Fordham Preparatory School Logo

S. Jerome Martin

The teaching profession is a very sacred one; you have more power than you think.
— S. Jerome Martin

Samuel Jerome “Jerry” Martin was born on September 28, 1929 in Lake Forest, Illinois. His father, Samuel Ignatius Martin worked in the grain wholesale industry, later becoming a bond broker. His mother, Mary Elizabeth Mills, was a teacher. Jay, as Jerome was known in those days, grew up on North Greenbay Road in Highland Park, Illinois, along with his brothers Donald, Mills, and Richard. His grandmother, Jane Mills, also lived with the family. Among her many sayings: “Keep your head up high even though your tail feathers are dragging.”

Jerry attended St George’s High School in Evanston for two years, transferring in 1945 to the LaSalle Institute, a formation house for the Christian Brothers in Glencoe, Missouri. As he discerned that his life’s calling lay elsewhere, he continued his education at St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota, majoring in English and graduating in 1951. He would later return to St. Mary’s to earn a master’s degree in education in 1960.

Meanwhile, Martin had embarked on the career that would be the great joy of his lifetime. He would complete his student-teaching back in his hometown at St. George’s in 1951, and then go on to a series of two-year teaching assignments at various schools in Missouri, Illinois, and Michigan. Among the subjects he taught: English, social studies, religion, and mechanical drawing. 

On August 19, 1961, Jerry Martin married Marilyn Pellitier, a singer and alumna of St. Catherine University in Minnesota. The Martins knew that Marilyn’s best chance at a career in music was New York City, and so, that summer, they made the move east, taking up residence on Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx at the same address they would still call home at the time of Jerry’s 2017 Hall of Honor induction. Marilyn was able to pursue her dream, and, luckily for Fordham Prep, Jerry was able to follow his. After all, the Rose Hill campus was just a short trip up Fordham Road.

For the next 33 years, English class with Mr. Martin would become a highpoint of the Fordham Prep experience for many students. He was beloved of his students — he captured their imaginations; he dared them to wonder; he forced them to think. “The days of 'click, click, click, therefore,' are over,” he would say, passing out copies of The Medium is the Massage. “It is truly the days of butterflies with hiccoughs.”

Down through the decades, Martin would teach all levels of English at one time or another — including the advanced placement courses (though by his own admission, sophomores were always his favorite).  He would teach a university linguistics course along the way too, and author textbooks such as the Our Language Today series that would be used in schools across the country for years. It is not an exaggeration to note that Jerry Martin’s long tenure as department chair reshaped the Prep English experience in a profoundly significant manner which is being felt still.

But perhaps the best way to capture the career of a man who spent so much of his life teaching how words work is to let him speak for himself. In a reflection on his pedagogy, Martin once wrote: “I am dedicated and am determined to be as close as possible to my model in teaching, Jesus Christ. Christ had a verb-centered mind; not a noun-centered mind. He made His knowledge move into action, and consequently, He showed us how to ‘be.’”

The venerable Mr. Martin retired from Fordham Prep in 1995. Whenever he looked back on his years in the classroom, he would always consider himself very fortunate — as would the generations of students and colleagues who had the privilege of sharing those years with him.

S. Jerome Martin passed away in mid-September 2021.  His Rose Hill legacy, however, still endures and will endure always.