Rev. David T. Tyson, C.S.C. — Christus Magister Medal

Father Dave Tyson, who receives the University of Portland’s highest honor, the Christus Magister Medal, concludes his tenure as provincial of the Congregation of Holy Cross’s United States Province in the summer of 2012. During his tenure as provincial he has supervised the momentous reorganization of his order’s life and work in America, the most successful fundraising efforts in the order’s history, and the most successful vocational recruitment efforts of any Catholic order of priests and brothers in the nation; he has also flown endless thousands of miles visiting the Congregation’s men and hard work in schools, orphanages, and parishes in Africa, Asia, Europe, and all over the Americas, and savored the Catholic Church’s canonization of Brother Andre Bessette, C.S.C., of Montreal, the first recognized Holy Cross saint ever. His hard and visionary work as provincial at a crucial time in his beloved order’s history will long be remembered as an absolutely critical element of the Congregation’s rising prominence, influence, and confidence at the dawn of the 21st century.

Born in Gary, Indiana, Father Tyson earned his undergraduate (sociology, 1970) and master’s (theology, 1974) degrees at the University of Notre Dame, and then his doctorate in education at Indiana University (1980). Ordained in 1975, he worked in admissions and for the business college at Notre Dame before being named executive assistant to Notre Dame president Father Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., in 1982. From 1984 to 1990 he was vice president for student affairs at Notre Dame; in 1990 he was chosen as the University of Portland’s 18th president, a job he held, and did with verve and vision and humor, until he was elected provincial of what was then the Congregation’s Indiana Province in 2003.

As the famously gregarious and ebullient president of the University of Portland, he directed the University’s first comprehensive capital campaign (the Defining Moment centennial campaign, which raised $116 million), a tremendous surge in student applications and retention, the greatest burst of new construction and renovation since the University’s founding, and the University’s meteoric rise in national renown. On his watch the University became one of the best ten regional universities in the West (according to U.S. News & World Report), was honored nationally for an excellent education at reasonable cost, won plaudits from the White House for student service to the community, earned its first NCAA national championship (women’s soccer, 2002), and saw faculty members honored as the Carnegie Foundation national and state professors of the year. It is a testament to Father Tyson’s hard work and leadership that every imaginable aspect of the University community saw improvement when he was the boss — academics, athletics, finances, physical campus,  admissions, national profile, even the presidential vehicle; Father Tyson famously was given a purple motorcycle by a benefactor, riding it once before selling it and applying the money to scholarships.

Father Tyson joins a remarkable group of men and women who have received the University’s Christus Magister Medal; among previous honorees are U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, theologians Martin Marty and Monika Hellwig, Holy Cross Fathers Hugh Cleary and Edward Malloy, Judge John Noonan of the United States Court of Appeals, journalists Peggy and Peter Steinfels, Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, and Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., of New York.

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