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2008 Distinguished Alumnus: LeRoy Martin

LeRoy B. Martin Jr. (MS ’52 Mathematics) was selected as the College’s 2008 Distinguished Alumnus. Established in 1990, the PAMS Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes alumni whose exceptional achievements in business, education, research or public service have brought honor and distinction to the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and NC State.

Born in Elkin, NC, Martin attended public schools in Raleigh. After spending a year at the United States Military Academy, where he played on Army’s 1945 national championship football team, Martin went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Wake Forest College. He returned to Raleigh to earn a master’s degree in mathematics from NC State, then headed northeast to earn a doctorate in applied mathematics from Harvard.

In 1955, as IBM expanded to electronic computers, the corporation hired the young mathematician to work in its Boston office as an applied science representative. Martin only stayed with IBM for six years, but he was fortunate enough during that time to meet his future wife, Ms. Charlotte Meyer.

In 1961, Martin and his new bride returned to Raleigh to join the Department of Mathematics at NC State. Throughout his career at NC State, Martin was interested in improving the technology infrastructure of the university. In 1968, he was appointed director of the NCSU Computing Center. He also was instrumental in launching the computer science department and coordinating NC State’s participation in the Triangle Universities Computation Center (TUCC), a large computing facility in Research Triangle Park shared with UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke. Martin also was integral to NC State’s transition to computer-based student records and registration and business affairs data processing.

After being named assistant provost for university computing, Martin led the charge to upgrade all new university facilities with appropriate raceways and connections for computer communications. As Martin himself later recalled of his promotion to assistant provost, “I soon began to realize that my major job was to convince the students, the faculty, and the administration that they were all equally deprived of computing resources.”

According to PAMS Dean Dan Solomon, Martin’s efforts in these areas have had a lasting impact on the university. “We take these things for granted now, but keep in mind that these weren’t just administrative changes,” Solomon said. “This was an institution-wide cultural shift. All of us who have worked and studied here since are grateful for his foresight and determination in this area.”

Martin retired from NC State in 1996, but he continued to contribute to the university and PAMS. Not only did he continue to teach a class each spring for almost a decade after retiring, but he and Charlotte have established three endowments in the College, including two student scholarships in the Department of Mathematics and the Elva A. and LeRoy Martin Teaching Effectiveness Program Endowment, which honors outstanding teaching across the College.