Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Wash., is one of 14
Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and
Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin's
was established in 1895 by monks of the Roman Catholic Order of
the name of Saint Martin’s College from its earliest history until it
became Saint Martin’s University in 2005, Saint Martin’s patron saint is
Saint Martin of Tours, a
fourth century European missionary and later, Bishop of France. The
university and that of its founder, Saint Martin’s Abbey, sits on 300
acres of peaceful woodlands, meadows and meandering trails. The site was
selected in 1893 by Abbot Bernard Locnikar, O.S.B., of Minnesota's Saint
John's Abbey, Saint Martin's Abbey’s mother house. At an April 21, 1894,
public auction, the parcel that would become the Saint Martin’s campus
was purchased for $6,920. Work began on Saint Martin’s first building in
January 1895, and by late summer, a four-story structure housing both
the school and a monastery were completed.
Saint Martin's opened its doors Sept. 11, 1895, for a single
student, Angus McDonald, who reportedly traveled by canoe from
Shelton, some 25 miles away. He was joined by several more
students in the following weeks, but until their arrival,
received a full course of high school-level classes as the
school’s lone enrollee.
As with other 19th century American Benedictine schools, the
new College enrolled mostly boys and young men between the ages
of 10 and 20. Both boarders and "day scholars" were accepted and
taught from a curriculum of preparatory and high school classes,
plus classical and commercial college courses.
By 1897, 29 grammar and high school students were attending
Saint Martin's. College-level courses were added in 1900 to
provide the necessary education for candidates planning to enter
the Benedictine priesthood.
By the mid-1930s, separately accredited high school and
college programs were offered for Saint Martin’s all-male
student body. Saint Martin's became a four-year, accredited,
baccalaureate-granting institution in 1938, with its first
graduates receiving degrees in 1940. While the College virtually
came to a standstill during World War II, the postwar years saw
the enrollment of hundreds of “G.I. Bill” veterans and a growing
list of course offerings.
Saint Martin’s became coeducational in 1965 and began
offering extension programs at nearby Fort Lewis Army Post and
McChord Air Force Base in 1972. Saint Martin’s High School was
closed in 1974, due to declining enrollment.
In the 1980s, Saint Martin’s added graduate programs
in education, engineering and counseling psychology to
its growing list of undergraduate areas of study. Today,
the University offers undergraduate degrees in 21 areas
of study and graduate degrees in six.
The College became Saint Martin’s University in August 2005
to more accurately reflect the institution’s nature, better
fulfill its mission and recognize the wide variety of
undergraduate and graduate programs available to students.