BY GEOFF MACLAUGHLIN
Bob Fessler, a 1976 Blue Mountain graduate and a 1980 Susquehanna University grad, may have been one of the best local football players to play the game.
His excellence — and his spirit of giving — was recognized Nov. 14 by his induction into Susquehanna’s “Ring of Honor.” It is just the most recent of any number of honors bestowed upon Fessler over his 62 years of life thus far.
The Ring of Honor was established by the university in 2018 to recognize Susquehanna alumni for achievements both on and off the field that benefit the university. It was created to “honor the past” while encouraging teammates and friends to reconnect with each other and the SU football program in the present and future.
It recognizes the “… service, success, spirit and advocacy on behalf of the SU football program and in the community … deemed worthy of recognition by their peers.”
Here are some of Fessler’s on-the-field exploits at Susquehanna that earned him Ring of Honor recognition:
Fessler was a four-year starter at linebacker, led the team in tackles for three years, was team MVP in 1978 and MVP and captain in 1979. He set school records for tackles in a career with 451, and set school records for tackles in a season (152) and a game (25). He was inducted into Susquehanna’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 and named to the university’s All-Century Team in 1999. He was also selected for Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges in 1980.
Among all-star awards he earned were first-team All-Middle Atlantic Conference and selection to the ECAC All-Star team three times. He was SU’s Defensive MVP against Wilkes in the Anthracite Bowl and the Sunbury Kiwanis Club Defensive Player of the Year in 1978.
But before Fessler ever got to Susquehanna, he was distinguishing himself at Blue Mountain. He was named to the Blue Mountain Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 and to the Allen-Rogowicz Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Fessler said he did a little bit of everything at Blue Mountain, playing quarterback, running back and fullback on offense, while playing what would turn out to be his college position — linebacker — on defense. He was also the Eagles’ kicker.
If Fessler’s name seems familiar to the non-sporting community, for many years he was part of the management of the family-owned and operated H.H. Fessler Knitting Company. in Orwigsburg, which first began operations in 1917.
Fessler’s father Henry was running the company when he passed away suddenly in 1977, just days before the start of football camp in the younger Fessler’s sophomore season. Fessler, his mother and sister not only maintained the business, but grew it significantly in the years that followed.
Fessler graduated from Susquehanna in 1980 with a degree in Psychology and Business. He went on to serve as production manager, vice president and ultimately company president before the business was sold in 1994. Over the years, the company was a generous benefactor to charities and organizations in Schuylkill County.
Fessler’s own individual spirit of generosity was another reason for his induction into the Ring of Honor. Over the years, Fessler has supported the university in many ways, including support for the general fund, weight room, the Varsity and Orange & Maroon clubs, the Vialonga Performance Center, the Science Building and class reunion fundraisers, to name just a few.
Fessler’s wife Lanie is a Susquehanna grad as well and they both serve on reunion committees, returning nearly every year for Homecoming and reconnecting with alumni, past professors and coaches.
One of the projects that Fessler has donated to, is most active in and is most enthusiastic about is the “Go Program.”
Started after 2008, Fessler said it is a program to support the Susquehanna initiative that requires every student to go abroad for a semester. Fessler explained that “abroad” doesn’t necessarily mean overseas, but could also be somewhere in the United States, as long as it is a meaningful, educational off-campus experience. He stressed that education is a mandatory part of the program; it’s not just a semester off.
Fessler and his wife reside in Berks County, where they have raised three boys, Dan, Matthew and Neal, with oldest son Dan also graduating from Susquehanna in 2008. Fessler was active in coaching youth sports for 10 years, was a Scout leader and a church council president.
Continuing that spirit of service to the community for which he was recognized by the Ring of Honor, he currently volunteers to drive patients to doctor appointments and therapy programs.
In addition to those accolades and accomplishments, we send Fessler a well-earned HEY award.
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