Note: This is the 15th profile in a series of 90 stories highlighting individuals who have shaped Notre Dame and/or live the College’s mission of personal, professional and global responsibility.
By Christian Taske ’07
Stella Corbett Hetzer ’59 and her husband John hold a special place in their hearts for Notre Dame College. After all, the College played an important role in bringing the couple of 49 years together.
Stella and John had their first date at the 1963 Notre Dame Alumnae Association Scholarship Ball. Fellow alumna Janice Funk Balmat ’60 had asked Stella if she was going to the dance to be held at a fancy hotel on Northfield Road. When Stella said she didn’t have a date, Balmat told her not to worry – there was a group of gentlemen who wanted to go. So Stella and John were introduced, went to the dance together, hit it off, and were married just 13 months later.
Ever since, the Hetzers have been extraordinary supporters of Notre Dame College. They were instrumental in helping renew Christ the King Chapel, the spiritual heart of the campus, in 2008, for example. Thanks to their generous donation, the College was able build a new altar and ambo from the chapel’s old communion railing.
In 1999, the couple also established the Edward J. and Stella Gunn Corbett Award in honor of Stella’s parents. This scholarship is awarded annually to a junior or senior who requires financial assistance to continue his or her education.
“Stella and John Hetzer represent everything good about Notre Dame. They are responsible, generous and humble. They are good people who live the College's mission, and the College is deeply grateful for their support,” President Dr. Andrew P. Roth said when the couple received the Fidelia Award, one of the College’s highest honors, for their distinguished service to NDC in 2010.
Stella began that service after graduating with a bachelor’s in business administration in 1959. She got involved with the Alumnae Association as it was trying to raise funds for the construction of the Administration Building’s west wing in 1961. In those days, both Stella and John participated in alumnae phonathons because they felt the personal touch was very important to raise money.
At the time, Stella and John didn’t have much money themselves. John had been in manufacturing since he was 16, working for his uncle’s business. He had dropped out of the University of Dayton but finished his degree at John Carroll University after the couple married. After their three children – Stella Lynn, Jean Marie and John Jr. – were born, Stella and John decided to start their own company. Having just bought a house and a car, John kept his day job as the couple began to build Fluid Line Products from their home in the evenings. They took calls for their new business at home while trying to keep the kids quiet so that things sounded professional.
John eventually resigned from his day job and began to concentrate on Fluid Line Products, which designs and manufactures fluid power components in Willoughby, Ohio, with his partner Zeljko Skalicki. At the time, the Hetzers were living on $25 a week. Stella remembers going to the bank to get 25 cents for a loaf of bread. Things were tight.
But soon their new business began to take off. As secretary and treasurer, Stella was in charge of the books. To this day she’s doing the company’s payroll every single Monday.
Stella credits Notre Dame for much of her success.
“Without Notre Dame College, I wouldn’t be here today. My degree from Notre Dame is the best I have. I feel like I blazed a trail for the girls who are in business today,” said Stella, who also attended Case Western Reserve University for a master’s degree.
Both Stella and John are products of a Catholic education and all of their seven grandchildren are in Catholic schools as well.
“It’s a sacrifice to find the money to send your children, but there’s nothing quite like a Catholic education,” Stella said.
It’s that belief in the values and excellence of a Notre Dame education that motivates Stella to give back to NDC in both talent and treasure.
“We give because of the rewarding experiences I had as a Notre Dame student,” Stella said. “I have fond memories of Notre Dame College. The many friends I made, the beauty of the campus, and the quality of the education itself are dear to me. If it hadn’t been for someone else giving, I wouldn’t have been able to attend Notre Dame College.”
Over the years, Stella has served in various leadership positions at NDC. She served as vice president, treasurer, secretary and clubs coordinator for the Alumni Association for many years. In 1995, she joined the College’s board of trustees and has served on several committees since, including the Institutional Advancement Committee. In 2002, she became an honorary member of the board.
“Stella is the ultimate in faithfulness to the College,” John said.
But Stella’s service goes far beyond Notre Dame College. She has been an active volunteer in her parish, the American Association of University Women and the Christ Child Society.
In short, Stella Hetzer is a true Notre Dame example of how to live a life of personal, professional and global responsibility.
Christian Taske ’07 is the director of print & digital communications at Notre Dame College.