Thank You, Professor Martin

I will likely misquote Obi Won Kenobi from the original Star Wars movie. In demonstration of the power of the Death Star, the Empire destroys a random planet. Obi Won, many parsecs away (a parsec is a major measure of distance, I presume) is suddenly aware of an imbalance in the universe and states, “There has been a terrible disruption in The Force.” On January 14th, our Salem Community College family experienced a terrible disruption in the Force, as our beloved Associate Professor Jennifer Martin lost her battle with cancer.

While we were all reeling with this news, the SCC Family gathered on the first afternoon we could after her passing, to pay tribute to our colleague, but more importantly, console one another. As the patriarch of this family, I knew I had to find the right words to help us deal with this horrific loss. I called upon the closing scene of the movie Brian’s Song (1971). Brian Piccolo was a football player with the Chicago Bears and died of cancer. As the film ends, the narrator explains, “Brian Piccolo left behind many friends and family. But they don’t remember how he died; they remember how he lived. And oh, how he lived!” Jennifer Martin is our Brian Piccolo. We need to remember how she lived.

Professor Martin captured all that is good about Salem Community College. First, she never met a student she didn’t like. Admittedly, she liked some more than others, but her favorites were those overcoming the odds, dealing with adversity, meeting life’s daily challenges. She embraced these students knowing what they needed to succeed, and she not only taught them English, she taught them about life. Over her tenure, she worked with people across the state with various approaches to helping struggling students meet success. Every student who had Professor Martin is much enriched as a result. They will be the first to tell you what a wonderful teacher she was, but more importantly, what a wonderful person she was.

We call ourselves the SCC Family, and Jennifer Martin was emblematic of the heart of our College. When someone was in need, and I found myself in that situation several years ago, she was one of those folks who not only stepped forward to help, but enlisted the aid of others to help support. The heart that she demonstrated made us all better people. When I opted to also teach a class, I choose Speech because Jennifer Martin also taught Speech and would carry me through each semester. Any instructional success I had was because she taught me how to teach. She regularly worked with me to ensure our students were receiving quality instruction. And she made my learning enjoyable.

Each of us has a Professor Martin story to share, and I encourage you to do so. Jennifer would insist we get back to work, as there are students to be taught. They need us, all of us, and they need us at our best. Salem Community College is a better place because Jennifer Martin was and will always be, part of us. We will be forever grateful.

Remember how she lived. And oh, how she lived!