Founding Faculty Member Rudy Martin Passed Away Last Saturday Morning

Olympia, (Wash.) - S.R. “Rudy” Martin Jr., 80, a founding faculty member of The Evergreen State College, died early Saturday, provost and vice president for academic affairs Michael Zimmerman announced Monday.

Martin retired in 1997 after working 27 years at the college. He served as faculty chair and academic dean and taught a wide range of offerings in the humanities and arts.

“Evergreen allowed me to spend the vast majority of my work life in a setting and among people that supported my teaching and learning in ways I couldn’t have imagined previously,” Martin once stated in an interview for the Alumni web page. “I attempted new and difficult things, I felt safe taking risks, I learned things I never even inquired about before, and I grew significantly in competence and confidence. I believe all of this made me a deeper, wiser person and a better writer.”

Faculty member and alumna Nancy A. Parkes described Martin as a “foundational writing teacher.”

“He taught students to read like writers, how to understand the architecture of writing, how to take something apart and put it back together again,” said Parkes, who graduated from Evergreen in 1978. “... He was one of those rare mentors and individuals that changed many lives one at a time. That’s his legacy, in terms of students.”

Martin also published fiction and nonfiction work on African American life in the United States, especially in the West.

According to an Olympian archive story: By the time he turned 25 in 1960, Martin had graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and had become the first black teacher at a California high school. He went on to become the first black faculty member at one of the state’s oldest junior colleges and teach the first African American literature course offered at Washington State University before he was invited to help start Evergreen.

Retired faculty member Oscar Soule said Martin helped write a series of essays in 1973 that were used to identify and clarify Evergreen’s mission. The essays later played a crucial role in shaping the direction of Evergreen’s curriculum, he said.

Soule said Martin was well-respected on campus. “He had an intellectual toughness,” he said. “He had high expectations for his students and his peers. ... So when you talked to him or worked with him, you were always at kind of your best game.”

Martin had cancer, Soule said.

Martin’s books included “Seaside Stories,” “On the Move: A Black Family’s Western Saga” and “Natural-Born Proud: A Revery.”

“I extend my condolences to Rudy’s wife and former Evergreen Vice President for Student Affairs Gail Martin, stepson Grant Whiting, who is a current employee in Building Services, along with the rest of his family, friends, colleagues and students,” Zimmerman wrote in an e-mail that was sent to all faculty and staff members of the college. “Details about ways to more formally remember Rudy will be forthcoming as they are available.”

Martin’s family invites the community to attend a memorial gathering on Saturday, April 2 at 2:00 in The Evergreen State College library lobby.

By Lisa Pemberton, courtesy of The Olympian

Edited slightly for this webpage.