In Memoriam ~ Father Mark Thamert, OSB, ’69, former Headmaster
Father Mark Lee Thamert OSB ’69
Feb. 6, 1951 – April 29, 2017
Mark Lee Thamert and his twin sister, Mary, were born in Owatonna, Minnesota, on February 6, 1951, to Melvin and Marie (Deml) Thamert. Mark and Mary, along with his other siblings, Virginia, Richard and Robert, grew up on the family farm.
Mark attended Saint Mary’s Central Elementary School in Owatonna, and then enrolled at Saint John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minnesota, graduating in 1969. He next enrolled at the University of Minnesota, planning to study architecture. However, after taking a German language application test, he spent his sophomore year studying in Cologne, Berlin, and Hamburg. Following the year abroad, he returned to Minnesota and transferred to Saint John’s University, where he earned a BA in German, graduating magna cum laude in 1973. During his junior and senior years, Mark began teaching German at Saint John’s Preparatory School.
After graduation Mark was appointed director of the Saint John’s Preparatory Study Abroad Program at Melk Abbey in Austria. During this year abroad, he was attracted to life as a Benedictine monk and after completing a year of novitiate at Saint John’s Abbey professed his first vows on July 11, 1975. He then began studies for the priesthood at Saint John’s Seminary and was ordained in 1979. Following ordination Father Mark was accepted in the doctoral program in Germanic Languages and Literatures and received his PhD in 1986.
Returning to Saint John’s, Father Mark began a long career of teaching and writing as a professor of Modern and Classical Languages from 1984-2016. Father Mark also served as director of the honors program for the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, taught the “Great Books and Ideas” seminar, was instrumental in obtaining major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and developed the senior honors research program. He had a strong interest in study abroad programs and directed student overseas programs in Austria, Germany, Mexico, Italy, India and Tibet.
In 1994, Father Mark was appointed headmaster of Saint John’s Preparatory School. During his four years at the school, he inaugurated the Middle School program and oversaw the building of the Weber Center. In 1999 he received the “Declaration of Honor in Silver for Service to the Republic of Austria,” in recognition of his contributions to the Austrian people over 30 years.
Father Mark’s last appointment was Director of the Benedictine Institute at Saint John’s starting in January 2013 that was cut short in the spring of 2014 when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He underwent extensive medical procedures for the duration of his illness but in the end declined further treatment.
Father Mark’s translation from the German of The Rule of Benedict: An Invitation to the Christian Life by Georg Holzherr OSB was published in 2016.
Father Mark died peacefully on April 29, 2017 in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by his sisters and brothers and the monastic community of Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Mark on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM in Saint John’s Abbey and University Church with interment in Saint John’s Cemetery following the service.