Remembering philanthropist Dr. Paul E. Martin


Dr. Paul E. Martin, noted civic and community leader, philanthropist, scholar, and Bath resident of 60 years, died Aug. 5, 2010 at the age of 95.

Dr. Paul E. Martin

Dr. Paul E. Martin

“The University of Akron is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Paul Martin, who was, without question, one of the University’s greatest champions, supporters and advocates,” said Dr. Luis M. Proenza, UA president.

“Dr. Martin was extremely generous to his alma mater for more than three decades, donating nearly $7 million to the University for various scholarships, academic programs and the beautification of our great campus. One of my fondest memories of Dr. Martin is of him telling anyone and everyone that ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’ when referring to the University’s momentum and great progress made since 1999. His personal stamp is seen and felt every day by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and he will be sorely missed by all of us.”

Martin was born on November 25, 1914, in Kenmore, Ohio. The only child of William and Dora Martin, he attended Lawndale Elementary School and graduated in 1931 from Kenmore High School with honors. During the Great Depression, Martin enrolled in The University of Akron, where he achieved many honors and was involved in a variety of activities, including Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, A-Key, Scabbard & Blade, First Captain and Founder - Pershing Rifles, Omicron Delta Kappa Honorary, Alpha Phi Gamma (president), University Theatre (business manager), The Buchtelite, Spanish Club, and ROTC Advanced - Army.

Martin graduated from UA in 1935 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and a minor in political science. During his senior year, he met Dorothy Garrett, who was a freshman. They were engaged and were married in July 1938. The couple had two sons: Frederick W. Martin, born in 1941; and James Kirby Martin, Ph.D., born in 1943.

After graduation, Martin joined his father with the opening of Martin Sales and Service, an automobile dealership in Barberton, Ohio. In 1939, he became general manager of the Akron Automobile Dealers Association. Within two years, every new car dealer in Summit County was a member of this organization. 

In the media:

In 1941, Martin volunteered to serve a term in the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant. After Pearl Harbor, he remained in the Army until 1946 and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Ordnance Department. At the age of 31, Martin led an engine-manufacturing outfit of more than 10,000 men while stationed in Langres, France. In 1944, he and his organization were moved to the European Theatre where he was awarded the Bronze Star medal for outstanding service. 

Honor from Time magazine

After the war, Martin returned to the automobile business, and in 1949 became vice president and general manager of City Chevrolet Co. in Akron. By 1958, he opened his own Chevrolet dealership in Warren, Ohio—Martin Chevrolet, Inc. He was twice named "Quality Dealer of the Year" by Time magazine, an unprecedented honor.  

He has founded and been president or chairman of twelve companies, including Acceleration Corp., an insurance holding company. The Acceleration group of companies became one of the largest insurance companies in the nation.

In 1984, Governor Disalle appointed Martin to the Ohio Dealer and Salesman’s Licensing Board. He was later president of the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association, and received the Ohio Automobile Association prestigious leadership award in 1997.

Martin’s son, Fred, continues the family tradition as an automobile dealer at Fred Martin Ford and Mercedes Benz in Youngstown, Ohio. His son, James, a distinguished professor of history at the University of Houston, has authored several books on the American Revolution.

Support of higher education

Martin was a steadfast supporter of higher education. His two sons both graduated from Hiram College, where Martin and Dorothy were the first co-chairmen of the Parents Committee. He was elected to the Hiram College Board of Trustees in 1968. In 1990, he was honored with title of Emeriti of the Board of Trustees. Martin established the Martin Common, a central pedestrian pathway at Hiram College, in 1998. 

Martin was extremely generous to his own alma mater for more than three decades, donating nearly $7 million to UA. In 1990, Martin served as chairman of the University’s Heritage and Vision capital campaign. The goal was surpassed by $2 million with a total of $54 million raised. In the year 2000, under Martin’s leadership as chairman of the University Foundation, the University’s combined endowment of $200 million was surpassed.

He funded more than a dozen scholarships at UA, and assisted in numerous campus beautification projects, including the Dorothy Garrett Martin Fountain on Buchtel Common, given in honor of the Martins' 50-year wedding anniversary; and the renovation of the University Club on Fir Hill, which is now known as the Paul E. Martin Center.

Martin received The University of Akron Alumni Honor Award in 1985, and The University of Akron Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 1987.

The international headquarters of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, located in Oxford, Ohio at Miami University, is named the Paul E. Martin Building in recognition of his commitment to the fraternity.

Due to his support of the Delta Gamma Fraternity, Martin was featured on the cover of the Anchora, the quarterly magazine sent to more than 110,000 living members of the fraternity, an honor no other man has received in Delta Gamma’s 130-year history. 

In 2003, Martin was honored by The University of Akron Greek Alumni Council with the Outstanding Greek Leadership Award.

Martin’s philanthropy also benefited several non-profit organizations in the area. St. Joseph Medical Center in Warren, Ohio is home to a Chapel named in Martin’s honor in recognition of his generosity. The Humane Society of Greater Akron received Chevrolet vans, funding for a barn to shelter rescued horses, and annual funding for the animals’ food. Martin also adopted several dogs from the Humane Society.

Martin has been the recipient of numerous awards for his many academic, civic and community involvements. In addition to those already mentioned,  his accomplishments include:

  • co-founder of the Toastmasters Club in Akron, Ohio;
  • chairman of the United Way Appeal of Warren, Ohio;
  • president of the State of Ohio Dealer & Salesmens' Licensing Board;
  • vice president of Kiwanis Club; founder and first president of the Mahoning Valley Health Planning Association;
  • president of the St. Joseph Riverside Hospital Foundation;
  • Honorary Award from the Kent Trumbull Advisory Board;
  • Kent State University Outstanding Service Medal;
  • National Society of Fund Raising Executives award for volunteers' fund raising excellence; and
  • Trustee of the Ohio Ballet.

Preceded in death by wife of 56 years, Dorothy Marie Garrett Martin in 1994; he is survived by sons, Frederick William Martin of Aurora and Dr. James Kirby (Karen) Martin of Houston, Texas; grandchildren, Gregory, Amy, Carrie, Darcy, Sarah Marie and Joelle; and 14 great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Dr. Paul E. Martin Scholarships at the University of Akron Foundation, Akron, OH 44325; Hiram College, Hiram, OH 44234 or the Humane Society of Greater Akron, 7996 Darrow Rd., Twinsburg, OH 44087.