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Father George A. Hess, SJ

Fellow Gents of Loyola, Or Gennamun, as Fr. Kennedy used to say…

Many may not recall this … it was before your time at Loyola. But when Fr. Hess arrived on the scene, it was a sea change..for those of us who were used to the earlier Fr. McGinley regime of the leather strap for unkempt exuberance in class or field. Fr. M would invite the more virulent rascals amongst us to one of the the handball courts … and administer a dozen straps on reluctant palms. The rest of us could watch, and hear … from our classrooms … as deterrent. I have a particularly vivid memory of a dramatically noisy Ajay Kapadia receiving a dozen … who was one fiesty dude at ten or so … and a kind of cult hero because of his escapades.

A few Loyoleans in front of the handball court.

When Fr. Hess arrived, the winds changed. There was a new calm in the air. In Wodehouse fashion, he sort of streamed in like a healing zephyr … and amongst many other things, discarded classic corporal punishment for something quite other. What he brought in was simpler, more to the point, and far more effective. If you were overly unruly on any day … you went to jug at the end of that day. Too many jugs during the week had you miss a half hour of that week's Saturday morning film … aargh. And if you were continually errant, say for a month or two, a marked event would occur. Out of the blue, say during the second period on a Tuesday, a guy called Paras would come to your classroom, slip the teacher a note … and you would find yourself being escorted to the principal's office. Fr Hess would meet you at the door, invite you in, have you sit, and simply and clearly inform you about precisely why you were there. You were then given a note of explanation, addressed to your dad … and asked to leave the school premises. You were not to return, unless your dad himself brought you in..and it was clear that your were truly contrite for your recent behavior. Gad … can you imagine the terror generated by such a prospect? Some may recall all this from experience, as I do ha ha..but others can just imagine. Having your dad bring you back in was frightening, beyond a thousand straps … and Fr. Hess knew this.

Fr. Hess at the launch of his book, Once Upon a Time, on Jul 8 2011 During such a process … and during all our years with him … he always treated you with a distinct respect as a person. You never felt belittled. He spoke to you as an equal. He always called me AKAL, and I never corrected him. Because of his natural consistency, gentlemanly behavior, and ease in any situation, you found yourself moving away from noisy behavior. It happened gradually, quietly. You found yourself emulating some of the things that were him. Sure, we loved the ways of each one … Fr. Power, Fr. Dietrich, Fr. Dineen, Lobo, D'Soza, Dayal, Pandey … we loved them all for their uniqueness, yet there seemed to be a particular quality of reliable substance, a gravitas, in Fr. Hess. He acted like a metronome for all the other fab teachers who taught us. I think each one of us could probably write a good sized book on Loyola, describing the pleasurable adventures of those golden years.

And even in retrospect … I recall being aware that Fr Hess was always around, in his noiseless way … making it happen. I didn't just associate him with his great scripture classes. He seemed equally responsible for our glamorous cricket stars Vijay Nair, Khattu DeVitre, Johnny Velaith … our great orators Sobi, Arrow, Khokan … bright boys Amrit Jairam, Anil Ratna, Sridhar..and pranksters Sammy Zac, Mohan Britto. Here was a true leader, generating uprightness and loyalty effortlessly, like a fragrance on the wind.

I know I am prattling a bit … but one of my deeper sorrows is of not having visited him in his later years. I had much to say to him. He somehow represented the essence of what the Jesuits did for us. Boby Zac has just spoken of it so well, and others. I don't think we truly grasp the deeper nature of the passion, sacrifice, and dedication that each of these Jesuit gents embodied. All I can say is..each of us students was so deeply blessed in our formative years … and are profoundly grateful.

Here's To Fr. Hess … Prince of a Man … Best of the Best.

The Loyola faculty in 1956-57

This tribute is by Achal Bedi, Class of 59. He lives in Ojai, California.