New courtyard at Saint Martin’s offers ambience and better access

May 6, 2013

couryard LACEY, Wash. – A shimmering water fountain, budding trees and a verdant lawn provided a fitting setting for the blessing and dedication of a new courtyard shared by Saint Martin’s Abbey and Saint Martin’s University.

About 75 guests gathered April 22 in the courtyard’s European-style plaza for the dedication made in honor of the Very Reverend Alfred. J. Hulscher, O.S.B., prior of the Abbey. Hulscher is credited with garnering the support needed to transform the courtyard from a virtual parking lot to a pedestrian-friendly space that, in addition to the fountain and spring foliage, showcases other aesthetic details such as Gothic arches, indirect lighting, gardens and a wall which partially shields the monastery standing behind it. A stone pedestal mounted just inside the plaza bears a plaque with the inscription, “Father Prior Alfred J. Hulscher, O.S.B. Courtyard.”

At the dedication celebration, Hulscher was recognized for his longstanding commitment to Saint Martin’s. A graduate of Saint Martin’s High School and Saint Martin’s College, Hulscher has been a member of the Abbey’s monastic community for 60 years. Over the course of those six decades, he has held a variety of roles — chaplain, principal and teacher of bookkeeping, Latin and German at the high school, which closed in 1974, and assistant librarian, registrar and bursar for the college, which was renamed Saint Martin’s University in 2005. Hulscher served as chair of the Saint Martin’s College Board of Trustees for four years. Currently, he serves on the University’s Board of Trustees as its corporate secretary.

alfred “Father Alfred was the pivotal person to develop the idea – and to persuade everyone to buy into the idea – of renovating the courtyard,” said Alan Tyler, director of facilities and capital project management for the University. “His leadership allowed us to pick the right people to develop the entire project.”

The SCJ Alliance civil engineering firm, landscape architects at Glander and Associates, and Tsuki Nursery collaborated to develop a courtyard that would be more accessible to pedestrians while resolving drainage issues that once threatened the monastery and Old Main buildings, both of which border the courtyard and are located on the University and Abbey hilltop.

The project grew out of Hulscher’s discovery in early 2010 of the drainage issues, as well as problems with the previous hilltop pavement and infrastructure. “Something much larger than a simple repaving was in order,” said Andrew Moyer, associate treasurer and real estate director for the Abbey. “The Abbey committed itself to funding the planning and construction of any improvements to the courtyard, and began working with the University to explore a bolder option that would not only end the drainage issues but also completely change the look of the courtyard, to make it a place of arrival for both students and visitors to the University and the monastery.”

During the course of the $1.9 million project, which began in May 2012, more than 3,000 cubic yards of dirt were removed from the hilltop and replaced with 1,260 cubic yards of concrete that was stamped with three different patterns. Trench drains and underground collection galleries were put in place to direct water to a storm water pond located to the north of Abbey Way, according to Moyer. “Drains, electrical cables, plumbing, irrigation, a 328-foot brick wall, elevation conflicts and a host of the usual construction issues had to be coordinated and/or resolved as we moved forward,” Moyer recalled.

The courtyard project was the subject of a feature article, “Bidding, Pouring and Finishing at a Northwest University,” in the February/March 2013 issue of Concrete Décor magazine.

“We are sincerely grateful to the Abbey for making this beautiful space a reality,” said Saint Martin’s President Roy Heynderickx, Ph.D., who attended the dedication. “The courtyard is a great way to be able to bring people together in this new part of our campus.”

Prior to the renovations, no significant upgrades or changes had been made to the courtyard for 41 years. Formerly dominated by a large lawn and overgrown trees, the courtyard was used primarily as extra parking space and it was not easily accessible for students, faculty, staff or visitors to the University.

“What we have now is a place that pedestrians can move through comfortably and where people can go out and relax and enjoy the whole area,” said Abbot Neal Roth, O.S.B, major superior of Saint Martin’s Abbey. “The entire courtyard now has a friendly, peaceful atmosphere, and the new wall helps to clearly define the abbey and provides a little bit of privacy space between it and the larger part of the courtyard.”

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University 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 University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at

For additional information:

Andrew Moyer
Associate Treasurer and Director of Real Estate
Saint Martin’s Abbey

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager