by Frank Garza
The emphasis on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, according to Martin D. Beirne (J.D. ’69), means that St. Mary’s University focuses on developing the whole person, not just handing students a degree.
In law school, this approach inspired him and his peers to do something for the benefit of the University: start a law journal. Beirne would go on to become the first editor-in-chief of the St. Mary’s Law Journal.
“That’s the kind of thing I feel the Marianists really look for, having students who are committed to making positive things happen,” Beirne said.
Furthering the Catholic Intellectual Tradition has been one of Beirne’s personal causes, both as a Trustee and a donor. He and his wife, Kathleen Beirne, donated $1 million in support of the Beirne Director of the Center for Catholic Studies.
The Center for Catholic Studies provides programs that create opportunities for dialogue, research and community outreach with a focus on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and Catholic Social Teachings.
“We’ve been delighted because what we ended up with was a wonderful center,” he said.
Atmosphere of learning
The St. Mary’s Law Journal was only the beginning of the “wonderful opportunities” Beirne said he experienced at St. Mary’s, learning from professors such as Dean Emeritus Charles E. Cantú (J.D. ’64); past professor Arthur C. Y. Yao, J.D.; and Dean Emeritus James Castleberry (J.D. ’52).
Beirne remembers the students’ support for a law journal and meeting with faculty to successfully convince them St. Mary’s Law was ready for one.
“To be part of an inaugural thing like that has always been one of the most dynamic moments for me in my law school career,” said Beirne, who now practices in Houston.
Martin D. Beirne
“There’s a real quest for doing the things we need to do in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”
His professors provided a great atmosphere to learn and truly knew their students, he said. After finishing his exam for a summer course with Yao, Beirne recalled talking to his peers and realizing he had completely forgotten to answer the final question.
Running back to the classroom, Beirne explained his situation. To his surprise, Yao told him to grab his paper and sit down.
“He knew that I legitimately had just forgotten and there was no need to penalize anyone,” Beirne said. “That was the character of the man. He knew his students. That’s the kind of professors we had. They were all phenomenal teachers.”
Beirne, now a senior partner at Akerman LLP, continues to be afforded opportunities by St. Mary’s. For many years, he has served as a member of the St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees and, previously, as Chair.
“I was really proud to be in a position to see things get done and to assist and work with the president,” he said.
“It was a dramatic experience to see the commitment of the people on the board, to see their genuine desire to do something positive for the University. There’s a real quest for doing the things we need to do in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”
The future, Beirne said, holds a lot more for St. Mary’s.
“If this period of COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that the school is extremely resilient,” he said. “I have great faith that we’re going to see some phenomenal opportunities taken and achieved by the University.”