Being raised in a Catholic family, where prayer was said daily, there was little doubt that the late Michael Martin ’78 would attend Marist High School. According to his wife Karen, Marist had a great reputation and, for Mike, it represented a continuation of family.
“I think Mike always knew he was getting the best education at Marist,” Karen said. “He always felt comfortable there, like a second home.”
The sense of home that resonated so strongly with Mike, continues today thanks to the generosity of his parents Ken and Jane Martin. In 2013, the Martins commissioned a statue of the Blessed Mother in their son’s honor. Known as the Our Lady of the Way prayer space, the statue offers Marist students a place to have conversations with our “good mother,” very much in the spirit that our founder, St. Marcellin Champagnat, would always bring his cares and worries about the Marist Brothers and students to Mary. All to Jesus through Mary was a motto St. Marcellin lived and prayed.
Mike had a great relationship with many of the Marist Brothers. Even beyond his Marist days, Mike respected the Brothers and valued their wisdom. In fact, as young parents, Mike and Karen received great advice from a Brother at a fundraising event. “We were talking about adolescent boys and their maturation process,” Karen recalled. “His advice to us was spot on.”
Karen and Mike, who married in 1985, had three sons: Kevin, James and John. An avid sports fan, Mike enjoyed attending football games at his alma mater the University of Notre Dame, hitting the links, and watching his sons play sports. At home in Downers Grove, Mike coached boys’ basketball at St. Mary of Gostyn and participated in fundraising efforts for the boys’ high school, Montini Catholic.
During his time at Marist, Mike threw discus for the track team and was a member of the National Honor Society. An athlete and scholar, Marist laid the foundation for Mike’s future accomplishments – graduating with honors from Notre Dame with a bachelor of art’s degree in government and, later, earning a juris doctorate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law where he was salutatorian. While in law school, Mike was published in the Law Review Journal and, subsequently, served as its editor.
Mike went on to practice commercial real estate law for 26 years. He spent most of that time with Burke, Warren, McKay and Serritella, a full-service law firm in Chicago. In addition to being a founding member of the Marist Alumni Law Association, Mike was a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a board member for Old Saint Patrick’s Crossroads Center and board president of Chicago Youth Programs (CYP), which provides comprehensive programs to at-risk youth.
After joining the CYP board of directors, Mike jumped in right away to help build its leadership team, implement better procedures and policies, and bring a more consistent structure to the organization. Mike dedicated himself to expanding the organization’s outreach and securing its financial stability without ever looking for accolades or a pat on the back.
According to Karen, Mike felt strongly about giving back, especially to those less fortunate. “Mike did not shy away from hard work,” Karen said. “His honesty, loyalty and love for his family is what people remember most about him. Knowing what Marist meant to Mike, we are grateful and proud that Marist has chosen to recognize Mike for his achievements and character.”