Science + Arts = Innovation...that is the theory James C. Martin adheres to and is the reason why he is making a long-lasting impact in the arts at East Tennessee State University and the region. Martin believes incorporating more arts curriculum in a student's life, who is primarily focused on getting a degree in the sciences or medical arts, will make him or her a more creative and overall more competent professional than those receiving a science-only-based education.
Born in Wilson, North Carolina, Martin began his education in the Wilson Public School System. He later when on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he received a bachelor of science degree in Chemistry in 1947. During his time in college, Martin thrived in his studies. He was actually one of the youngest people ever inducted into the meritorious Phi Beta Kappa Society at UNC for his academic excellence.
After college, Martin moved to Kingsport, Tennessee, where he accepted a job as a Junior Research Chemist with Eastman Kodak (an Eastman Chemical Division) in the Research Laboratory division. With hard work and determination, Martin moved through multiple steps on the technical ladder to the top scientific rung as a Research Fellow in 1982. During this period, Martin's work was directed to finding new ways to use chemistry and improve Eastman's processes for raw materials. This work resulted in Martin authoring or co-authoring 101 U.S. patents, as well as several foreign-based patents. Martin wanted to share his knowledge and discoveries, so he was published in 32 peer-reviewed publications in several major science journals.
From 1986 until 1992, Martin moved up Eastman's management ladder and ended his active career as the company's Director of the Chemistry Research Division. During this time, he directed the research efforts for the chemistry division, served on multiple business teams and led numerous teams in areas of diversification, mergers, acquisitions and the Malcolm Baldrige Quality studies. In 1994, Martin served as a consultant for Eastman Chemical on studies regarding potential future directions for the company's corporate business.
Of course, Martin's life was not filled only with his stellar work achievements. In 1966, he married the "love of his life," Mary Beard, who was an ETSU Class of 1962 graduate. Their family includes Sonia King (who serves on the ETSU Foundation board of directors), Marti Martin, Phil Martin (ETSU Class of 1977) and Jane Martin Parks, who is deceased.
Sadly, in 2008, Mary B. Martin passed away. This important event in James' life cascaded his philanthropic efforts to begin a legacy for the arts at Mary's alma mater. To this end in memory and honor of Mary as a champion for the arts, in 2009 he established the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts (MBMSOTA) at ETSU, with Anita DeAngelis serving as the director. He has continued to give generously to fund the MBMSOTA, so that the endowment now exceeds $5 million. The annual payout of earnings from this endowment has been utilized to ensure greater collaboration and coordination among the various ETSU arts programs and initiatives such as the performing arts in music, dance, theatre, film, storytelling and the graphic arts such as painting, photography, and digital media. Whether the events are jazz fusion, film documentaries, "lost" films, the ETSU Bluegrass Pride band, storytellers, flamenco dancers, photography, lectures, or plays, the far-ranging spectrum of events and artists serves and kindles a diversity of interests. Martin has also pledged $3 million to kick off fundraising for ETSU's new center for the arts. In addition, Martin has established the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts in Jonesborough at the former Booker T. Washington School, and made a significant donation to Milligan College to renovate its auditorium in Seeger Chapel, which has been re-named the Mary B. Martin Auditorium. Martin has also funded the Mary B. Martin Family and School concert series with the Symphony of the Mountains.
Martin's forward-looking stewardship and Mary's living legacy for the arts have positioned ETSU to be the region's leader for the broad enhancement of the arts for all people. As he says, "Science without arts input is not productive. There is value in mixing science and arts together. With this combination, the student is the one that wins because he or she has an education that is of a higher value because they have experienced all disciplines fusing together." With this belief, Martin's passion for the arts can touch the lives of thousands...for years to come through East Tennessee State University.