Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Harry J. Gensler, SJ, who died on June 8, 2022, at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 77 years old. May he rest in peace.
Harry is preceded in death by his parents (Harry and Helen) and his sister (Carol Tuttle).
Harry was born in Detroit on May 5, 1945. He was interested in being a priest from an early age. He graduated from Sacred Heart Minor (i.e. high school) Seminary in 1963 and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1967. While studying at Sacred Heart, Harry felt called to teach, write books, and work in a university setting rather than a parish. This desire led him to investigate the Society of Jesus. Harry entered the former Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus at Colombiere College in Clarkston, Michigan, on August 20, 1967. Harry was in the collegian program (now called “first studies”) at the University of Detroit (1968–1970). He was ordained on June 8, 1974, at (the then Jesuit-run) St. Patrick Church in Cleveland and professed final vows on September 8, 1985, at Loyola University Chicago.
While in the Society, Harry earned a master’s degree from Wayne State University in Detroit (1969), a master of divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Chicago (1974), and a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Michigan (1977). His dissertation was on the Golden Rule under William Frankena. Harry’s extensive work on the Golden Rule, an important and original contribution to ethical theory, began when he listened to and was inspired by a lecture by the great Oxford philosopher R. M. Hare at Wayne State University.
During regency, Harry taught philosophy at John Carroll University (1970–1972). After completing doctoral studies, Harry was a professor of philosophy for almost 50 years. He taught at: Gonzaga University (1977–1981), Loyola University Chicago (1981–1996 and 2014–2021), the University of Scranton (1996–1998), and John Carroll University (1998–2014). He was the director of studies for the collegian program at Loyola University Chicago (1983–1986). Harry was missioned to the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in January 2021.
Harry was a devoted priest and Jesuit. He loved the outdoors, especially hiking and bicycling. He hiked from Georgia to Maine (the Appalachian Trail) and from Mexico to Canada (the Pacific Crest Trail). He bicycled from Los Angeles to New York, Chicago to Newfoundland, and around Lake Michigan (by way of New Orleans).
Harry was a teacher at heart. He loved knowledge (especially philosophy, morality, and logic) and desired to share it with others. He was an independent person who did not feel “bound” by what others thought or said. An example of this is that he would show up to Province Days (even for his Jubilee photo) in shorts and a t-shirt. This independence fostered within him the freedom to ponder the “big issues” of philosophy instead of just following what others said or wrote.
A focus of his life was “The Golden Rule” (treat others as you want to be treated) about which he taught and published. He wrote: “To apply the golden rule adequately, we need knowledge and imagination. We need to know what effect our actions have on the lives of others. And we need to be able to imagine ourselves, vividly and accurately, in the other person’s place on the receiving end of the action. With knowledge, imagination, and the golden rule, we can progress far in our moral thinking.” Anyone who met Harry realized that he not only taught about the Golden Rule, but he truly and completely lived and breathed in it.
From an early age (and throughout his life), Harry was a thinker, philosopher, and scholar. He had grand ideas—many of which he published. Before entering the Society, Harry was interested in amateur radio and electronics. His callsign was K80CO. He created many amateur radio inventions and several of them were written up in QST, the major magazine for amateur radio enthusiasts which is published by the American Radio Relay League, including his Iambimatic keying concept together with an adapter for the Hallicrafters HA-1 single-lever keyer which appeared in the January 1967 edition.
While in the Society, Harry published about 20 books, mostly on logic, ethics, and Catholic philosophy. His book Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction is one of the most widely used textbooks in Ethics. His books have been translated into several foreign languages including: Chinese, Thai, French, Portuguese, Korean, Persian, and Arabic. In addition to his books, Harry published many articles, as well as the LogiCola and EthiCola software for logic and ethics. He also published courses for Learn25 (formerly Now You Know Media) on the Golden Rule and great Catholic philosophers. Shortly before his death, he completed the manuscript for his most recent book to be published. More information about Harry’s publications is available here.
Harry was a devoted fan of the University of Michigan football team. He would talk incessantly—and loudly—about the team (and equally loudly against the team’s rival: the Ohio State football team). If he had doubts in life, it surely was not about his absolute loyalty to “Go Blue!”
Saturday, July 23, 2022
St. Camillus Jesuit Community
10201 W. Wisconsin Ave.