Saint Martin’s University will kick off an 18-month celebration of its 125th anniversary in February with its 2020 Homecoming activities. Homecoming, which takes place February and 8, like the University, has changed over the years. The things that do remain the same are passionate and successful alumni return to their alma mater excited to bridge generational differences and meet the current students who are carrying on the institution’s traditions.

Saint Martin’s 125 Years

Princess Irene Jayo, Princess Margie di Luzio, Queen Linda Lamborn, Princess Mary Clare Plasker, Princess Peggy Gamache, and Princess Kathy Herion (from left to right) were elected to the 1959 Homecoming Court. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

Founded by Saint Martin’s Abbey, Saint Martin’s College opened its doors in 1895 to one student, Angus McDonald, who traveled by canoe to school from his home in Shelton. Soon, Angus was joined by other students to begin high school level studies. By 1900, the school began offering college-level courses to both day attendance and boarding school students serving as a preparatory or finishing school, customary of the time. In 1938, the college was accredited to bestow four-year baccalaureate degrees.

Though Grace. S. Dixon would graduate in 1953 and serve as valedictorian that year, she was one of only a handful of exceptions made to the all-male institution. That is until 1965 when the school became co-educational.

The latter half of the 20th century saw lots of changes for the Saint Martin’s. The Abbey Church was completed in 1970, which still serves as the spiritual home for the Abbey and host to a well-renowned classical music concert series to this day. In 1972, Saint Martin’s began offering extension programs at nearby Fort Lewis Army Post and McChord Air Force Base. In the 1980s, the Institute for Pacific Rim Studies, which is now known as the University’s Office of International Program’s and Development, was created to encourage intercultural educational exchange and study abroad.

Saint Martin’s Univeristy Homecoming queen of 1973 Sue Volquardsen sits alongside her date, Norm Walker. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

New course offerings were added over the years including graduate programs in accounting, business, computer science, counseling, education and engineering. Calls for growth were evaluated and carefully balanced with the college’s intention to remain small and close-knit.

In 2005 the institution’s name was changed from Saint Martin’s College to Saint Martin’s University. As mentioned on the university website, this change was made “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.” In the 2000s, the Lacey campus saw tremendous growth with new buildings including O’Grady Library (2001); residence halls Spangler Hall (2005) and Parsons Hall (2008); Harned Hall (2008); Cebula Hall (2013); the Panowicz Foundry for Innovation (2018); and the Ernsdorff Science Center (2019).

Homecoming Through the Years

“As much as things change, so many things stay the same,” says Fr. Peter Tynan. “Homecoming is one of those traditions that students want to see return year after year.” Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

As Saint Martin’s evolved over the years, so has homecoming. Some of the first homecoming celebrations began in the early 1900s. In 1927, the school’s yearbook recounts a homecoming event from the prior year, when homecoming was held in late May. The yearbook describes a “grand old battle” on the baseball diamond between two teams “composed of married and unmarried stars who were once the pride of S.M.C. (Saint Martin’s College).”  In all, 125 alumni returned to enjoy the ballgame and alumni banquet. The event is eloquently described in the yearbook: “The decorations, the waiters, the orchestra and the eats—well it was Home Coming Day, and if there is any place the Alumni felt very much at home, it was when they gathered around the festive board in the refectory.”

Occasionally held in spring with baseball, sometimes in fall when the college had a football team, and more often held in winter commemorated with a big bonfire, homecoming continued to represent an opportunity for alumni to return to the school. It was also a time for students to pull out their fanciest attire and dance the night away with a guest date under the watch of hawk-eyed chaperones.

In the 1960s Saint Martin’s saw big changes, including the aforementioned transformation to a co-ed school. The decade also saw increased interest in student governance and a desire for students to have a say in how funds were spent. This interest was reflected in yearbooks as well as the student newspaper and several unofficial student newspapers of the time, including The Candle and The Honker. There was no internet, no texting, no social media. “What the students had was mimeographs where they could share their thoughts with other members of the student body and organize,” says Fr. Peter Tynan. This had an impact on homecoming, as students became more deeply involved in the planning of the event.

Once the Capital Pavilion, later renamed the Hal and Inge Marcus Pavilion, was completed in 1968, homecoming events became focused around the school’s basketball games and have remained so ever since.

“As much as things change, so many things stay the same,” says Fr. Peter. “Homecoming is one of those traditions that students want to see return year after year.”

Homecoming 2020 Events

Hard to believe that it’s been over 20 years since the 1999 Homecoming court was selected. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

As in past years, 2020’s homecoming will offer fun events for students and alumni, as well as two basketball games open to the whole community. “Homecoming increases student spirit: it rallies students across campus, gives them a common event to connect,” says Alexis Nelson, director of campus life, “and this year especially, it will bring together the past, present, and future”

Friday, February 7

6:00 p.m. at O’Blarney’s Irish Pub – Thurston County Alumni Chapter Homecoming Welcome Reception.

Saturday, February 8

11:00 a.m. at Charneski Recreation Center – Distinguished Alumni Awards Luncheon to honor John Carr, Lt. Gen. Michael Canavan, John Farrell, Martie Moore, Dennis Reynolds, Don Robbins, Vince Strojan, and the Nuns of the Monastery of St. Gertrude, $20 per person.

2:00 p.m. in the Trautman Union Building (TUB) – Coffee with the Monks, members of the monastic community, fellow alumni and friends for an afternoon coffee break.

3:30 p.m. at Charneski Recreation Center – Hall of Fame / Hall of Honor Guest Speaker Brad Adam, $20 per person.

Pete Zahn ’95, Tom Barte ’68, Don Robbins HS’50, ’54, ’84(left to right). Tom is a 2017 Distinguished Alum and Don will be recognized this year as a 2020 recipient of the award. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

4:15 p.m. Worthington Conference Center – Warming up with the Saints: Pre-game social. Eat, drink and support the Saints! Open before the women’s and men’s games as well as during halftime of both games. $15 per person.

5:15 p.m. at Marcus Pavilion – Women’s Basketball vs. Western Washington

7:30 p.m. at Marcus Pavilion – Men’s Basketball vs. Western Oregon

To register and purchase tickets for the alumni events, head over to Saint Martin’s Homecoming website. To buy tickets for the men’s and women’s basketball games, check out the Saint Martin’s Saints website.

Homecoming is just one of the events that will celebrate Saint Martin’s University’s 125th anniversary. Mark your calendar for Pack the Pavilion, another back-to-back set women’s and men’s basketball games, on February 29; the Saint Martin’s Food and Wine Festival on April 4; Commencement on May 9; and the Saint Martin’s Golf Classic and Reunion on August 7. To learn more about Saint Martin’s history and upcoming 125th anniversary events, check out the Saint Martin’s 125th website.

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