Brother Leto leaves legacy of innovation, dedication

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WARWICK — When Christian Brother Thomas Leto completes his assignment as president of Bishop Hendricken High School later this month, he will be remembered for his inspiration, innovation and strong commitment to Gospel values.

Brother Leto, who has served at Bishop Hendricken for the past 11 years, has been named president of Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle, New York, and will assume his new position later this summer.

The longtime educator and school administrator said that one of the most significant accomplishments achieved by the Hendricken community during his tenure was the implementation of the school’s Options Program, which offers young men of high school age with special needs the “option” to receive a quality, values-based Catholic education.

“It’s been a very positive experience for the entire Bishop Hendricken High School community,” he continued. “We’re all God’s children.” Brother Leto stated that Hendricken is one of only five Catholic schools in the United States that offer the program and the only single gender educational facility.

Another of Brother Leto’s achievements is the Hendricken Arts Academy, which offers courses in the visual and performing arts.

“It’s been a wonderful addition,” he reflected. “We provide programs for the total person - mind, heart, soul and body.”

Brother Leto said that while Bishop Hendricken High School has long been recognized for its outstanding athletic programs, the 51 year-old high school is now also distinguished by its successful arts curriculum.

‘We don’t settle,” the religious brother emphasized. “We are always striving to be better than we are. I think that our Catholic identity is stronger today than it was 20 years ago. The Gospel message is spread across the curriculum.”

While there have been many days filled with joy and happiness during Brother Leto’s tenure at Hendricken, the deaths of Army Capt. Matthew August in 2004 and Marine Cpl. Eric Valdepenas two years later — both fighting in Iraq — drew the school community together as its members paused to prayerfully remember the two graduates.

“I attended both funerals,” Brother Leto recalled.

Noting that some of the Hendricken students have pulled off some pranks, he recalled that one year some members of the senior class placed a car on bricks in the middle of the school gym.

“We’ve had our lighter moments,” the longtime educator said.

Some of the challenges that the school administrator has faced include keeping the cost of a Catholic high school affordable despite rising costs, providing increased financial aid and diversifying the student body.

This year, for example, five young men from Asia are matriculating at Hendricken and are staying with local host families.

As he reflected on his years at Bishop Hendricken, Brother Leto praised the school’s staff for their commitment to Catholic education.

“I think we have an extremely dedicated and professional faculty and staff,” he noted. “They are all working hard to bring the Gospel message into the classroom. The charism of Brother Edmund Rice has grown stronger each year.”

As he prepares to move to New York, Brother Leto said he will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve in Rhode Island.

“It’s been a great experience - both personally and professionally,” he said. “I’ve loved every minute that I’ve been here. God has given me the opportunity to work with some wonderful people.”