An historical overview of Saint Martin's University

Established in 1895, Saint Martin’s University is a four-year, coeducational Catholic university located in Lacey, Washington. One of 18 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains, the University offers education for both traditional and non-traditional students.

Saint Martin’s University stands proudly rooted in its unique Benedictine heritage. The monks of Saint Martin’s Abbey founded the institution and today remain actively engaged in the life and support of the University. The Benedictine monks belong to the oldest monastic order in western civilization, with 1,500 years of tradition behind them. Over the centuries, their long record of scholarship and achievement — as teachers, artists and protectors of culture — have made the Benedictines well-suited to education.

The University began as a school educating boys and young men in college preparatory classes. College-level classes were added in 1900. During the Great Depression, the school eliminated its lower grades and developed its high school and college programs. In 1938, its four-year baccalaureate program was accredited; two years later, its first graduates received their degrees.

After World War II, hundreds of veterans arrived at the College to pursue their educations under the G.I. Bill. To meet the needs of these students, Saint Martin’s augmented its liberal arts curriculum by adding programs in accounting, business and engineering.

In 1965, well ahead of many Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, Saint Martin’s became coeducational. In 1972, the College began serving the needs of part-time adult students with the establishment of extension programs at nearby Fort Lewis Army Post and McChord Air Force Base. In the 1980s, Saint Martin’s added graduate courses. Under the leadership of President John Ishii, the Institute for Pacific Rim Studies was created and has since evolved into the University’s well-respected Center for International Programs.

The O’Grady Library opened in 2001, providing the College with a much-needed resource. Designed by world-renowned architect Michael Graves, the library became the signature building on the campus. In 2005-06, the College became a University; opened a new residence hall, named in honor of retiring, long-time president, David Spangler; and inaugurated its eighth president, Douglas M. Astolfi, Ph.D.

During 2007-08, Saint Martin’s University broke ground on two new buildings. Parsons Hall, named for long-time Saint Martin’s supporters, Ken F. and Gale L. Parsons, Sr., will be the University’s fourth residence hall. Harned Hall, a state-of-the-art academic structure, bears the name of another supporter, H.C. “Joe” Harned. Both buildings are slated for completion in 2008.

The University continues “A Winning Spirit” Campaign, which is raising $5.5 million to construct a student recreation center and a soccer and track and field complex.

The University’s strategic vision, in the spirit of Benedictine hospitality, calls for extending the power of a Saint Martin’s education to a wider audience of students. The ethical principles of the University: A love of learning, integrity, community, hospitality and stewardship are all rooted in the Benedictine heritage and are all central to life at Saint Martin’s.

The University has successfully navigated the educational climate for more than 113 years, and as it progresses in the 21st century, it will flourish.