With great sadness, Waynesburg University announces the loss of its Chancellor, Timothy R. Thyreen, 78, who passed away peacefully at home Tuesday, May 17, surrounded by members of his loving family.
Chancellor Thyreen served as President from 1990 until 2013 and as Chancellor from 2013 until the present time. A lifetime educator, he taught kindergarten all the way to students at the doctorate level and coached high school football in Northeast Ohio and Southwestern Pennsylvania before coming to Waynesburg University.
“He was a visionary national educational leader whose steady dedication to glorifying God through Waynesburg University's mission is an exemplar of how one person can creatively and ethically shape the world and advance Christ's kingdom,” said Waynesburg University President Douglas G. Lee.
Thyreen’s presidency was a time of unparalleled growth in the long history of the University. He restored the University’s Christian mission of 1849 and created an institutional commitment that educates students to make connections between faith, learning and serving so they might faithfully transform their communities and the world.
Under his leadership, Waynesburg College became Waynesburg University, master’s and doctoral programs were added, enrollment doubled and the University’s endowment grew by 900 percent.
The University also became the first college in Pennsylvania to be awarded the prestigious Bonner Scholar Program, and in 2004, was awarded an endowed scholarship for students interested in community service. Since its inception in 1990, Waynesburg students have contributed more than 750,000 hours of service in local communities and throughout the world.
In collaboration with Waynesburg alumnus W. Robert Stover '42, Chancellor Thyreen established “The Stover Center for Constitutional Studies and Moral Leadership.” This interdisciplinary scholarly center is dedicated to bringing insights from the U.S. Constitution's Founding Era and from Christianity to bear in the contemporary public square, with the goal of creatively transforming the ethical state of the polis.
Having participated in the authorship of scores of master plans for small colleges up to large mega-system universities during 50 years of professional planning, I can honestly say I have never experienced a renaissance equal to that of Waynesburg College.”
Under Thyreen’s presidency, 12 new buildings were constructed and 10 others were renovated. Many of these buildings are constructed around a beautiful quadrangle, Johnson Commons, named after distinguished master planner and architect, Dr. Carl D. Johnson. Johnson said of Thyreen’s dynamic leadership, which tripled the size of the campus, “Having participated in the authorship of scores of master plans for small colleges up to large mega-system universities during 50 years of professional planning, I can honestly say I have never experienced a renaissance equal to that of Waynesburg College.”
Chancellor Thyreen’s transformational accomplishments were widely recognized. In an American Council of Education study of more than 700 college and university presidents, Social Scientists James L. Fisher and James V. Koch characterized him as one of only 17 “entrepreneurial” presidents. The authors wrote, “Few presidents have had more impact on their institutions than Timothy R. Thyreen. Thyreen has been a relentless, inexhaustible, passionate, intensely competitive force who has brought Waynesburg [University] regional and national recognition.”
Dr. David R. Black, Chair of the site visit for accreditation and President of Eastern University, said of Chancellor Thyreen, “He has more resolve and passion for a university vision than any president I have known. As a result, he has shown the rest of us how to master the presidential craft.”
The Educational Record wrote of President Thyreen’s leadership in 1994, “The President has provided vision, undeniable vigor, and infectious enthusiasm to the [University]. The President unquestionably has been the catalyst for beneficent developments, and it is he who has been the key to the [University’s] resurgence.”
His efforts at returning the University to its founding Christian mission gained national recognition in 1995, when the Religious Heritage of America awarded him the “Outstanding Educator of the Year.”
Dr. Jerry L. Beasley, President Emeritus of Concord University, observed that Chancellor Thyreen “is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of what the great Presbyterian preacher Bryant Kirkland called ‘holy boldness.’”
Chancellor Thyreen’s service was not limited to Waynesburg University. He also held leadership roles in several state and international organizations, including his Chairmanship of the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania; Chairmanship of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges & Universities and the American Universities in Russia, Ukraine, and the Newly Independent States. In 1990, he was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to the Pennsylvania Lawyers Client Security Fund Board.
Since 2003, he served on the Board of Directors of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Prompted by a deep sense of stewardship and respect for all of God’s creation, his work helped advance the mission of Conservancy to protect and restore our region’s natural areas.
During his time as President and Chancellor, he served on the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) Board of Directors. In this role, he was recognized for his stewardship of a program that provides access and choice to qualified Pennsylvania students.
“Tim Thyreen spent the better part of a decade as the chief advocate for students with financial need as the Chair of the Needs Assessment Committee on the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Board of Directors,” said Tom Foley, President of the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania. “He was the person everyone else looked to when it came to figuring out what is the best course of action to help these students get through college. He knew his numbers – so important when charged with making critical state budget decisions – but he knew his heart too, and it was that combination that assured everyone was listening when he delivered his views. He will be greatly missed by his PHEAA colleagues, by all his legion of friends in the higher education community, and especially by me.”
Chancellor Thyreen’s singular personality, his commitment to God, his family, and Waynesburg University exemplify a life of purpose lived for the glory of God.”
In 2019, Chancellor Thyreen was honored with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania’s (AICUP) Francis J. Michelini Award for Outstanding Service to Higher Education. The award, named for Dr. Francis “Mike” Michelini, past president of the Commission for Independent Colleges & Universities, is reserved for individuals whose work has significantly contributed to the quality of private higher education in Pennsylvania.
“As Chancellor, his continued advocacy for Waynesburg University in higher education, government, and the nation can never be overstated,” said President Lee “Both he and Dr. Carolyn Thyreen have provided Mrs. Lee and me with continued support, advice, and friendship throughout these many years. Chancellor Thyreen’s singular personality, his commitment to God, his family, and Waynesburg University exemplify a life of purpose lived for the glory of God.”
Waynesburg University extends its deepest condolences to his beloved wife, Dr. Carolyn Thyreen, their daughters, grandchildren, and extended family.
A memorial service is being planned for a later date.
About Waynesburg University
Consistently ranked a best value school, Waynesburg University’s Strategy for the 21st Century affirms its commitment to developing an entrepreneurial mindset and ethical leadership skills for all students. Rooted in its mission of faith, learning and service, the private, Christian university is located on a traditional campus in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, with an additional site for graduate and professional programs in Southpointe.
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