Alexander Martin, 1875-1889
DePauw's Sixth President
Alexander Martin served as the last president of Indiana Asbury from 1875 to 1884 and then five more years as president of the new DePauw University. Born in Nairn, Scotland, of which he wrote a charming description during a visit there while a delegate to the London Ecumenical Conference in 1881, he is said to have retained something of a Scottish burr in his speech to the end of his life.
His early career was varied. Brought as a boy to Jefferson County in Ohio, he spent three years as an apprentice in the tanning and leather dressing trade. He managed to work his way through Allegheny College, graduating at the head of his class in 1847. He took a position as principal of an academy in Virginia and later returned to his alma mater as professor of Greek language and literature. Ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, he preached and did hospital work during the Civil War, becoming the first president of West Virginia University in 1865.
Martin turned out to be one of the most effective presidents Indiana Asbury had ever had. His inaugural address revealed some of the ideas for the expansion of the educational program that were implemented in the DePauw period. Gaining the support of Washington C. DePauw, who was president of the board of trustees, Martin became the first of a new breed of university administrators who went beyond the emphasis on piety and scholarship to a new concern for efficiency and growth. His executive decisions were not always popular, as in the case of the dismissal of three senior professors in 1879. Though never adequately explained, this action made way for the introduction of younger and more scholarly faculty members. In 1883 the student paper said of him that he:
Possesses a sturdy, positive, Scotch character, great natural tact and ability, a broad scholarship, and unusual force; in short, in him unite all elements necessary for a successful college president.
After guiding the university through the transition from the Indiana Asbury era to the new vision of an enlarged and reinvigorated DePauw University, Martin resigned the presidency in 1889 at the age of 65. Until his death in Greencastle in 1893 he continued as professor of mental and moral philosophy, completing a total of 18 years of service to the university during one of its most momentous periods.