Alum’s new book leverages donations to Suter Science Center Phase II campaign

Dr. Ethan Horst '07, a veterinarian from Barberton, Ohio, talks with Dr. Joe Martin '59, emeritus professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, during an Oct. 14 book-signing event at Eastern Mennonite University. Martin made his new book available to alumni in exchange for contributions to support the Suter Science Center renovations campaign. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

For the second time, author Dr. Joseph Martin has made his alma mater the site of a book launch celebration.

In 2011, he released “Alfalfa to Ivy: Memoir of a Harvard Medical School Dean” (University of Alberta Press) at Eastern Mennonite University. [Read about this event.]

During the Centennial Homecoming and Family Weekend in mid-October, Martin offered its sequel — “Reflections on Science, Religion and Society,” (Friesen Press, 2017) a collection of 14 essays from commencement addresses and other academic settings where science and religion were relevant topics.

Alumni of EMU science programs gathered Oct. 14 for breakfast, a short talk by author Dr. Joe Martin, a book signing, and a Suter Science Seminar.

A book-signing event drew more than $43,000 in donations for the Suter Science Center campaign. A limited number of signed copies are still available in exchange for a donation to the renovation fund. [See the end of the article for more information about purchasing a book.]

‘The Burden of Integrity’

The first essay to appear in the book, a 1981 commencement address delivered at then-Eastern Mennonite College, provided the spark that eventually led to Martin’s latest book. He ran across the typewritten text while cleaning out his office after retiring as dean of Harvard Medical School in July 2016.

The words are still “very relevant today,” he said. “It’s about the burden of integrity, the challenge to live in a world that is in disarray in so many different ways, and we need the kind of people who graduate from schools like EMC/EMU to make the world a better place.”

Other readings come from convocations offered at Bethel College, University of Calgary and McGill University; commencement at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Brown University, University of Rochester and EMU; and two addresses to the medical community.

The book brings together perspectives on science, ethics, medicine, leadership and academic issues such as affirmative action. Each essay is flanked by commentary that situates the essay in its context and “a postscript about where we are today,” Martin says.

Love for EMU

Alumni enjoy breakfast under watchful eyes in SC 104, one of the classrooms created during Suter Science Center Phase I renovations.

Why is EMU such a dear place in Martin’s heart? It’s where he met his future wife, Rachel Wenger in 1958. Besides meeting his lifetime companion, Martin says the intellectual, progressive experience of an EMC education “opened my eyes wide,” he remembered.

He recalls “an intellectual environment, superb teachers and friendships,” many of which have remained strong over the years: in 2015, eight former classmates, all graduates of 1959, traveled to Virginia with their wives for a retreat.

Martin, a native of Canada, came to then-Eastern Men­nonite College after three years at the University of Alberta, including one year of medical school. He arrived in Harrisonburg by bus, traveling with his cousin. Word got around quickly about the two new Canadian students on campus, and it wasn’t long before he met Rachel Wenger. Though their first date to climb Massanutten Mountain was cancelled by a downpour, they soon became inseparable (in fact, the Shenandoah yearbook named them “Couple of the Year”).

At EMC, Martin studied mu­sic, church history, ethics and choral conducting, eventually graduating with a degree in Bible. His academic background made him an attraction to several pre-med majors who became fast friends, among them Linford Gehman, Joe Longacher, J. Daniel Hess, Roy Hartzler, Ed Martin, Bob Hostetler and John Rutt.

“I was the odd-ball who had been to medical school and they all wanted to know what that was like and I was over here doing seminary… it was a wonderful mix of people,” Martin recalled, adding that several who gathered together in 2015 went on to careers in medicine.

So too did Martin. He married Rachel and earned a medical degree from the University of Alberta in 1962 and a doctorate in anatomy from the Univer­sity of Rochester in 1971.

Martin has served as chief of neurology at Mass­achusetts General Hospi­tal, dean of the school of medicine and later chan­cellor of the University of California, San Francisco.

In 1997, he was named dean of the Harvard Facul­ty of Medicine, a role he held until 2007. Today, he continues at Harvard as emeritus professor of neurobiology.

Dr. Martin’s book is available for purchase directly from Friesen Press. Autographed copies may be obtained by making a contribution to support Phase II of the Suter Science Campaign. Contact Kirk Shisler ’81 at or call 540-432-4499 for more information.