The Martin Legacy
Scientist's Love for the Arts Lives On
By ANGELA WAMPLER | A! MAGAZINE FOR THE ARTS | August 30, 2010Mary B. Martin may have been a scientist by training, but she had a lifelong interest in the arts, especially music and storytelling. Mrs. Martin passed away in 2008, but her love for the arts lives on through generous gifts. To honor his wife's memory and her passionate commitment for the arts, James C. "Jim" Martin is donating to and endowing various arts endeavors in our area.
Mrs. Martin attended a one-room schoolhouse on her father's farm in Boone's Creek (near Jonesborough, Tenn.) and graduated from Boone's Creek High School. She worked at Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tenn., for 44 years. While working full-time, she took night classes at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) and graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1962. She worked as a research chemist, doing exploratory work in new polymer systems and organic intermediates, and was awarded two U.S. patents before retiring in 1986.
Her husband grew up in Wilson, N.C., where he graduated from high school at age 16. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at age 19, and was employed that same year by Eastman in their Tennessee research laboratory, rising to the top scientific rank of research fellow. He was Director of Chemistry Research at Eastman for six years, before retiring in 1992. He worked for Eastman nearly 50 years, counting his stints as a consultant following retirement.
Mr. Martin had more than 100 patents to his credit, but "with an industrial company, you sign patent rights over to the company as a condition of employment," he explains. "Their view is that they hire you to invent, so anything on their time belongs to them. This can get a little sticky, even if you invent in your spare time."
So, where did the Martins make the money they've been contributing to the arts? Mr. Martin says, "It came from the standard Warren Buffett formula: earn two professional salaries for more than 40 years, live below your means, save all you can, invest in wisely selected stocks, let it compound over many years and first thing you know you are multimillionaires. The key here is 'wisely selected stocks.' Therein lies the crux of Mary's genius — she was an excellent stock picker. Are you beginning to get an idea of what a wonderful wife she was? Mary was a remarkable woman — multi-talented, beautiful, blonde, smart, witty, extroverted — and I still miss her."
— Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University