Bethany Montgomery, Staff Writer
Students and alumni join together in 2020 for the celebration of Saint Martin’s University’s 125th anniversary. Thanks to the hard work of the original Benedictine monk founders, the university has become a prominent Catholic university in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1895, Saint Martin’s initially began as an all-boys boarding school, taught by monks associated with the Benedictine order, who built the school. The school began offering college courses and full degree programs in 1940. Saint Martin’s College became co-ed in 1965, and officially changed its name to Saint Martin’s University in 2005.
In addition to the various setbacks regarding the price of land, rainy weather, a state-wide economic crisis, and the general anti-Catholic sentiment of the 1800s, funding the school and its buildings was a time consuming and arduous process. Father Peter Tynan, O.S.B., the university chaplain, reflected on the difficulties of initially founding the college. Strong anti-Catholic sentiment at the time of construction slowed down the process, and limited the monks’ support and resources.
Since the American Protective Association (APA) adamantly opposed the founding of Catholic schools in the area, the Olympia APA council allegedly “…planned on attending the auction in order to outbid the monks for the property and those fulfilling their oath to stop the spread of Catholic schools. On the day of the sale the judge announced that the sale would be strictly cash. As cash was short, the APA was unable to follow through on the plans,” Father Peter described. The 570 acres was then bought by the monks at the price of $10 an acre, a significant decrease in cost from their first choice of location at $100-1,000 per acre.
Over the following 75 years, Saint Martin’s expanded to include a high school, a college for men, which eventually expanded to include women, and most recently an extension located at the Fort Lewis Army Post and McChord Air Force Base (now Joint Base Lewis McChord). Though the school no longer hosts a high school, its size and acceptance rates continue to rise. Today, Saint Martin’s offers a wide variety of programs, including but not limited to: business, education, engineering, and pre-health. In recent years, students have seen serious changes to the campus such as the additional building for engineering and science, new parking lot lighting, the renovation of the Saint Gertrude’s café, new directional signs throughout campus, and the added outdoor tennis courts.
The school’s celebration of its 125 years will extend over the next 18 months, with several annual school events, in conjunction with special programming for the anniversary. On Feb. 8, the Distinguished Alumni Awards Luncheon will be held in the Charneski Rec Center at 11 a.m. The luncheon will not only recognize alumni, but also former faculty, and Abbey members; providing them with an opportunity to reconnect and reminisce about their years at Saint Martin’s. Following the event, at 3:30 p.m., the Athletic Hall of Fame/Hall of Honor will commemorate inductees for their athletic achievements and pursuit of excellence. A homecoming celebration will be held for students in the Marcus Pavilion later that evening.
Other university events this year include Pack the Pav later on Feb. 29, the Saint Martin’s Food and Wine Festival on Apr. 4, Reunion Week for milestone classes ending in the years 0 and 5 in August, and the annual Saint Martin’s Gala. Students, alumni, and faculty both past and present are invited to attend all of these events, and hopefully, they will be able to share some of their stories, experiences, memories, and aspirations that came from their time as members of Saint Martin’s community.