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1995-1996 index

Distributed January 31, 1996
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Public service celebrating the life of Martin Martel set for Feb. 13

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A public service celebrating the life and professional contributions of sociology professor emeritus Martin Martel will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, in Manning Chapel on the Brown campus. Martel, 66, a specialist in the sociology of race and ethnicity, died Dec. 20 at Miriam Hospital in Providence. Several former undergraduate and graduate students will speak at the service in addition to faculty members and administrators from the University. A reception will follow at the Department of Sociology in Maxcy Hall.

Editors: Cameras will be allowed at the ceremony. Please make arrangements through the Brown News Bureau.

Born in New York City, Martel was a son of the late Abraham and Edith (Senderof) Usdansky. He lived in Providence since 1964, the year he joined the Brown faculty.

A graduate of the University of Miami, Martel earned his bachelor's degree in history in 1949 and his master's degree in sociology in 1951. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University in 1956. Before coming to Brown he was an associate professor and acting chair of the sociology program at Arizona State University. Earlier in his career he taught at Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Cornell. Martel served in the University's sociology department for 31 years and was made an emeritus faculty member in 1993.

Martel's published research focused on sociological theory and on changing racial-ethnic relations in America. He became involved in civil rights activities as an undergraduate at the University of Miami, where he worked for the Southern Regional Council and the NAACP. It was this involvement that led him to sociology and an active concern with problems of racial discrimination throughout his life. His study of changing race relations as reflected in mass periodical fiction from the 1880s to the 1960s (American Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post) became known in the field as his "storyville study." Early in his career, Martel also worked on the sociology of aging and conducted a study at the University of Iowa which was used to define coverage issues in the development of Medicare.

In 1971, Martel co-chaired the Faculty-Student Committee on the Extension of the Medical Science Program, which examined the feasibility of expanding Brown's six-year medical program to award the M.D. degree. Martel was on the steering committee which established Brown's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. "Martin was one of the drafters of the initial proposals and presented them to the administration and faculty," said Rhett Jones, professor of history and former director of the Center. "His participation and knowledge of how the University works were essential to persuading the faculty to support the Center."

In terms of fighting for racial equality, Martel was no "armchair activist," Jones said. "He was in the movement down in Florida when it was dangerous and he spoke out on issues until the time of his death. He wasn't in an Ivory Tower doing research; he stressed applying the research to the racial problems in this country."

Martel was a fellow of the American Sociological Association, the Pacific Sociological Association, the American Gerontological Society and the American Association of University Professors. Locally, he was a former member of the Providence Human Relations Committee and a member of the Central Congregational Church in Providence. Besides his wife, Amelia (Grodzka) Martel, he is survived by a son, Charles Martel of Davis, California; a daughter, Judy M. Key of Shorewood, Wis.; a sister, Shirley Gold of Raleigh, N.C.; and three grandchildren.

The Martin Martel Memorial Fund has been established to support undergraduate research into the sociology of race and ethnicity and to support conferences and lectures on campus. Donors may send checks, earmarked for Martel and payable to Brown University, to the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Box 1886, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912.