School of Speech searching for new associate dean

Becky Bowman

School of Speech administrators are half-way through the interview process for a successor to Associate Dean Cathy Martin, who will retire Aug. 31 after 30 years of advising undergraduate Speech students.

But faculty and students say they are a long way from filling the void Martin will leave behind.

Speech administrators began interviewing four candidates two weeks ago and will interview the final candidate next week, Dean Barbara O’Keefe said. They hope to choose a successor by the end of February, she said.

Martin said that she would like to be able to spend more time with her grandchildren.

As the search is conducted, Speech faculty and students said replacing Martin will be a challenge.

Speech senior Paula Wells credits much of her success in the school to Martin. Wells left NU in Spring Quarter of 1997 to have a baby, but returned last spring and will graduate in June.

“At one point, I didn’t think that I would come back,” Wells said. “Cathy always kept in touch with me wherever I went. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be finished.”

Even though she will complete her graduation requirements this quarter, Wells said she will attend convocation in June just to see Martin one last time.

Prof. David Zarefsky, dean of Speech from 1998 until July 2000, said he was surprised and saddened to hear Martin’s retirement announcement last winter.

“She’s going to be severely missed,” said Zarefsky. “I’m not even sure we recognize how much she’s going to be missed. She’s become such an institution in the school.”

In 1968 Martin began working in the Office of the Registrar, before moving to the Speech administrative offices. In 1970 she quit to earn a master’s degree at the School of Education and Social Policy. The School of Speech’s dean in 1972, Roy Wood, appointed Martin associate dean for undergraduate students, making her both the youngest person and the only woman to hold that position in any of NU’s schools at the time.

During her time at NU, Martin has seen the leadership of the school change hands twice, first from Wood to Zarefsky and then to O’Keefe. The school is undergoing major transitions including a likely name change and a stronger focus on technology.

To help with these transitions and with Martin’s departure, the school created five new positions in the last year.

Martin said she wanted to create a space on campus where students could talk about their coursework and their lives.

Her biggest accomplishment of the past 30 years has been seeing students through school to their graduations, Martin said.

“Every year when students cross the stage to pick up their diplomas – that’s a landmark,” she said.

Speech sophomore Lauren Neuman, who first encountered Martin while touring the campus as a prospective student, said it will be difficult to replace her.

“I think she’s a very insightful woman who knows how to speak to the students in a way so they feel that their life makes sense and is going somewhere,” Neuman said. “I don’t know if you could find someone who could immediately replace her. She’s very all-knowing in terms of what the School of Speech has, needs and requires.”