Even after spending decades away from Oxford, Mississippi, and the University of Mississippi, Don and Cathy Martin always felt like the town and school were home.
The couple recently honored the long-term love they’ve had for the campus with donations to a scholarship fund and the Vaught Society, the fundraising organization under the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation umbrella.
The Don and Cathy Martin Scholarship Endowment is available to eligible undergraduate students from Jackson or Lauderdale County, the Martins’ home counties.
As longtime donors to the school’s athletics programs, the Martins have given over $320,000 through the years. Their recent gift to Athletics will be included in CHAMPIONS. NOW., the fundraising campaign focused on improving facilities for UM student-athletes.
Blair Griffith, associate director of development and major gifts, thanks the Martins for their “exceptional generosity.”
“Gifts like these will leave a generational impact on Ole Miss Athletics, promote championship-level competition for years to come and will contribute to the sustained success of our athletic programs,” Griffith added. “Don and Cathy truly embody what it means to be lifelong members of the Rebel family.”
A 1967 graduate of the university, Don Martin earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and quickly dove into the paper manufacturing business — a long, successful career that he chalks up to determination and his time spent at Ole Miss.
Raised in Pascagoula, Mississippi, from a young age, Martin’s parents taught him the value of hard work and about how a college degree could enhance his future.
“I grew up middle class, and my parents gave a lot for me to be able to come up and go to school,” Martin recalls. “They sacrificed for my benefit.”
His father, a first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II, spent a year in a POW camp and didn’t see his son until he was 10 months old. After returning from war, Martin’s parents ran a small business in Pascagoula.
Arriving on campus in 1962, Martin quickly became active in the school’s social life as a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. One of his fraternity brothers, Jimmy Davis, became a professor and assisted Martin throughout his studies toward his degree. Martin also met his wife on campus. She was born in Oxford while her father attended law school.
“I’m forever indebted to Ole Miss for the education I received and most importantly the personal learning experiences I had while a student,” Martin recalled. “The ability to successfully interact with different individuals was vitally important in my career.”
Post-graduation life led the young Martin couple out of the South and to Peoria, Illinois, where he worked at International Paper Co. The Martins were married in 1968 and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Cathy graduated from the University of Minnesota the same year. Don Martin served as the territory manager for IP.
His burgeoning career in the paper and paper goods industry relocated the couple to Dallas, Texas, to Boise Cascade, where he became interested in the newsprint industry, serving customers like the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, and other major newspaper groups. After a stint in Georgia, also working in the newsprint business, the Martins settled in Connecticut for 27 years. There, Martin commuted to New York City at the Abitibi Price Corp., where he eventually served as president. Under his oversight, the business exceeded sales of $3 billion.
While in Dallas, New York, and Atlanta, Martin never forgot his UM roots, serving as the president of Ole Miss alumni chapters in each of the cities. In addition, he served as the president of the business school’s Advisory Council for two years.
After a long professional journey, in 2009, the Martins moved back to the place where everything started for them.
“We’ve always maintained a love for Ole Miss, Ole Miss Athletics and the community,” Martin said. “The lure of coming back to Oxford was too great to resist.”
The Martins have two children and five grandchildren, and in a full-circle moment for the family, their eldest granddaughter is now a freshman at the university.
“People say you can’t go back home, but we did,” Martin said. “This place will always feel like home.”
Individuals and organizations can support the Don and Cathy Martin Scholarship Endowment by sending a check, with the fund’s name written in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or online at https://give.olemiss.edu.
For information on making a gift to the University of Mississippi, contact Caroline Hourin, associate director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-6385.
For information on making a gift to CHAMPIONS. NOW., visit https://givetoathletics.com/champions-now/ or contact Denson Hollis, CEO of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, at email@example.com or 615-957-4372.
By Andy Belt/UM Foundation