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Volume 24, Number 10 — November 2017

ETSU breaks ground on James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts

An artist's rendering of the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts.
An artist's rendering of the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts.

September 11, 2017

JOHNSON CITY Ground was officially broken on East Tennessee State University's long-awaited Center for the Arts.

The center, located next to the Centre at Millennium Park on W. State of Franklin Road, will be a home for many of ETSU's arts programs. The $53 million facility will include performance, instructional and teaching space, as well as a performance hall with seating for 1,200 guests.

Funding for the arts center was made possible through a state appropriation, private donations and a partnership with the City of Johnson City.

Earlier in the day, the ETSU Board of Trustees voted to name the facility the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts. The late James C. Martin pledged the lead gift of $3 million toward the facility in 2013 as fundraising efforts began. Also, James Martin's daughter, Sonia King, allocated an additional $1 million to construct the facility.

Martin's giving to the university totals approximately $7 million, which includes the initial gift that established the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU in memory of his wife in 2009.

"This is a historic day for ETSU as we realize a dream that began more than a quarter-century ago," said ETSU President Brian Noland. "It is also a day that we honor the legacy of members of the Martin family and the powerful way in which they have transformed the arts on this campus and in this region. The James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts will showcase the artistic talents of our students, faculty and staff as well as performers from across the region.

"We are grateful to Sonia King, the late Jim Martin, the City of Johnson City and the hundreds of other donors who have partnered with us to create this world-class home for our arts programs."

"With Jim Martin's steadfast support of the arts at ETSU and in the region, he would be thrilled to see the groundbreaking today on a new showcase for the arts at ETSU," added Anita DeAngelis, director of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. "He was aware of the struggles we've faced with existing facilities in presenting guest artists and training the next generations.

"It is very fitting to recognize the generosity of the Martin family in naming the new building the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts. We look forward to the programming this facility will allow and the continuation of the Martins' legacy for years to come."

"My family has always loved the arts, and I am so proud of the impact on the university and surrounding region that has been possible through their support," Sonia King said. "It means so much for me to be able to continue their legacy and mission and to help make arts education and performances more accessible to students and the public well into the future."

James Martin began his career as a junior research chemist with Eastman Kodak, a division of Eastman Chemical, after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1947. Upon becoming a research fellow in 1982, he found new ways to use chemistry and improve Eastman's processes for raw materials, and he authored or co-authored 101 U.S. patents and several foreign patents. From 1986-92, Martin worked in management and ended his career as director of the Eastman Chemical Co. Chemistry Research Division.

In 1966, Martin married Mary Beard, a 1962 graduate of then-East Tennessee State College who also worked as a chemist at Eastman and was an avid supporter of the arts. Following Mary's death in 2008, James Martin dedicated his philanthropic efforts to begin a legacy for the arts at Mary's alma mater and throughout the region.

The Martins received numerous honors for their philanthropy at ETSU, including the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) Chancellor's Award in 2010, ETSU's George L. Carter Award and the TBR Regents' Award in 2013, and ETSU's Dr. Richard A. Manahan Margin of Excellence Award in 2014.