Big voice on campus

Education professor moonlights as the voice of UND’s commencement and sporting events

David Tack

David Tack tests out the acoustics of the Chester Fritz Auditorium ahead of Friday’s Summer Commencement Ceremony. Aside from his teaching duties, Tack lends his voice to ceremonies and sporting events at the University – something he’s done around the region for almost 25 years. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

David Tack says there’s usually one person in class each semester who gives him a look as if an “arm emerged” from his forehead — they recognize him, but don’t know why.

“Then they’ll slowly come up and ask if I’m the guy who announces North Dakota state dance competitions,” he said. The students usually proceed to text their high school coaches, exclaiming that the voice of their athletic achievement is now their college professor.

Tack, who’s been with the University and College of Education & Human Development as assistant professor since 2016, is recognized often. Even with 21 years of teaching, he’s done voice work longer than anything else.

Friday’s Summer Commencement is his latest gig, and it will be the third time he’s read the names of graduates as they cross the stage.

Gift for gab

When he accepted the offer to teach at UND, Tack thought it marked the end of his vocal contributions. An East Grand Forks native, he’s an unabashed fan of the University and its athletic programs.

“I got hired here and I’m like, wow, they have people to do that,” he said, referring to events like commencement and Fighting Hawks home games, which he now announces for women’s basketball, soccer, volleyball and softball. “I was really sad about probably never announcing athletics ever again, because I love that so much.”

Tack began voicing sporting events during his freshman year of college in 1992. His friend on the women’s basketball team knew he had worked at radio station XL93, and the team needed someone to announce the games.

“For whatever reason, they gave me the gig,” Tack said. For 25 years, he’s said yes, and people put him on as many mics as possible

When he was hired at Fargo South High School after receiving his bachelor’s degree, he announced basketball, hockey, volleyball and every other sport while teaching English.

“Then I was doing it at tournaments,” he said. “So I was the voice for state football and state basketball at the Fargodome. One year I got hired to announce for the Bison, so I did men and women’s basketball for them.”

His career moved to Minnesota State University Moorhead and his voice followed.

“There was a running joke at one point where my wife would say, ‘My gosh, can I go anywhere on this campus without having to hear you,’” Tack recalled with a laugh, then mentioning at the time he also did promotional work for TV campaigns and online advertising.

David Tack

Tack began using his voice as early as his senior year of high school when he took a job at local radio station XL93. He says he always paid attention to the people with big voices, whether on the airwaves or at games. Even with all that he’s done, there’s still more to learn. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Trained ear

Tack grew up idolizing big voices in media.

“I listened to the radio and I’d have a boombox recorder with cassette tapes,” he explained. “Instead of recording songs, I recorded the DJ breaks. I would have tapes full of the announcer and I would pretend to do that.

“My parents were probably three days away from an intervention before realizing I wasn’t as weird as they thought.”

At games, his friends noticed he paid more attention to the announcers than the court. To this day, he’ll try and quiet the family car during the commercial segments played on the radio.

Act to follow

Mark Brickson, retired director of development at UND School of Law, proctored commencement ceremonies for the University for many years, and called Tack’s name to receive a doctorate from UND. Having grown up knowing Brickson’s son, Tack found Mark’s voice to be the ultimate validation.

“The voice of God – anyone who follows him sounds like they just sucked helium for an hour and a half,” Tack said.

In a small-town-U.S.A. turn of events, Tack moved in across the street from the commencement veteran when he took the job at UND. One day, Brickson pulled into his driveway with some news: he was done voicing commencements and put Tack’s name in the hat of Fred Wittmann, UND’s ceremonies director.

“I told him he was an awful act to follow,” Tack said. “It’s like having U2 on stage and then your band gets to play. It wasn’t how I wanted it to go, but I told him I’d do it.”

Wittmann says it didn’t take long to know Tack was up next.

“I called him, he answered the phone, and I knew right away that Dave was the person we needed for commencement,” Wittmann told UND Today. “He’s really taken on being a voice for the institution. During commencement, it’s critical that names are said properly and in timely fashion – Dave does it with great care and sense for delivery.”

David Tack

Arriving in 2016 as an assistant professor, Tack loves working and teaching at his hometown University. He specializes in secondary education and other topics at the College of Education & Human Development when he isn’t announcing games and commencements. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Guiding voice

Tack teaches at the College of Education full-time. His focus is secondary education, given his background as a high school instructor, but he refers to himself more as an education generalist — like a utility player in baseball who can do a bit of everything.

As far as his voice goes in the classroom, it mostly gets him in trouble.

“I’ve always been the loud kid,” he said. “I just get fired up. Teachers in the next room have walked over and asked if I know how loud I’m being.”

He says the student feedback on evaluations speaks to how much he loves his job. They write that Tack enjoys being there every day, and that he brings an invigorating energy to their work. He considers himself lucky to have fallen into something about which he’s passionate.

“To leave the area and come back home, this is a job I never thought I’d have, and it’s so great to be back home,” he said. “I love teaching, I love being in the classroom. Coming to UND has provided this awesome family environment that’s also made me reinvent myself.”

As a teacher, Tack understands that he’s forever a student – learning from those who are more experienced and accomplished. He never wants the spotlight, but relishes in making someone’s graduation or game day special.

“I feel like a conductor,” he said. “I’m not playing the instrument, but if I call a three-pointer it amplifies the excitement; hearing your name at graduation is something that stays with you. When you’re good enough, your voice becomes an important part of the experience.”

Summer Commencement

When: Friday, August 3, at 3 p.m.

Where: Chester Fritz Auditorium

Doors to guest seating will open at 2 p.m. Family and friends do not need tickets to attend. Free parking is available at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

The ceremony will broadcast live on the UND Facebook page and on the day of the ceremony.

Visit UND’s commencement page for up-to-the-minute information. If you have other questions, contact the UND Office of Ceremonies & University Events at 701.777.2731.