An historical overview of Saint Martin's University

Established in 1895, Saint Martin’s University is a four year, co-educational 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 remains proudly rooted in its unique Benedictine heritage. Founded by the monks of Saint Martin’s Abbey, who are members of the oldest monastic order in western civilization and have 1,500 years of tradition behind them, the monks remain actively engaged in the life and support of the University. Over the centuries, as teachers, artists and protectors of culture, the long record of scholarship and achievement of the Benedictines make them 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 and 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. In addition to the liberal arts curriculum, programs in accounting, business and engineering were added to meet the needs of these students.

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

The O’Grady Library opened in 2001 providing the University with a much-needed resource; it is also the signature building on the campus and was designed by world renowned architect Michael Graves. 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, Dr. Douglas Astolfi. The University recently began “A Winning Spirit” Campaign, to raise $5.5 million to construct a student recreation center and a soccer and track and field complex. Plans are also in development to add a new residence hall and an enhanced technology classroom building.

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 over one hundred and twelve years, and as it progresses in the 21st century, it will flourish.