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Interlude Years: The Presidency of S. Walter Martin

Sidney Walter Martin
1911-2000

President, 1957-1962
Sidney Walter Martin

When the Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Sidney Walter Martin as Emory's fifteenth president, on April 18, 1957, the longest presidential search in the University's history came at last to an end.

Only the third presidency of Emory since the move to Atlanta four decades earlier, Martin's would also be the shortest Emory presidency of this century. He had been plucked from a deanship at the University of Georgia; when he departed five years later, he returned to the University System of Georgia as vice chancellor for academic affairs. His administration was a period of breath-catching between two major periods of growth.

In a sense, Martin's service to Emory was an aberration in his career at public universities. Born in Tifton, in the south of Georgia, he had earned a doctorate in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After a short time as a high school teacher in Florida, he moved to the University of Georgia in 1935 as an instructor of history and rose through the ranks until being promoted to full professor in 1947. That same year, he became dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at UGA. Assuming the Emory presidency at the age of forty-six, Martin had spent nearly half his life at the University of Georgia.

The great and lasting legacy of the Martin presidency is the Charles Howard Candler Professorships. When Board Chairman Charles Howard Candler Sr. died in 1957—just two months after his handpicked candidate for the presidency had assumed office—his death left Martin bereft of a key supporter. On the other hand, Candler's death prompted his widow, Flora Glenn Candler, to present to Emory their magnificent estate on Briarcliff Road, Callanwolde. Comprising twenty-seven wooded and landscaped acres, the estate also contained the finest of the nine Candler family homes in Druid Hills and Decatur.

Mrs. Candler, a great patroness of the arts, for whom the Candler Concert Series is named, envisioned the estate as a center for the fine and performing arts. Alas, the administration determined that other entities could make better use of the place than Emory. In time Callanwolde became an arts center for DeKalb County. Meanwhile, Mrs. Candler made an equivalent gift of endowment funds, which were used to create the Charles Howard Candler Professorships in 1959.

Perhaps most significantly for the long-term prospects of the University, the campus grew by 185 acres in 1958 with the acquisition of the Walter Candler estate, better known as Lullwater. The English Renaissance-style mansion on the property—"Lullwater House"—would become the official residence of the University president after Martin's departure. In the intervening years, Lullwater has become not only a source of pastoral delight for Emory and its neighbors but also a buffer against the encroaching urban congestion into the campus.

Academically, the University experienced few major changes between 1957 and 1962. The College reinstated the bachelor of science degree, which had been discontinued some years earlier, and also dropped the separation of the curriculum into Upper and Lower Divisions in order to create a coordinated four-year undergraduate program.

With a substantial growth in the numbers of both faculty and students and the increasing needs of women students for adequate facilities, the University undertook new construction. "The Complex"—new residence halls for women, comprising Thomas, Hopkins, and Luther Smith Halls, named for nineteenth-century Emory presidents—opened in 1958. In 1959 the University built Clifton Court Apartments (now Turner Village), a thirteen-building apartment complex to house a hundred students with families. Harvey W. Cox Hall, a new food service building, opened in 1960. A new wing of the Clinic Building, a research wing for the biology building, and, at Oxford, two dormitories and a science building rounded out the construction. As a result of this growth, Emory's physical plant increased in value from $27 million in 1958 to $39 million in 1961. Endowment, too, had grown from $31.5 million in 1957 to $44.9 million at the end of 1961.

But these gains were not nearly large enough. In his final report to the board, Martin rang changes on a familiar tune: "Emory's academic growth requires additional funds—much more to prevent the diminution of present levels of quality and much, much more if the present momentum is to be kept up to carry the University toward the level which this region deserves and needs." The following spring, in an interview with the Emory Alumnus, he estimated that Emory would need at least an additional $75 million within the next ten years—$50 million for endowment and $25 million for capital improvement of the campus. Martin admitted that trying to find the needed funds had been "the most vexing problem I've had at Emory."

When he left Emory to become vice-chancellor for academic affairs of the University System of Georgia, Martin assumed responsibility for the academic programs of nineteen colleges and universities. But his job was in some ways simpler than what he had left behind. The years of his presidency had been one of the pivotal periods in the history of American education, as the nation—and Georgia in particular—wrestled with the mandate of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Martin not only felt faculty pressure to take a public stand in favor of integrating the public schools, but also faced the problem of state laws that prohibited the University from admitting blacks without losing its tax-exemption. It fell to the board chair, Henry Bowden, to scout a path through the thicket of public discourse on the most vital issue of the time.


Source: A Legacy of Heart and Mind: Emory Since 1836. Gary S. Hauk, Ph.D.

 

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