Dr. James Covert, UP professor emeritus in history, passes away

College of Arts and Sciences



October 18, 2016

James Thayne Covert, Ph.D., professor emeritus in history at the University of Portland, died at his home on Thursday, October 13, of complications from a stroke. He was 84 years old.  A funeral Mass will be held on Friday, October 21, at 11:00 a.m. at Saint Pius X Catholic Church, and a rosary will occur the night before at 7:00 p.m. in Saint Pius’ Community Center. The church is located at 1280 NW Saltzman Road.

University President Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C., asked the campus community to join him in offering condolences to Jim’s wife Sally and their family, including two of Jim’s children, Christine Naylor and Marcus Covert, both of whom are staff members at the University.  The family requests remembrances should be to the James T. Covert Family Endowed Scholarship at the University of Portland in the name of James Covert. To make a donation to the James T. Covert Family Endowed Scholarship, visit giving.up.edu/covert.

In 1961, Jim Covert was hired as professor of European history, and he continued teaching until his retirement in 1997. He specialized in English social history, particularly late Victorian and Edwardian eras, and he wrote or edited six books and numerous scholarly articles, among them A Point of Pride: The University of Portland Story (1976).

He chaired the Department of History (later History and Political Science) for eighteen years. He served on numerous committees, including the Academic Senate, which he helped establish in 1969 and served as president or held other key posts several times. He was managing editor of the University of Portland Review for four years, served as faculty representative for Athletics for twenty-three years, and was a member of the executive committee of the West Coast Athletic Conference from 1976-1995.

He was active in a number of faculty committees, such as rank and tenure, faculty welfare, board of discipline, student affairs, and student media. He designed the University’s ceremonial maces in 1976 and served as assistant or grand marshal at commencements for several years. He was the founder and first director of the University of Portland Museum, and raised the funds for and supervised the design of the Captain William Clark Memorial monument on the bluff overlooking the Willamette River. Jim also raised the funds and directed the design of the University’s Praying Hands Memorial. 

Jim received many teaching and scholarship honors and awards over his career, including the James Culligan Award for outstanding service to the University in 1967, and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award in 1986. He was named a Danforth Associate by the Danforth Foundation in 1970, and won the Bishop Leipzig Award for distinguished service to Oregon Catholic history, presented by the Portland Archdiocesan historical commission in 1995.

"Jim Covert, a convert to Catholicism, showed great devotion to God, to the Church, to his family, and to the University of Portland.  He was a beloved teacher whose classes always filled early," said Fr. Art Wheeler, C.S.C, a contemporary of Jim's.  "He left a permanent mark on the University and on the lives of thousands of students.  I worked with him during his last years at the University, and he gave fully of himself right up to retirement, living his vocation as a teacher and mentor."

In 1992, Jim and his wife, Sally, created the James T. Covert Family Endowed Scholarship to give back to the University that has been so much of their and their family’s lives. The scholarship supports an undergraduate or graduate student with a history or political science major. Eighteen students have received the scholarship since 1996.

Jim is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sally Ann Covert, and their children Marc, Michael, Jennifer Keagbine, Elizabeth Tobey, and Christine Naylor. His daughter Juliann Covert predeceased him in 2002, as did his grandson, Danny Keagbine, in 2011. He is also survived by his beloved grandchildren, Jeffrey, Emily, Kelsey, Erik, Trevor, and Megan Keagbine; Thayne Covert; Samuel Naylor; Corin and Arden Tobey; and Oliver and Sally Covert.



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