Saint Martin’s University to confer honorary degree upon new bishop of Yakima Diocese

May 2, 2011

LACEY, WASHINGTON — Saint Martin’s University will confer a second honorary degree during its 2011 commencement ceremony, University President Roy Heynderickx has announced. Bishop Joseph J. Tyson, newly appointed bishop of the Yakima Diocese, will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, from the University. The commencement speaker, Sister Kathleen A. Ross, S.N.J.M., Ph.D., also will receive an honorary degree. Saint Martin’s commencement for the class of 2011 will take place Saturday, May 7, at 2:00 p.m. in the Hal and Inge Marcus Pavilion on the University’s Lacey campus, 5300 Pacific Avenue SE.

“When Bishop Tyson became auxiliary bishop of the Seattle Archdiocese six years ago, he selected as his episcopal motto, Christo Lumen ad Gentes, meaning ‘Christ, the light to the world,’” Heynderickx says. “Today, he continues to embrace that motto as a steadfast champion of Catholic education. We are delighted to have the opportunity to honor Bishop Tyson for his tremendous vision, unyielding commitment and focused work.”

Born in Moses Lake, Washington, and raised in Seattle, Tyson was baptized at Yakima’s Saint Paul Cathedral and graduated from Seattle’s Saint Alphonsus Elementary School and Bishop Blanchet High School. He studied at Shoreline Community College and the University of Washington, earning a bachelor’s degree in Russian and Eastern European studies and editorial journalism. Tyson earned a Master of Arts in international relations from the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies and a Master of Divinity from the Theological College of the Catholic University of America.

In 1989, Tyson was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of the Seattle Archdiocese. In the 16 years following his ordination, Tyson served as parochial vicar of Saint James Cathedral in Seattle, pastor of Saint Mary of the Valley Parish in Monroe, and pastor of Saint Edward, Saint George and Saint Paul — three culturally diverse South Seattle parishes where 37 languages were spoken.

In 2005, Tyson was appointed auxiliary bishop of Seattle by Pope Benedict XVI, receiving his episcopal consecration from Seattle’s Archbishop Alexander Brunett. In 2008, he became interim superintendent of Seattle Catholic Schools, serving approximately 23,000 students in 72 schools. In this position, Tyson passionately dedicated himself to supporting and promoting the values of Catholic education. Countless students throughout the archdiocese have benefited from Tyson’s efforts, including those in Lacey’s new Pope John Paul II High School, where he is a member of the board of directors.

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Tyson the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Yakima. Tyson is scheduled to be formally installed as bishop on May 31, 2011, at Yakima’s Holy Family Parish. This new appointment represents a return to roots for Tyson, who fondly recalls spending summers visiting his grandparents in Yakima. The Diocese of Yakima, founded in 1951, covers almost 18,000 square miles and seven rural counties in Central Washington. It is composed of 41 parishes, about 60 priests and approximately 80,000 Catholics, the majority of whom are native Spanish speakers.

Spanish is just one of many languages the bishop speaks. In addition to Spanish and his native English, Tyson—a seasoned traveler—also speaks German, Vietnamese and Serbo-Croatian. Tyson has visited destinations such as Vietnam, Mexico and the Philippines for a specific purpose—to gain a better understanding of the origins and cultures of his parishioners and priests.

“For many years, Bishop Tyson has been a faithful friend and frequent guest of St. Martin’s Abbey, a familiar face on campus, and a cherished member of the Saint Martin’s community,” explains Heynderickx. “At this milestone moment in his episcopal career, it is fitting that we formally recognize the contributions he has made to Catholic education.”

Saint Martin’s will confer 360 bachelor’s degrees and 81 master’s degrees at its May 7 ceremony. For more information on this event, visit the Saint Martin’s University Commencement website at

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, Catholic, coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 18 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 21 majors and six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Everett College, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at

For further information:

Jennifer Fellinger
Vice president, marketing and communications
Saint Martin’s University