Brother David (Sylvester) Martin, CSC (1901-1986)

A Given Life: Entwined with Learning

Brother David Martin, C.S.C., arrived on the Bluff [University of Portland] in 1928. With no college degree at the time, he was immediately named the librarian. The irony became sort of an inspiration. He was to hold the office of library director until 1966.

Faced with many challenges, Br. David worked in stages; waiting, proposing, pushing toward the possible and making progress. First, having charge of a limited collection of books, he created a dedicated reading-room for student study by moving the library from West (now Waldschmidt) Hall to Christie Hall where there was space for reading tables.  Next, or perhaps already within that first vision, he began to plan for a library building, an impossible ambition in those days when there was only a single dedicated classroom building (Science Hall, 1937). But Br. David was patient and persistent. And prepared not only the design of a modern college library but also himself through the years of waiting. When the library was built in 1958 — in no small part through his own efforts as promoter and chief fund-raiser — Br. David had, in the meantime, picked up four advanced degrees, founded the Library Summer School, and earned the rank of Dean of the School of Library Science. 

But, he wasn’t finished. Coincident with his retirement as Dean of the Library, the University Archives was established with Br. David as the first University Archivist (June 1, 1966). Collating, arranging, and indexing historical files accumulated through more than sixty years of university life was to be the work, but his first order of business was again creating space and access– once again moving resources out from closet filing cabinets in West (Waldschmidt) Hall across campus to the library, and eventually to Shipstad Hall.

His fifty-five years of service (retiring from the Archives in 1983!) is a life-time of contributions to the growth and maturity of the University of Portland. The two developed together, Br. David and the university he loved. Br. David was ever learning and put his curiosity and knowledge into the hands of students and the university community. 


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