sharing his gifts with others.

Some Regians who knew and admired Hugo approached the Alumni Association shortly after his death and suggested that an award be named in his honor. It has been awarded annually since the 1938 graduation, and the names of all winners grace a plaque outside the principal’s office. The text of the award reads as follows:

For the graduate most representative of the best Regis traditions: genuine scholarship, critical intellect and liberality of mind, individuality in the achievement of excellence in diverse fields, religious understanding and commitment to the Christian faith, strong leadership among his fellow students, and generosity with his extraordinary talents.

Heitefuss Award winners have gone on to a diverse set of careers, reflecting their diverse talents. Two are Jesuit priests, while others are leaders in the fields of medicine, law, and business. Heitefuss winners have gone on to make Regis very proud, and they honor the legacy of Dr. Heitefuss by means of their leadership, faith, and integrity.

Stewart Schroder ’71, Chief Financial Officer at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School in Chicago, spoke at the June gathering on behalf of his fellow award winners. “It strikes me that Dr. Heitefuss was one of the first Regians to be a true noble heart,” said Schroder. “This award and its history demonstrate that his worthy legacy is strong to endure.”

(Left) Undated portrait of Dr. Hugo L. Heitefuss ’22. (Right) Carol Heitefuss Westmoreland presents the Heitefuss Award to Chris Scazzero ’18 at the 2018 graduation on June 2.

Posted: 8/11/18