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June 7, 2001 Graham Martin given a warm send-off



John Fiset, Graham Martin, Gerard Gouw

Longtime professor and administrator Graham Martin (centre) celebrates at his retirement party with John Fiset (left), a pioneer of co-op at Concordia, and Professor Gerard Gouw, Academic Director of the Mechanical Engineering Co-op program.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Barbara Black

He came for one year, and stayed for 39, becoming a pioneer professor of engineering and computer science, a vice-rector and the principal of the Institute for Co-operative Education.

Graham Martin’s career as an academic and an administrator so enriched Sir George Williams University and Concordia that his well-wishers filled the large dining room on the Hall Building’s seventh floor on May 29.

As the founding member of Sir George’s Electrical Engineering Department in the early 1960s, he recalled that his office was “a large closet with a window.” He had taken one or two computer courses. “Surrounded by ignorance,” he added humorously, “I was an expert.”

In the fall of 1962, SGWU offered its first course in digital computing, but the university did not own a computer. Martin said they made an arrangement with IBM whereby he taught students at their head office on Beaver Hall Hill, “in among the cleaners, in the evenings.” (However, a new IBM 1620—cost, $45,000—was installed in August 1963 at 2015 Drummond St. in rented space above two restaurants.)

The early 1960s was a period of great growth at Sir George Williams. Sir George Williams was administratively thin by today’s standards, serving 10,000 students with only three or four senior administrators, though that was soon to change.

Like all faculty and staff at SGWU, Martin was involved in designing the Henry F. Hall Building. Opened in 1966, it is still one of the largest academic buildings in Canada. The Hall Building was built to withstand strain, because “computers in those days weighed 50 tons.”

Right away, Martin started the Computer Centre on the ninth floor of the Hall Building, which soon became an important facility. As such, it was targeted by angry student activists in 1969, and the vandalism and fire that resulted on Feb. 10 of that year were a serious setback, not only to Martin, but to the running of the university.

In 1972, he started the Department of Computer Science at Sir George, and in 1976, two years after the merger, he became Vice-Rector, Administration and Finance, of Concordia. At the reception, he thanked then rector John O’Brien, who was present, for his quiet but effective leadership during that period.

Sue Magor, who started as a nurse in Health Services, remembers how, in 1978, Martin gave her the chance to create the Health and Safety Office.

Now the director of Environmental Health and Safety, Magor recalled after the reception, “He was absolutely wonderful to work for. He let you go with your ideas, and loved creative people who could think things through.”

Martin took over the running of the Institute for Co-operative Education in 1991, when the work-study program was at a low ebb. Now, he noted with justifiable pride, the ICE has nearly 1,000 students, exceptionally high standards, and a placement rate of 97 per cent.

Craig Brown, assistant principal of the ICE, paid tribute to Graham as “my mentor—a person of wisdom, and a team player.

“He has always placed the student at the centre of what we provide. He chooses the middle way. He has a broad vision, and communicates it. I appreciate his sense of family values; they are the root of every connection he makes with other human beings.”

Provost Jack Lightstone echoed that feeling when he said to Mr. Martin, “The university owes you more than we can ever repay you. Your story is reflected in the faces I see all around me. We wish you everything your heart desires in the coming years.”