Geri and Lee Martin recently established at MIT the Martin Family Society of Graduate Fellowships in Sustainability, an honor society of top graduate students in environmental studies that was created to provide cross-disciplinary collaboration.

The group regularly attends dinner seminars with faculty and experts. They also meet among themselves to share their research. The idea is that these young men and women will develop a life-long international network of colleagues to consult as they work across the globe on complex environmental issues.

“That’s the dream,” Lee says. The Martins believe that the group will be vital to the life of the world. Even if these young people work, say, in design, they will have the consciousness to design products whose manufacture, use, and disposal have a minimal impact on the environment.

This year 21 fellows were selected; the Martin gift supports 14 of them for one term. Eventually the Martins will support 10 fulltime or 20 half-time appointments.

“These young people have a responsibility,” Geri says. “We’re really counting on them.”

Part of the Martin Foundation gift was added to the endowment of the Molina Fellowship in Environmental Studies that was established by Prof. Mario Molina, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the environment. The Martin family also has supported environmental studies at MIT through an expendable fund and a professorship as well as supported a fellowship and physical facilities in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.


Lee and Geri Martin are heartened that people across the globe are beginning to realize that the world is not fragmented, but whole. Consider the fallout from Chernobyl wafting from country to country, indifferent to political boundaries. An oil slick in Alaska doesn’t just affect Alaska. It affects us all.

The couple says that as the population grows and more pollution is expelled into the atmosphere, it’s going to be more difficult for living creatures to survive. Something dramatic needs to be done.

People are slowly beginning to wake up to the fact that we cannot disrupt the earth’s ecosystems and get away with it, the Martins say, adding that we’ll suddenly find that things are quite desperate, and we won’t have fish to eat or clean water to drink. You simply can’t change the composition of the atmosphere and damage life in the oceans and on land without the changes changing us.

Along with his wife, Lee Martin, who earned from MIT a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1943, and who ran an Indiana company that is a leading manufacturer of pipe fittings, valves, and plumbing fixtures, has a dream for the earth.

Not only does the couple want the planet to be a healthy place for their four children and 10 grandchildren to live and work, but they want the same for the generations of others who follow. “That is our hope,” Lee says.