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Joan Kulgren Martin ’53

January 16, 2020, in Stony Brook, New York, from a stroke.

Joan grew up in Tacoma, Washington, where she graduated from Lincoln High School. At Reed, she wrote her thesis, “Curse and Expiation in the Novels of William Faulkner,” with Prof. Donald MacRae [English 1944–73] advising.

After earning a master’s degree in literature from the University of Chicago, she became an English professor at the University of Nebraska. In 1955, she moved to New York City, where she worked briefly in advertising and the following year married Roger Martin. When he was drafted into the army, they moved first to Carmel, California, near Fort Ord, and then to Wiesbaden, Germany. During that time, she taught college courses to noncommissioned officers.

Upon returning to New York, Joan worked in insurance. In 1960, she began a 13-year career as a professor at Queens College. She then taught at Lincoln Hall Boys’ Haven, a school in Westchester County for troubled youth, and became its principal.

Joan and Roger divorced in 1978. A few years later, at the age of 53 and while working at Lincoln Hall, Joan began taking night classes at St. John’s University School of Law alongside her daughter, who was also studying for a law degree.

“I was very apprehensive about starting law school at my age,” she said, “but I found out that the students didn’t care.”

She graduated with honors and got a job in the litigation department of the Manhattan law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom.

Having spent summers and weekends in East Hampton, she retired there in 1997. Joan served on the board of the Windmill Village housing complex, and was a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. As an activist, she protested the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee while at Reed and attended the 1963 March on Washington, at which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. She enjoyed musical theatre, the New York Yankees, travel, and playing tennis. She is survived by her son, John G. Martin, and her daughter, Stacey P. Martin.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2020

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