Saint Martin’s holds campus memorial service for Bryan M. Johnston

University reflects on the loss of a leader

June 9, 2008

Lacey, Washington — Nearly 150 members of the Saint Martin’s University community gathered for a memorial ceremony this morning to mourn the loss of their incoming president, Bryan M. Johnston. Johnston, who last month was named Saint Martin’s president-elect, was to have assumed the post in July. He died in his Salem, Oregon, home Friday night. The campus community, looking forward to Johnston’s leadership, had been eager to welcome him and his family to the Benedictine university.

Staff, faculty, students, monks and board members of Saint Martin’s attended the service, held on campus in the Abbey Church. Abbot Neal G. Roth, O.S.B., presided over the ceremony and led the group in prayer and reflection. Several members of the community read selected passages, followed by Douglas M. Astolfi, president of Saint Martin’s University, and A. Richard “Rick” Panowicz, vice-chair of the board of trustees, who offered praise for Johnston. Both Astolfi and Panowicz marveled at the great impact the leader-to-be had on the community despite never having formally begun his presidency.

“Let us not forget that, while we did not have much time with Bryan, we did have time — and that is a blessing,” Panowicz reminded the crowd.

Panowicz shared that, during a recent interview for Saint Martin’s alumni magazine, Johnston said he felt drawn to the University because he “sensed its great promise.” “The Saint Martin’s community felt the same way about Bryan,” remarked Panowicz. “We were drawn to him because we sensed his great promise.”

“Bryan believed in Saint Martin’s,” said Astolfi. “He saw a bright future for this University, a future filled with opportunities for all of our students — on and off campus. The most fitting tribute our community can make to his memory will be to work together to fulfill the promise that he saw for us.”

A major theme of the ceremony was sympathy and support for Johnston’s wife and four children. “During this time of tragic loss,” commented Astolfi, “may they find comfort and strength knowing that Bryan profoundly touched countless lives and communities, including our own.”

The executive committee of the University’s board of trustees will meet this week to discuss plans for putting a new leader in place and moving the institution forward.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, Catholic, coeducational university located on a 320-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 18 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 21 majors and six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its five extension campuses located at Fort Lewis Army Post, McChord Air Force Base, Olympic College, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College.

For additional information:

Jennifer G. Fellinger
Director of Communications
Saint Martin’s University