Eastern Mennonite University

Summer 2008

Joe Martin's Journey So Far

Joe Martin
Former dean Joe Martin '59, left, at Harvard's research bilding dedication. Photo courtesy of Harvard University News Office, by Stephanie Miitchell.

Joseph Boyd Martin came to Eastern Mennonite College (EMC) in 1958-59 on a year’s leave from the University of Alberta. “My studies (at EMC) focused entirely on ethics, Bible studies, church history and the like,” he recalls. Martin transferred his University of Alberta credits here to obtain a B.Sc. in Bible from EMC.

After graduation he returned to Alberta, where he completed his medical degree. Rachel Wenger, an EMC sophomore in 1958-59, left EMC to be Martin's wife. (She finished her degree at the University of Alberta, then taught elementary school in Edmonton.)

A year ago, Martin removed his flag from what many would regard as the summit of his hugely successful medical career. He stepped down from being dean of Harvard Medical School after serving for a decade, beginning July 1997.
At age 69 he remains, however, the Edward R. and Ann Lefler professor of neurobiology at Harvard.

He is also on the board of directors of a couple of major private companies and is chair of the non-profit New England Healthcare Institute.

Martin’s trajectory: After Alberta, Martin did a residency in neurology and a fellowship in neuropathology at Case Western Reserve. He received his PhD in anatomy from the University of Rochester in 1971. By 1977, he was chair of the department of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University. He next moved to Harvard as neurology professor.

In 1989, he became dean of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, eventually becoming chancellor of the whole university. In 1997, he returned to Harvard as dean.

What does this all have to do with Martin’s ethics studies at EMC? In the Harvard Gazette’s account of Martin’s contributions to that university (at www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/10.05/01-martin.html), he is praised for “his insights, his decency, his moral leadership.”

Martin was known for fostering “collaboration” across disciplines and among academics and practitioners. He put new emphasis on “the value of teaching,” and he “improved diversity” by placing members of minority groups and women in key positions. He left a legacy of “stronger community ties.”

Martin did much more than this, of course, including raising money for and opening in 2003 a $260-million, 520,000-square-foot research building, the largest in Harvard's history.

Yet others have raised money for large, impressive structures and seen them built, including tycoons like Donald Trump. It’s in the less tangible, but perhaps more important, area of ethical, collaborative and community-oriented leadership, where EMC may be able to claim an influence on Martin. After all, he did spend a year focusing upon such matters, and that year was here.

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