A 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 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains, the University offers education to both traditional and non-traditional students.

Saint Martin’s University stands proudly rooted in its unique Benedictine heritage. 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 monks of Saint Martin’s Abbey founded the institution and today remain actively engaged in the life of the campus.

Saint Martin’s 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 grammar school and developed its high school and college programs. In 1938, its four-year baccalaureate program was accredited, and two years later, its first graduates received their degrees.

After World War II, hundreds of veterans arrived at Saint Martin’s College and enrolled 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, Saint Martin’s broadened its reach and 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, now known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The 1980s brought the addition of graduate courses and the creation of the Institute for Pacific Rim Studies, which has since evolved into the University’s highly regarded Office of International Programs and Development.

In 2001, the O’Grady Library opened, providing students with a much-needed resource. Designed by world-renowned architect Michael Graves, the library has become a signature building on the campus. In 2005, Spangler Hall, a new residence hall named in honor of President Emeritus David R. Spangler, Ph.D., was completed. That same year, Saint Martin’s College officially became Saint Martin’s University 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.

The years 2008 and 2009 brought many changes to the campus: the opening of the University’s fourth residence hall, Parsons Hall, named for long-time Saint Martin’s supporters Ken F. Sr. and Gale L. Parsons; the opening of Harned Hall, a state-of-the-art academic building, honoring H.C. “Joe” Harned; the dedication of a world-class track and field facility and the Jan Halliday ’89 Memorial Plaza; and the completion of Charneski Recreation and Fitness Center. At the beginning of 2009, the University welcomed its tenth president, Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D.

In 2011, the name of the street guiding guests through Saint Martin’s main entrance was changed from 6th Avenue to “Abbey Way” — part of the transformation of north campus that culminated in early 2013 with the courtyard renovation behind Old Main. In January of 2013, the new Fr. Richard Cebula, O.S.B. Hall opened, providing a Platinum LEED-certified home for the Hal and Inge Marcus School of Engineering.

Through decades of change and growth, the University has held true to its Benedictine values — community, hospitality, stewardship, listening and dignity of work, among others — which remain central to life at Saint Martin’s.

Academic honors

Summa cum laude
Candidate has earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.90 to 4.00 and is distinguished by the gold cord worn around the neck.

Magna cum laude
Candidate has earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.70 to 3.89 and is distinguished by the silver cord worn around the neck.

Honors cum laude
Candidate has earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 to 3.69 and is distinguished by the bronze cord worn around the neck.

Society of Fellows
The Society of Fellows is the University’s honor society. It was founded in 1971 to distinguish members of the student body and faculty who, by their outstanding work in teaching and learning, contribute to the intellectual life of the University. Students, who are nominated for the society, are inducted once specific criteria established by the society are met. These students wear the medallion of the society with their academic garb.

Calculating Honors
Any student with a minimum of 64 semester hours of completed coursework, at least 32 hours of which were earned in residence, is eligible for graduation with honors. The cumulative grade point average for all completed coursework that appears as part of the student’s official transcript will be used to determine the appropriate academic honor according to the following standards. Thus, grades earned in courses completed at Saint Martin’s University and at other colleges and universities will count in the calculation of graduation honors.

Origins and significance of academic regalia

The origins of academic dress date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, when universities were taking form. Long gowns were worn and may have been necessary for warmth in unheated buildings. Hoods seem to have served to cover the tonsured head until superseded for that purpose by the skull cap.

In the days of Henry VIII of England, Oxford and Cambridge first began prescribing a definite academic dress and made it a matter of university control even to the extent of its minor details. The assignment of colors to signify certain faculties was to be a much later development, and one which was to be standardized in the United States only in the late 19th century. White taken from the white fur trimming of the Oxford and Cambridge B.A. hoods was assigned to arts and letters. Red, one of the traditional colors of the church, went to theology. Green, the color of medieval herbs, was adopted for medicine, and olive, because it was so close to green, was given to pharmacy. Golden yellow, standing for the wealth which scientific research has produced, was assigned to the sciences.

In 1893, an Intercollegiate Commission made up of representatives of leading institutions gathered to establish a suitable system of academic apparel. In 1932 the American Council on Education authorized the appointment of a committee “to determine whether revision and completion of the academic code adopted by the conference of the colleges and universities in 1895 is desirable at this time, and, if so, to draft a revised code and present a plan for submitting the code to the consideration of the institutional members of the Council.” The committee reviewed the situation through correspondence and conference and approved a code for academic costumes that has been in effect since that year.

A Committee on Academic Costumes and Ceremonies, appointed by the American Council on Education in 1959, again reviewed the costume code and made several changes. In 1986, the committee updated the code and added a sentence clarifying the use of the color dark blue for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

The gown for the bachelor’s degree has pointed sleeves. It is designed to be worn closed. The gown for the master’s degree has an oblong sleeve, open at the wrist, like the others. The sleeve base hangs down in the traditional manner. The rear part of its oblong shape is square cut, and the front part has an arc cut away. The gown is so designed and supplied with fasteners that it may be worn open or closed. The gown for the doctor’s degree has bell-shaped sleeves. It is so designed and supplied with fasteners that it may be worn open or closed.

The length of the hood worn for the bachelor’s degree must be three feet, for the master’s degree three and one-half feet, and for the doctor’s degree, four feet. The hood worn for the doctor’s degree only shall have panels at the sides. The hoods are to be lined with the official color or colors of the college or university conferring the degree.

Mortarboards are generally recommended. A long tassel is to be fastened to the middle point of the top of the cap only and to lie as it will thereon. The tassel should be black or the color appropriate to the subject, with the exception of the doctor’s cap that may have a tassel of gold.

– American Council on Education

Academic colors
For all academic purposes, including trimmings of doctors' gowns, edging of hoods, and tassels of caps, the colors associated with the different disciplines are as follows:

Arts, letters, humanities White
Agriculture Maize
Commerce, accountancy, business Drab
Dentistry Lilac
Economics Copper
Education Light blue
Engineering Orange
Fine Arts, including architecture Brown
Forestry Russet
Journalism Crimson
Law Purple
Library science Lemon
Medicine Green
Music Pink
Nursing Apricot
Oratory (speech) Silver gray
Pharmacy Olive green
Philosophy Dark blue
Physical education Sage green
Public administration, including foreign service Peacock blue
Public health Salmon pink
Science Golden yellow
Social work Citron
Theology Scarlet
Veterinary science Gray