Robert “Bob” Martin, who was a trustee of Metropolitan Community College for 41 years, was described as a mentor, a strong leader, and a great friend by his colleagues during a Nov. 16 ceremony at which a campus building was named after him.
At the ceremony, MCC-Longview officially renamed one of its central buildings the Robert H. Martin Campus Center and unveiled the new lettering on the building at 500 S.W. Longview Road in Lee’s Summit.
Martin, who lived in Lee’s Summit, died April 3 at the age of 82.
More than 100 people attended the naming ceremony outside the newly christened Robert H. Martin Campus Center. Several speakers, including MCC-Longview President Kirk Nooks, MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty, and MCC Board of Trustees President Trent Skaggs shared memories of Martin and his lasting legacy on MCC and Lee’s Summit.
Martin represented Subdistrict 5 of the Junior College District of Metropolitan Kansas City, which covered a large portion of eastern Jackson County, including Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs. He was first appointed to the board of trustees in 1976 to fill a vacancy and then elected to the board seven times starting in 1978, according to a news release from MCC.
During his tenure, Martin was elected to four terms as the president of the board and three terms as president.
Martin saw the community college expand during his time as a board member, growing three campuses serving nine school districts to five campuses serving 12 school districts.
Skaggs said Martin’s guiding principles were to empower college leaders and to consider first what’s best for the community college system.
“We’re here today obviously to honor Bob, and not just for his tenure,” Skaggs said. “While his tenure was very important to the institution, I think it’s more than that. It’s his philosophy that he instilled on the institution is why we’re here today.”
After Martin passed away, Phil LeVota was appointed to the board to cover Subdistrict 5. LeVota also spoke during the ceremony, presenting resolutions written in honor of Martin from both the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate as well as the MCC Board of Trustees.
“This college is a lot different than when Bob started 40 years ago, and it’s because of his leadership that this is one of the finest higher-education institutions in the country, and we’re moving that way because of Bob,” LeVota said.
According to his obituary, Martin was born in Howard County, Mo., and raised in Carrier Mills, Ill. He went to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. After college, he joined the U.S. Air Force and reached the rank of lieutenant.
By 1965, Martin made Lee’s Summit his home, and received his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
During his career, Martin had served as a municipal judge and an assistant Jackson County prosecutor. He later joined a law firm now known as Welch, Martin & Albano in Independence.
Between 1969 and 1972, Martin was elected to serve two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Throughout his adult life, Martin also was deeply involved in the Lee’s Summit community. He was a member of the Rotary Club of Lee’s Summit, the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lee’s Summit.
As a lawyer, Martin was a member of the U.S. Federal Bar-State of Missouri, the Missouri Bar Association, the Metropolitan Bar Association, and the Eastern Jackson County Bar Association.
Martin’s widow, Ellen Forrest Martin, also shared her thoughts about a man she knew to be modest and one who embraced the mission of MCC, seeking to change lives for the better in the college community.
“This is exactly what he would have wanted it to be: An entry into education for an individual, a family, a community,” she said. “On behalf of the family, those of us who know, love, and cherish Bob, we are so appreciative of this honor. You have memorialized someone who is deep in our hearts — forever, I hope.”