What Thyreen’s legacy means to a journalist covering his passing

When I wrote the main, front-page story covering the Chancellor’s death, life and legacy, I strove to keep my personal opinions out of it. I wanted the facts and the sources to tell the story of his life, one that I am certainly not qualified to tell on my own. 

During the process of writing that story and putting together this special edition, I was fortunate to interview key witnesses to his life in the weeks immediately following his passing, and I was given access to more information than I could have ever asked for or expected to receive. 

At the same time, I got extremely close to the story. I firmly believe that reporters can and should form opinions about the material they cover, that often journalists have more information about a story or issue than anyone else, and the opinion they form is oftentimes more informed and complex than that of anyone else. At the same time, it is crucial that reporters keep that opinion out of their hard news coverage while being transparent about that opinion and bias in other mediums. This editorial is my attempt at just that.

I wanted to share my opinion as both a supplement to the hard news coverage as well as a way to show the campus just how important the chancellor was. 

I never got the opportunity to meet the Chancellor, so I cannot, and should not, attempt to speak about his personal character. I gladly leave that up to his widow, Dr. Carolyn Thyreen; their family; President Lee and the many, many people who did know him personally and speak so highly of his faith, of his commitment, and his capacity to love.

I firmly believe in the transformative nature of that mission, and the entire world is able to see the fruits of that effort in the Waynesburg alumni who work in Congress, practice law, lead companies and provide a shining example of what proper education and training can accomplish.

Nor am I capable of speaking about the theological implications of Waynesburg’s return to its founding mission. In the process of putting this special edition together, I had the opportunity to hear from many people who are capable of a deep understanding of the spiritual impact that the Chancellor’s work carried, and yet, that is just not something that I am able to fully grasp and speak about.

Rather, I am able to offer a perspective similar to that of other students who have enrolled here over the past decade, and those who will enroll here for decades, if not centuries, to come. Students like myself were not here for the struggles, the hard times, or the blood, sweat and tears shed during the Thyreens’ fight to make the university what it is today. Instead, we are fortunate enough to reap the benefits of their struggle: a comprehensive education that doesn’t just give information, but rather puts it into the context of being a good citizen, living a life of virtue and meaning, and finding one’s calling.

The quality of that education has steadily made itself more and more apparent during my four years at this school. During my time here, I have become a person that is more grounded, stronger in virtue, and dedicated to a calling that gives me meaning and fulfillment. Further, I can point to specific programs, changes and hires that the Chancellor himself made.

Of course, the department of communications ranks has been one of the most influential for me. During his time as president, Chancellor Thyreen poured resources, time and effort into the department, setting the stage and laying the foundation for the top-notch education and experience that I have been so fortunate to experience.

Image credit: The President’s office

The chancellor’s legacy has deeply affected me in other ways, as well. I have met some of the closest friends of my life in buildings like the Stover Campus Center and the Center for Education and Research, buildings that were erected because of his leadership. I have shared life stories and gained invaluable wisdom during meals with friends, faculty and mentors in the Benedum dining hall, which he worked to renovate and expand. In so many ways, the work that he did as president is woven throughout the fabric of my life, even though I never met the man.

Ultimately, however, the return to the mission of Waynesburg’s founding is the single biggest impact the chancellor had on my life. I am extremely lucky and blessed to have found myself in a place like Waynesburg, where the focus is on becoming not just an excellent scholar and a dedicated worker, but rather becoming a cultured, well-rounded person capable of leading others. I firmly believe in the transformative nature of that mission, and the entire world is able to see the fruits of that effort in the Waynesburg alumni who work in Congress, practice law, lead companies and provide a shining example of what proper education and training can accomplish. 

As I said, I never had the opportunity to meet Chancellor Thyreen, and yet, I sorely feel his absence on campus. Further, I have been privileged to speak with and get to know many who were close to him. Although the campus has lost a wonderful source of wisdom and leadership, I have been blessed with deep, thought-provoking discussions and interviews with people who stood close by him, and I am fortunate to have gained that perspective as a student.

Waynesburg has truly lost a giant.