300 for 300 Portrait: Brother Martin Hernandez, S.C.

The Times-Picayune is marking the tricentennial of New Orleans with its ongoing 300 for 300 project, running through 2018 and highlighting 300 people who have made New Orleans... New Orleans, featuring original artwork commissioned by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune with Where Y'Art gallery. Today: educator Brother Martin Hernandez.

A portrait of Brother Martin Hernandez by artist D. Lammie Hanson of Where Y'Art, as commissioned by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for its "300 for 300" celebration of New Orleans' tricentennial. (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

The icon: Brother Martin Hernandez.

The legacy: "We are not here to teach boys how to make a living," educator Brother Martin Hernandez is credited with once saying, "but how to make a life." For five decades, he did just that, as a teacher and school administrator in New Orleans, as well as in Alabama, Texas, New York and Uganda, and later as a three-term provincial general of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. A local legend in the education field and the namesake of Brother Martin High School, his influence would extend beyond the classroom, including as a key figure in the formation of the New Orleans prep league. He wasn't a coddler, though. He was a disciplinarian through and through, known for his drill sergeant disposition. Of the thousands of boys whose lives he influenced, few if any would use the word "congenial" to describe him -- but, by golly, you'd better believe they could spell it.

The artist: D. Lammie Hanson.

The quote: "If I have done any good in my life, it was done only because God used me as His instrument." -- Brother Martin Hernandez, in his last will and testament

Explore more of Hanson's work online at WhereYart.net and in person at the Where Y'Art gallery, 1901 Royal St.


  • Martin Claude Hernandez was born Jan. 16, 1904, in the Ascension Parish town of Valenzuela, which was near the present-day site of Belle Alliance Plantation.
  • His family wasn't wealthy. He didn't know what hot and cold running water was. He rode a horse to school, at St. Joseph's Commercial Institute in Donaldsonville.
  • Among his teachers at St. Joseph's were three members of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. They left a profound impact on him, so much so that he would take his vows as a novitiate at the age of 16, becoming a member of the religious order that educated him.
  • By age 19, he had taken his first teaching assignment, at St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn, New York. It would be the start of an educational career that would see him serve in a variety of posts, including in Fort Worth, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; and Baton Rouge.
  • In 1931, he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Loyola University. Three years later, he became principal, director and provincial treasurer at what was known as St. Aloysius College in New Orleans.
  • During that time, the school was located at the corner of Esplanade and North Rampart streets. The school, built to accommodate 500, soon grew to a 1,000-person student body. "We obtained the names from parochial schools of all eighth-grade boys and visited homes in teams of two, inviting and even urging parents to send their boys to Aloysius," Hernandez told The Times-Picayune in an interview shortly before his death in 1991.
  • Hernandez would remain at St. Aloysius until 1958, at which time he would become principal of Catholic High in Baton Rouge.
  • In 1965, he was back in New Orleans, as director and provincial treasurer of Cor Jesu High School.
  • Four years later, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, the order decided to merge Cor Jesu with St. Aloysius -- and to name it Brother Martin High, in Hernandez' honor.
  • Hernandez didn't like the idea, arguing that the school shouldn't be named after a living person. "I argued against it as hard as I could," he told The Times-Picayune. "I thought it was wrong and wanted no part of it." He lost that fight.
  • One local boy who dreamed of attending St. Aloysius was a young Tom Benson (Class of 1944), who later in life would describe how he and his brothers would admire the building from the curb. One day, Brother Martin approached Benson's father and invited him to send the boys to the school. Tuition, he said, would be whatever the family could afford.
  • In 2012, after Benson became the owner of the New Orleans Saints and one of New Orleans' most successful businessmen, he returned the favor -- in the form of a $10 million donation to Brother Martin High School.
  • Hernandez is credited with being a key figure in the formation of the New Orleans prep league. That landed him in the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.
  • In 1952, Loyola University awarded Hernandez an honorary doctorate of law. In 1982, the university honored him again as its alumni of the year.
  • He retired from the classroom and moved to St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, where he continued handle clerical and accounting work for the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
  • He died August 24, 1991, of a heart attack at Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and was buried in Brothers of the Sacred Heart Cemetery, also in Bay St. Louis. He was 87.

Source: The Times-Picayune archives; staff research

All information has been derived from NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune article.

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