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Harold C. Martin collection

Identifier: RG02-021

Content Description

Collection of papers, photographs, and newspaper clippings related the personal and professional life of Harold Clark Martin and his wife Elma Hicks Martin. The majority of materials within this collection are from Harold's tenure as Union College's fourteenth president.


  • 1917 - 2005
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 1980


Conditions Governing Access

Restrictions may apply, contact the Head of Special Collections & Archives for details.


Born on January 12, 1917 in Raymond, Pennsylvania, Harold Martin (January 12, 1917– May 2, 2005) was the second son of four children of Henry Floyd Martin and Anna May Clark Martin. Dr. Martin moved in early childhood to Denton, New York, where his father had a farm producing celery and onions. Dr. Martin attended Hartwick College, where he earned a BA in 1937. He took a job teaching high school English in Adams, New York, taking summer courses in English literature at University of Michigan. Dr. Martin married a fellow Michigan student, Elma Hicks of Webster Springs, West Virginia, and returned to his high school in Goshen, New York, to teach English and later serve as principal. The Martins had four children.

Dr. Martin enlisted in the U.S. Navy late in the Second World War and served for a year as an instructor of English at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Bainbridge, Maryland. After his discharge he returned to Goshen while continuing to take courses in education at Columbia University and then Harvard University. Dr. Martin later enrolled in the graduate school of arts and sciences and became a doctoral candidate in comparative literature. After completing his dissertation on concepts of nature in twentieth–century poetry, he received a PhD in 1954.

Dr. Martin arrived at Union as the fourteenth president in the midst of a faculty debate over proposals for a new general education plan. In 1963, the faculty voted to replace the traditional semester scheme with a new trimester system, adopting a new academic calendar of three courses in each of the three terms per year. Although this process had started before his selection as Union College president, Martin came down firmly on the side of change and, in the fall issue of Union College Symposium, he urged the faculty to re–think Union's mission.

Initiated by the faculty, the most drastic proposal called for reconsideration of a policy, which, since 1795, restricted student enrollment at Union to men only. In 1968, in response to a vote of the Faculty Council, Dr. Martin appointed a committee, known as the President’s Commission on the Status of Women,to study the question of admitting women students at Union. The committee unanimously endorsed coeducation and thus paved the way for the first full–time women students to begin enrolling at Union College in 1970.

Unrest in the 1960s led Dr. Martin to join with thirty-four other college presidents in signing a letter to President Richard Nixon urging him to pay attention to student protests. After examining the errors made earlier at Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, he moved quickly to establish priorities for dealing with local disturbances. In addition to addressing student issues, Dr. Martin’s presidency also addressed growing faculty concerns. In the years immediately following World War II through the 1960s, young faculty members could expect to be granted tenure at the end of a normal six–year probationary period. Fearful of the long-term implications of this system, the College’s Board of Trustees voted in 1970 to limit grants of tenure to a maximum of sixty percent of the faculty.

Upon his ninth year as college president, Dr. Martin decided to retire, announcing in mid–1973 his intention to resign at the end of the 1973-74 academic year. At the very end of his term, Dr. Martin played a significant role in a major building project. On June 30, 1974, Dr. Martin’s last day in office, Reverend H. Laurence Achilles, Sr., of Manchester, Vermont, gifted the necessary money for the construction of the Achilles Rink.

After leaving Union College, Dr. Martin became president of the American Academy in Rome, a position he kept until 1976. After a year as the Martha Bundy Scott Professor of English at Williams College, Dr. Martin joined the faculty of Trinity College as the Charles A. Dana Professor of Humanities, a post he held until his retirement in 1982. In retirement Dr. Martin completed two books of Episcopal history, St. George's Church: Spanning Three Centuries (1984), Outlasting Marble and Brass: the History of the Church Pension Fund (1986) and served as editor of the Diary of Jonathan Pearson, Volume One and Two. In 1988, the Martins moved to Corrales, New Mexico. While Elma Hicks Martin died there on February 26, 1995; Dr. Martin subsequently moved to Maine and passed away on May 2, 2005.

Biographical information taken from: Carman, Bernard R. “Martin, Harold Clark.” Encyclopedia of Union College History, edited by Wayne Somers, Union College Press, 2003, pp. 472–477.


9.9 Cubic Feet

11 Boxes

Language of Materials



Harold Clark Martin was the fourteenth president of Union College, serving from 1965 to 1974. Dr. Martin served as president during an era of change in higher education throughout the United States and at Union College. In addition, it was during Dr. Martin’s presidency that Union College first admitted female students in 1970. This collection includes his personal and professional papers, photographs, and newspaper clippings about the life and work of Harold Clark Martin and his wife Elma Hicks Martin.


The contents of this collection have been arranged into the following eight series: Correspondence, Union College Administrative Papers and Reports, Writings, Personal Papers and Biographical Materials, Newspaper Articles and Clippings, Photographs, Elma H. Martin Quilt, and Unprocessed.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the collection was donated by Harold C. Martin and his wife Elma H. Martin between about 1971 and 1993. Additional material received from the President's Office in 1974 and J. Ronald Spencer in 2015.
Harold C. Martin collection
In Progress
Sarah Oswald
May 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding Aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Union College
807 Union Street
Schenectady NY 12308 United States