The Saint Martin’s University Board of Trustees, with the concurrence of the Board of Trustees Institutional Advancement/Science Initiative Committee, has approved the naming of the new science building in honor of Fr. Bede Ernsdorff, O.S.B. (1909 – 1982) and the naming of the Department of Natural Sciences in honor of Fr. Placidus Reischman, O.S.B. (1926 – 2000). Fr. Bede served as the head of the Saint Martin’s chemistry department from 1938 to 1982 and Fr. Placidus served as chair of the Saint Martin’s biology department from 1959 to 1987.
The University has started construction on the new 30,000-square-foot classroom and laboratory facility that will house its growing natural and physical science programs. The new science building, which is scheduled for completion in Spring 2019 and will be open for classes in Fall 2019, will include laboratories, classrooms, collaborative research spaces, and offices. It will be strategically located near Cebula Hall and adjacent to the Panowicz Foundry for Innovation and the E.L. Wiegand Laboratories, which houses engineering, computer science, and industrial labs, creating a STEM complex at the core of the campus.
“The monks of Saint Martin’s have been a profound influence on generations of students,” said Terry ’62 and Mary Louise Monaghan, whose generous gift in support of the new science building’s preservation endowment fulfilled the challenge matching gift from the Abbey. “It is a testimony to their mission of excellence to be able to honor monks of the past for their gifted dedication to student learning. With the new science building, we have an opportunity to honor two monk scientists who contributed much and prepared students to successfully be engaged in their chosen professional careers. We are honored to be able to financially participate in the legacy that both Fr. Bede and Fr. Placidus established.”
Fr. Bede Ernsdorff, O.S.B. was born on January 7, 1909, in Yakima, Washington, where he attended elementary and secondary school. After completing two years of college education at Saint Martin’s, he entered the Benedictine novitiate in September 1932. From 1932 until 1938, he studied at St. Benedict’s Abbey, in Atchison, Kansas, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in science and his theological studies for the priesthood. In addition, Fr. Bede did summer graduate work in chemistry at the University of Michigan, earning his master’s degree in 1936. Following his ordination in 1938, he began his long and distinguished Saint Martin’s career as a teacher and counselor, which was only interrupted to pursue doctoral work at Stanford University, where he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1946.
Fr. Bede returned to Saint Martin’s to become the mainstay of the Saint Martin’s chemistry program and a much-respected chemistry, pre-medicine and pre-dentistry advisor over the next three decades. His reputation was such that chemistry graduate schools, medical and dental schools readily accepted the many students he recommended. Besides his work as a teacher, he also served as dean of the College and took on various leadership roles within the Abbey. During his years of teaching and administrative work, he also did parochial work in many parishes within the Archdiocese of Seattle. In 1955, Fr. Bede was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award for his service to Saint Martin’s College. On September 11, 1995, Saint Martin’s Centennial Day, a memorial was dedicated to Fr. Bede, “a sterling monk, renowned professor and a beloved friend to generations of students and alumni.”
Fr. Placidus Reischman was born on September 7, 1926, in South Bend, Washington, where he completed his elementary and secondary education. He entered Saint Martin’s College in 1945 and the monastic novitiate of Saint Martin’s Abbey in 1947. He professed first vows on September 8, 1948, and his final vows three years later. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1950, he undertook theological studies at Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon and was ordained in May 1954. Fr. Placidus pursued graduate studies in biology at the University of Washington from 1954 to 1955, then transferred to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned his master’s degree in biology in 1957 and his Ph.D. in 1959.
Upon his return to Saint Martin’s, Fr. Placidus chaired the Saint Martin’s biology department from 1959 to 1987. During his tenure, he continued his marine biology and biochemistry research on parasitic barnacles, particularly the Rhizocephalan species, and how they prey on crabs and shrimp. He published his work in the Journal of Parasitology. He was a quiet and reflective man, an outstanding scholar with a focus on his students. He sent many students on to medical and dental school. Fr. Placidus served as a residence hall counselor, director of residence and dean of students. He provided weekend pastoral assistance at several area parishes, in particular, St. Edward’s in Shelton. In 1995, Fr. Placidus was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award for his service to Saint Martin’s.