Professor David Madsen, PhD, ’69, has been an institution at Seattle University for over 30 years, but his history goes all the way back to his undergraduate education 50 years ago. He has been a professor of humanities, served as director of the University Honors Program, moderated for the university’s Naef Scholars and has served as Grand Marshall at commencement for 18 years. This year, with undying gratitude and appreciation, the university says farewell to Dr. Madsen in his professorial role.
“Watching Dr. Madsen teach was the first time I knew I wanted to be a university lecturer. Over two decades later, I am one, and I still consider him the paradigm of an engaging teacher,” says Matt Burch, ’00. “I’ve never seen anyone else electrify a seminar room the way he did.”
For the past 38 years, Professor Madsen has been building a reputation among his students as being as hard a grader as he was influential in their lives after college. He has touched countless students with his insatiable desire to teach not only Latin and Greek, two of his favorite subjects, but also to show students how to survive in the fast-paced world that surrounds a university.
“One of the toughest graders, but most motivating. He made you dig deep and think. As challenging as his class was, it was also one of the most interesting and worthwhile.,” notes Dana Lynn Chauncey, ‘12.
Tory Bowes Lake commented on the lifelong impact of Dr. Madsen’s class. “He uniquely found a way to conduct his lectures and teach subject matter in a way that was interesting, intellectually stimulating, and entertaining—a combination not many professors have mastered as well as he did. He made you want to do well and be a better student. To him I credit my professional writing ability, my ability to present information to large groups of people, and an ability to effectively communicate across any medium.
When asked about what he will miss most about teaching at the university, Dr. Madsen answered with, “That’s a no brainer: my students. A lot of times, I saw myself doing college boot camp” with his first-time freshmen, telling us that he enjoys being the stepping stone for students as they transition from high school to an independent, high-stakes university setting.
We asked Professor Madsen what he might want to say to those same freshmen who are now alumni and if he had any advice for them. His first answer was “community matters.” He emphasized the importance of cura personalis, a Latin phrase used often in Ignatian spirituality that means “care for the entire person.” He says in an age where everyone has their face to their phone, we must not forget the importance of genuine human connection and care and that we must always strive to forge genuine face-to-face connection. He said he hopes he was able to provide this same connection to his students.
In retirement, Dr. Madsen plans to do a lot of what he loves most: reading, walking and traveling, mostly back to the Mediterranean. He says even though Ireland and Norway are the places of his ancestors, Italy and Greece have his heart and therefore, he wants to spend as much time there as he can. He also plans to volunteer in his community so that he may continue to positively influence those around him, even after he has retired.
To see first hand the impact Dr. Madsen has had on this university, visit our Facebook page.