James Thayne Covert, 84, professor emeritus in history at the University of Portland, died at his home, surrounded by family, on Oct. 13 of complications from a stroke he suffered in June. A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1280 NW Saltzman Rd, Portland, OR 97229. A rosary will take place at 7 p.m. the night before (Thursday, Oct. 20) at St. Pius Community Center. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Covert Family Scholarship at the University of Portland in his memory.

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 12 grandchildren.

Covert was professor of European history at the University of Portland from 1961 through 1997, with a specialty in English social history, particularly late Victorian and Edwardian eras. He wrote or edited six books and numerous scholarly articles, among them A Point of Pride: The University of Portland Story (1976), which dealt with the first seventy-five year history of the university, and A Victorian Marriage (2001), a biography of Anglican Bishop Mandell Creighton and his wife Louise Creighton. Covert won 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.

He chaired the Department of History (later History and Political Science) for eighteen years, and served on numerous committees during his tenure, 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 (1976-1995).

He was active in a number of faculty committees at the university, 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, which Clark explored during the Lewis and Clark expedition. He also raised funds and directed the design of the university’s Broken Wall Memorial, which commemorates former UP students who served and in some cases lost their lives in America’s wars. The monument to the Korean conflict is thought to be one of the first in the country so designated.

Covert was the first layman appointed to the Archdiocesan Historical Commission and founder and first president of the Oregon Catholic History Society; he was also founder of Oregon’s Sherlock Holmes Society. He was active in the Claremont community where he and his wife lived for a number of years, serving in the men’s golf club, the architectural review committee, and as director of the annual Claremont 4th of July parade.

“Dr. Jim,” as he was fondly called by his students and friends, was born in Cimarron, Kansas on April 20, 1932, and moved to Portland with his family as a child. He attended St. Clare’s grade school and Collins View School in Southwest Portland. He graduated from Lincoln High School on Broadway in 1950, where he participated in sports, particularly track, was a cheerleader, sang in the choir, and was editor of the weekly newspaper, the Lincoln Cardinal. He worked several years after high school for Austin Brothers Wholesale Drug Co., both in Portland and Spokane, during which he spent a year in the U.S. Air Force on a radar outpost at Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska as part of the 142 Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron.

He married Sally Ann Miller, a former high school classmate, in 1952 and later attended the University of Portland (1956-1959), graduating maxima cum laude as a major in history. He went on to the University of Oregon where he earned a Masters of Arts degree in European history and a Ph.D. He was invited to return to the university before completing his advanced degrees in 1961, and there he began his long tenure as a popular teacher and faculty leader, twice declining requests to serve as dean and academic vice president because of his love for teaching in the classroom.

Often described by his friends and colleagues as a Renaissance man, Covert enjoyed singing and music; played guitar, piano, and banjo in various dance bands; was an amateur wood-carver and watercolorist; and became an avid golfer later in life. His special love, however, was always writing, both non-fiction and fiction, including poetry. A devoted father and husband, his abiding love for his family, his university, and his religious outlook, stimulated by his conversion to Roman Catholicism while in the military, were features that he readily displayed to those who knew him. He was a child of the Great Depression and the Second World War, experiences that forever colored his outlook in adult life.

The family wishes to thank Legacy hospice personnel who made his final weeks comfortable and peaceful, and Father Neil Moore, the official Covert family pastor these past 50 years, for bringing communion, kindness, good cheer, and the Anointing of the Sick to our beloved “Grumps.” Jim Covert led a meaningful life and was blessed with a good death, and will be sorely missed.