James Martin -1917-2011

Professor Emeritus - James Martin
In Memoriam: James Martin

“Self-promotion was not in his D.N.A.,” David Woodyard ’54, Denison professor of religion, said in his eulogy for Martin. And yet, Martin had a long and vast academic career that he would have every reason to tout, if he were so inclined. In addition to being a pastor, an associate professor of religion and philosophy at the College of Idaho, and later, a professor and chair there, he was a professor of religion at Denison from 1957 until his retirement in 1985. During that time, he was chair of the department several times. His scholarly work included the study of Hindu temples and festivals in India and the study of Zen Buddhist and Tibetan Buddhist groups in the United States.

Martin’s good deeds were never broadcast, unless it was accidental. Like the time Martin, on one of his tours of India, was bombarded and hugged by several children in one of the villages he was visiting with colleagues. “Jim was embarrassed and gave no explanation,” said Woodyard. “Later some learned from a village elder that Jim was financing the education of more promising children in the village—enabling them to go elsewhere for their education.”

In the classroom, it was all academics. Martin, always in coat and tie, dealt with students in the classroom at a distance, always putting intellectual discussions above anything else. “The podium,” said Woodyard, “was always between him and the student.” Yet students had great affection for Martin, likely stemming from meals he made for them when he entertained the younger generation in his home.

Martin died on Sept. 16, 2011. He was 94.

Published December 2011