Canisius Mourns Loss of George M. Martin '42, HON '88

Buffalo, NY- Canisius College lost one of its most loyal and distinguished alumni on December 7, 2013, with the passing of George M. Martin ’42, HON ’88. He was 92.

Martin spent the greater part of his personal and professional life at Canisius, giving his time, talents and soul to alma mater. In doing so, he played a crucial role in the progress, prosperity and growth of the college.

“George’s life was devoted to service,” said Canisius President John J. Hurley ’78, who was Martin’s close friend and protégé. “He had an amazingly fertile mind and an extraordinary ability to put ideas into action. All of this redounded to the benefit of Canisius College over the past six decades.”

George M. Martin '42, 1942 Azuwur 

Martin’s allegiance to Canisius manifested during his undergraduate years. The 1942 Azuwur characterized him as “an organizer deluxe and persuader extraordinary … just give him a worthy purpose and watch him work.”

Martin proved this characterization worthy post-graduation. He served three years in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, and earned a Bronze Star for his valor.

After the war, Martin earned his juris doctor degree from the University at Buffalo School of Law. He was admitted to practice before the New York State Bar, the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. But Martin’s heart remained at Canisius and in 1949, he returned to alma mater to become the part-time alumni director. During his tenure, Martin founded the Alumni Loyalty Fund, a precursor to today’s Canisius Fund, and began publishing Canisius College Alumni News.

It wasn’t until 1958, with the Alumni Office now well-established, that Martin took a hiatus from Canisius to practice law and pursue public office. He served as commissioner of parks under Buffalo Mayor Frank A. Sedita ’56, a public administrator of Erie County and chair of the Board of Assessors of the city of Buffalo. But Martin didn’t stay away from alma mater long. He returned in 1966 when Rev. James M. Demske ’47, SJ, became president of Canisius and appointed Martin executive vice president for administrative affairs. He was the first lay person to hold a vice presidency at the college.

George M. Martin '42, HON '88 was the first lay person to hold a vice presidency at Canisius College

Under Martin’s leadership, Canisius’ advancement division grew phenomenally. Originally a one-person department, the office expanded to nine separate areas. The annual giving campaign reached a record $2.25 million goal. And the success of the Canisius Centennial Campaign and the Campaign for the Eighties - both led by Martin – positioned Canisius to take its place among the top ranks of regional colleges in the Northeast.

Still, Martin leaves behind an even greater legacy at alma mater, as countless alumni will remember him as the man whose guiding influence helped shape their careers.

“There wasn’t a time in my life when I didn’t consult with George about life and my career,” said President Hurley, who began working for Martin during his junior year at Canisius. “He was a mentor extraordinaire, a valued friend and trusted counsel.”

George M. Martin '42, HON '88 and students at the dedication of George Martin Hall, a residence hall that Canisius opened for honors students in 1999.   

Martin retired as vice president after 21 years in the position to assume the less active role of special counsel to the Canisius president. For his long and distinguished career and service, Canisius conferred an honorary doctorate degree upon Martin in 1988. He is also a recipient of the LaSalle Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association for service to alma mater; the Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of alumni who have distinguished themselves in their chosen careers; and is an inductee of the DiGamma Honor Society, a prestigious group of men and women who work for the advancement of the college. In 2011, President Hurley conferred the President’s Medal upon Martin, citing him as an outstanding exemplar of service to God and community.

 George Martin 2011
President John J. Hurley conferred the President's Medal upon George M. Martin '42, HON '88 in 2011

“Into that pantheon of great Canisius names of the past, names like Desmond, Koessler and Brady, we now enshrine the name of George Michael Martin,” said President Hurley. “Truly, he was a Canisian for the ages.”

Martin is preceded in death by his wife, Mary E. Tracey.

A memorial Mass will be offered on Saturday, December 21 at 11:00 a.m. in Christ the King Chapel, followed by a reception in the Richard E. Winter ’42 Student Center.

Click here to view a pictorial tribute to George M. Martin's legacy at Canisius over the years.