A chilly November afternoon did not daunt more than 100 well-wishers who came to celebrate the life and dedication of Metropolitan Community College icon Robert H. Martin at the unveiling of a building renamed in his honor.
Mr. Martin died April 3, 2017, after serving the College for an unprecedented 41 years on the Board of Trustees. On Nov. 16, the key administrative and student services building at MCC-Longview was christened the Robert H. Martin Campus Center. Mr. Martin’s subdistrict covered the Lee’s Summit community.
Appointed by the Board of Trustees in 1976 to fill a vacancy, Mr. Martin was first elected to the board in 1978 and subsequently re-elected to six additional terms.
“He was clearly living a life of service,” MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty said at the naming ceremony.
Ceremony highlights video:
Trustee Martin’s leadership qualities were relied upon by his colleagues, who elected him to four terms as board president and three terms as vice president. He also had a long list of civic roles, including memberships in the Lee’s Summit Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. He was a municipal judge and an assistant Jackson County prosecutor. He served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives. As a young man, he flew as pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
“I’m told as a former legislator, he maintained an interest in political processes of the state and acted as a mentor for MCC leaders and their relations with state officials and the government’s process,” said Dr. Beatty, who joined the College after Mr. Martin’s passing.
“I’m sorry not to have had the chance to experience his expert guidance. I’m sure I would have learned a lot from him,” she added.
Other testaments to Mr. Martin’s legacy included remarks by other dignitaries; Martin’s wife, Ellen Forrest Martin; and the campus Student Government Association president.
Dr. Kirk Nooks, MCC-Longview president, talked about meeting Mr. Martin at the Lee’s Summit Rotary Club.
“I found myself sitting at the back table with Bob, and he would tell me about his love for MCC,” Nooks said. He also shared his love for his community and his family, “and that was the Bob I came to know and respect and love.”
The unveiling ceremony crowd was peppered with members of the Rotary Club as well as colleagues from the Welch, Martin & Albano law firm.
Trent Skaggs, MCC Board of Trustees president, reflected on Mr. Martin’s nurturing of other board members.
“Bob had the ability to be extremely intimidating to a new board member,” he said. “Bob could have ignored us, he could have been patronizing, he could have been condescending. But Bob was very gracious . . . and we always cherished, genuinely cherished what Bob had to say about the historical perspective of MCC.”
Trustee Phil LeVota, who now represents the MCC subdistrict that Martin had for so long, told the audience there are only a few reasons a building is named for someone. One is money — acknowledging a major gift. Another is “pure vanity.”
Then there’s the category that applies to the Campus Center renaming: a “true honor for a great man and a great life and a great job.”
An emotional Michael Albano remembered Martin as a longtime friend and colleague — both got jobs at the same law firm in 1968. When Albano met Martin, who preceded him by a few months, he “quickly informed me that he was to be called Bob.” He also urged Albano to move to Lee’s Summit.
Albano said Martin was a mentor who made it very clear “not just to be a lawyer, that I had to do community service.”
Colby Cole, MCC-Longview’s SGA president, said the naming honor is “beautiful (because) we are using the name of Robert Martin not to mourn the end of a life, but we are actually choosing it to celebrate the thousands of people beginning their lives” as MCC college students.
Students currently serving as MCC-Longview Presidential Fellows were on hand to greet and provide support to visitors during the ceremony.
Ellen Forrest Martin, a longtime MCC administrator, was the final speaker before the name unveiling. “Bob actually was a modest man and would not like this,” she said, to smiles from the crowd.
She said her husband “truly understood and embraced” the mission of the community college.
Mrs. Martin herself served the College for 40 years in roles ranging from faculty member to administrator. Her MCC career began in 1971 when she was hired as a full-time psychology instructor at the Longview campus. In 1981, she served as a faculty intern doing research at the Administrative Center. She progressed from that role to the director of research and planning in 1983. She served MCC as assistant to the chancellor from 1993 to 2000, when she became an early retiree, yet continued working as an early retiree administrator until 2011.
Between them, the couple contributed more than 80 years of combined service to MCC.
Mrs. Martin was presented not only with proclamations from the Missouri House and Senate and a resolution from the College — which were read at the event — but also with a replica of a new plaque inside the Campus Center.
A reception inside the Robert H. Martin Campus Center followed the unveiling of the building’s new name.
To watch the building naming ceremony in its entirety, click here for the recorded livestream.
To view our entire photo gallery on Facebook, click here.
Previous stories on Mr. Martin:
- MCC-Longview building to be renamed for long-serving trustee Robert H. Martin
- MCC remembers trustee Robert (Bob) Martin, 1934-2017