Citadel honors Father Lee Selzer with memorial scholarship

CHARLESTON — A group of alumni from The Citadel have created a memorial scholarship in honor of the late Father Lee A. Selzer.

Father Selzer died in August 2007 of complications from diabetes. He was 39. At the time, he was serving as director of pastoral ministry to the Hispanic community of Charleston.

The Father Lee Selzer Class of 1990 Memorial Scholarship was established by a group of his former classmates, including Niall Gannon, Chris Sexton, Keith Huggins and Scott Moore.

“I have pledged to fund the scholarship with $25,000 in donations from our class over the next four years,” Gannon wrote in an e-mail to Father Dennis B. Willey, pastor of the Church of Christ the Divine Teacher at The Citadel.

Gannon said the priest’s friends, family members and the community are encouraged to contribute to the scholarship fund in hopes that it will exceed $25,000.

A letter was sent to Father Selzer’s classmates asking them to donate a certain amount each year for four years. Participants who pledge $100 or more annually will be named as founders of the scholarship and their names will be engraved in a memorial book, the letter stated.

Gannon’s e-mail noted that the fund already has received annual pledges from several classmates for the collective amount of $2,500.

“I know Lee would have been grateful to be honored in such a way by his classmates,” Father Willey said in an e-mail. “I’m sure that many people who knew Father Lee Selzer will want to contribute to the scholarship.”

Father Willey, a former Army helicopter pilot, was ordained in 1994 and was the first Citadel graduate to become a diocesan priest.

“The Diocese of Charleston is fortunate to have Lee’s example as a priest and graduate of the Citadel to inspire other young men, hopefully Cadets, to pursue a vocation in the church,” Father Willey said. “Lee would have liked that.”

Father Selzer was born Aug. 5, 1968, at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., a son of Robert and Catherine Selzer.

His parents were pleased to hear about the tribute, Gannon said.

After graduating from The Citadel, Father Selzer worked with computers in Massachusetts and went to Belize as a lay missioner with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity before entering the seminary to study for the priesthood.

Father Selzer graduated from Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., where he earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology degree.

He was the only priest ordained for the Diocese of Charleston on June 8, 2002, at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

His first assignment was as the parochial vicar at St. Joseph in Columbia. He then became administrator for St. Mark in Newberry, Holy Spirit Mission in Laurens and St. Boniface Church in Joanna.

Father Selzer, who was fluent in Spanish, had been assigned to minister to the Spanish-speaking community of Charleston beginning Aug. 8, 2007, just a few days before his death.