As many of you know, Hank was a freshman at Saint Patrick High School in Chicago, IL when he passed away in late 2007. What you may not know, is that along with supporting cutting-edge high risk leukemia and fungal infection research, the Henry Schueler 41 & 9 Foundation also established a scholarship for a St. Pat’s student athlete who best exemplifies the qualities that Hank had in his short, impactful life: enthusiasm for life, athletic achievement and academic excellence.
On April 26th, a new St. Pat’s senior, Xavier Saldana, joined the ranks of alumni scholarship recipients at the school’s 16th Annual Benefactor’s Lunch. Matt Schueler, Henry’s dad, had the opportunity to attend the lunch and speak. Foundation board President, Jim Boyle, and board member and Hank’s friend, Gianna Funkhouser, were also in attendance.
We’d like to share with you some of Matt’s remarks to the students, faculty, benefactors, and parents at St. Pat’s:
A little background on this scholarship.
Henry, Hank Schueler, was my oldest child. A talented athlete, a good student, a funny kid and a natural leader, Hank grew up in Edgebrook where he attended St. Mary of the Woods School. He loved all sports, particularly football and baseball where he wore the numbers 41 & 9. In the rite of passage that all 8th grade boys at Catholic grade schools seem to follow, he shadowed all of the Catholic area high schools, looking for the right fit. Truth be told, we had always assumed he was partial to Loyola Academy as many of our family friends had children there.
But, Hank was never afraid, even at the awkward age of 13, to make his own life decisions. And, so I found myself accompanying him to an Open House at St. Patrick’s in October of 2006. He already knew some of the students at St. Pat’s as well as the football and baseball coaches and seemed comfortable in this new environment. I remember distinctly sitting with him in our car parked on Austin Avenue after the open house, talking with him about what attracted him to St. Pat’s. There was little doubt in my mind that he was committed to St. Patrick’s although the testing date was still two months away. Still a fair amount of time for a 13-year-old boy to change his mind, especially with more football to play for St. Mary’s and basketball to begin.
We did not know then how uncertain life would become.
Just 2 weeks after the open house, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and our lives were changed forever. And, two weeks after his diagnosis we received even more devastating news. Cytogenetic testing revealed the leukemia to be Hypodiploid ALL, a rare subtype of ALL, which occurs in 1-2% of ALL and which meant that his odds of long term survival went from 85-90% for a typical ALL diagnosis to 25% with chemo alone.
And yet with all the anguish, turmoil and uncertainty that surrounded his young life, Henry never wavered on his choice to attend St. Patrick’s.
[Hank battled valiantly for more than a year against the leukemia and subsequent infection, Mucormycosis, that rattled his body.]
And, when he was home for what turned out to be his last time, he told his mom that he wanted to find out why this happened to him so we could prevent it from happening to other kids. He wanted to give back when he had already given so much.
And, it was out of that living wish that we are here today to share with all of you who have given back to St. Patrick’s and all of these students who have been blessed with the generosity of former alumni and benefactors.
St. Pat’s never forgot Hank despite his short time at school. During his illness, St. Pats prayed for him, they wore his t-shirts in support, they wore his number on patches on their uniforms and baseball hats, and they featured his football number on their programs. After he passed away, they mourned him, they celebrated him, and they remembered him. They lined up and waited two hours to pay their respects at his wake, they sang at his funeral, and they lined the procession to his final resting place.
And, so when we established the Foundation that bears his name, we remembered too, how special St. Patrick’s was to Hank and 10 years ago we established the two year scholarship given to a football or baseball player who best exemplifies his spirit, his love of sports, and his academic strength.
Hank wanted to give back when he was struggling to live. And, he wanted us to give back even if he was gone. Our Foundation has supported leading edge research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital into his leukemia and given kids who have since shared his diagnosis a better chance at survival and better, less toxic treatment methods, as well as supporting the publication of the most comprehensive medical and scientific journal on the treatment of Mucormycosis, the fungal infection which ultimately took his life on December 14, 2007.
And, we are especially proud to have given back to a place that though he spent such little time, made such a special impression on him. Thank you St. Pat’s for remembering Hank. He will always be a Shamrock.
An excerpt from St. Patrick High School’s 16th Annual Benefactors Lunch Program details the background of this award and Xavier’s future plans:
With the establishment of the Henry Schueler 41 & 9 Scholarship, the foundation financially assists students who play either baseball or football (or often both) and demonstrate Hank’s leadership and strength of character, allowing his memory to forever remain a member of the Saint Patrick community.
Senior Xavier Saldana, who will graduate this May, was the fifth Shamrock to be awarded the scholarship and will continue his academic and athletic career in the fall at Upper Iowa University. Saldana will play football for the Division II School after playing four years at St. Pat’s. He also played baseball for two years and was a member of the wrestling team.
Saldana was honored and blessed to receive the scholarship. “It was a great privilege to represent, not only a fellow Shamrock, but a brother,” he said. He is grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Schueler for selecting him to represent their son and says it has truly been a great honor.
Hank’s father, Matthew Schueler, believes Hank would be thrilled to know he will always be remembered at St. Pat’s. “Hank may be gone from us physically but he remains a big part of our lives,” he said. “No matter the separation he will always remain our son, and he will always remain a Shamrock.”
Past recipients of the Henry Schueler 41 & 9 Scholarship include: Dennis Lemke ’11 (University of Illinois), Walter Escobar ’13 (Northwestern University), Marcelo Tanon ’15, who is currently playing baseball at Cornell College and Luis Rivera ’17 who joined the U.S. Armed Forces upon graduation from Saint Patrick.
Photos are courtesy of Saint Patrick High School.