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Norman Martin, S.J. ’37, professor emeritus of history at Santa Clara University, and special assistant to the president for university relations, passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 91. The cause of death was congestive heart failure. A native of Half Moon Bay, Fr. Martin grew up in San Mateo, and came to SCU in 1933 as a freshman. In the 1960s and ’70s, as a history professor at SCU, he conducted research on socioeconomic problems of Colonial Mexico, especially the unemployment during that period.
He entered the Society of Jesus in 1935 and was ordained as a priest on Dec. 20, 1947. A graduate of Santa Clara University’s Class of 1937, he joined the history department faculty in 1958, after earning a doctorate in history from the University of Mexico.
“The University community has lost one its most beloved members,” said SCU President Paul Locatelli, S.J. “Fr. Martin was known to generations of Santa Clara students, faculty, staff, alumni, and benefactors. I am grateful for his almost 50 years of service to his alma mater as a faithful priest, a member of the history department, and, more recently, as assistant to the president. He lived a long, healthy, and full life. He will be missed.”
During his career, Fr. Martin served on the board of trustees at SCU and O’Connor Hospital, and was chaplain for SCU’s Catala Club and the Board of Regents. Although history was his first love, Fr. Martin also served as assistant to the vice president for university relations, where he kept in touch with major benefactors.
“Fr. Martin made a difference in the lives of innumerable students, alumni, and friends,” said Jim Purcell, vice president for University relations at SCU. “If you passed by his desk, he would be on the phone talking to an alum or a parent, or he would be talking to the staff. He was in the business of building relationships—he was loved by all who knew him and we will miss him terribly.”
Gerdenio Manuel, S.J., rector of the SCU Jesuit Community, called Fr. Martin one of Santa Clara’s “most engaging and tireless ambassadors of good will.”
SCU history Professor Fr. Arthur Leibscher recalled Fr. Martin as an “insightful scholar” and added that “his students knew him as enthused teacher and caring mentor. But, above all, he was a priest who reached out to everyone with care and concern.”
The Jesuit Community requests donations to Santa Clara University either for the Fr. Martin Scholarship Fund or the part of the new library that will be named in his memory. The Fr. Martin Scholarship Fund has more than 650 donors, with an estimated value of $2.28 million, and helps students with financial need. In the past year alone, the scholarship benefited 11 students.
In 2004, philanthropists Michel J. ’60 and Mary Orradre made a gift of $2 million for the new SCU library in honor of Fr. Martin. SCU alumni John M. and Abby Sobrato, both Class of ’83, also pledged $1 million in his honor to go toward the section in the library that will house the SCU archives.