Joel W. Martin, Ph.D., was introduced to the Wagner community on December 5, 2018, as the next president of Wagner College. He will begin his term on July 1, 2019. He succeeds President Richard Guarasci, who is retiring.
Distinguished Academic Record
Martin comes to the Wagner presidency with a long record of teaching, service, and leadership at colleges and universities large and small.
Martin earned his bachelor’s degree at a small liberal arts college, Birmingham-Southern, in Alabama, his home state. He holds a master’s in theological studies from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in the history of religions from Duke University. He began his academic career at Franklin and Marshall, a liberal arts college located in Lancaster, Penn., in 1988 as a professor and, later, chair of the religious studies department.
A noted expert on Native American religions, he is the author and editor of several books in this field, including Native Americans, Christianity, and the Reshaping of the American Religious Landscape (2010) and The Land Looks After Us: A History of Native American Religion (2001). In 2000, he was named the Costo Endowed Chairholder in American Indian Affairs at the University of California Riverside, where he also served as interim dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
From 2006 to 2014, he held academic leadership positions at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: He served as dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, then as the university’s vice provost for academic personnel and dean of the faculty.
He then returned to Franklin and Marshall to serve as provost and dean of the faculty. He has led key efforts there, such as engaging the faculty in the design of a new visual arts center; spearheading initiatives on creativity and innovation, the humanities, and science education; and securing a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support faculty diversification and inclusive pedagogy.
The Search Process
“Over the course of seven months, a very diverse search committee evaluated a large and talented pool of candidates and unanimously endorsed Joel Martin to be the next president of Wagner College,” said Andrew F. Cortese ’72, a Wagner trustee and chair of the presidential search committee. “The Board of Trustees then unanimously and enthusiastically voted to select Dr. Martin. We are thrilled to welcome him as our next president.”
The 16-member search committee represented the trustees, faculty, administration, and the student body. They reviewed dossiers submitted by more than 140 candidates for the position. Confidentiality was guaranteed to ensure that candidates who held key positions at other institutions would apply.
The committee interviewed 12 semi-finalists, from whom they selected three finalists for in-depth interviews and campus visits.
“Joel blew us away,” said search committee member Patricia Tooker ’79 M’04 D’16, dean of the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing. “I told him, ‘You are our next president.’ We were impressed with his resume, but even more so in person. He’s so genuine, appreciative, and interested in who we are. He wants to keep what we do intact and build on it for the next generation. He’s also fun; he has a sense of humor.
“What resonated was his love for Wagner, his respect for Wagner, and his vision for who we can be in the future.”
On December 5, the day of the presidential selection announcement, Joel Martin and his wife, Jan, made their first visit to meet all constituents on campus. An introductory program with President Guarasci was live streamed, followed by a reception in the Union.
The couple’s warmth was warmly returned.
“The first thing I noticed about him was you could tell he cared and came from a genuine place,” said Dan Hughes ’19, the student representative on the search committee. “I feel that genuine spirit propelled him through the process. And his wife is phenomenal. She did a fantastic job of stamping that approval for us.”
Jan Martin is a longtime K–12 science teacher. Most recently, she has worked for Pennsylvania State University in York to organize a conference inspiring young women to study science; she also coordinates enrichment activities for a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) academy within a public school.
Joel Martin highlighted three key strengths of Wagner in his introductory remarks. He began with the Wagner Plan, describing it as an “extraordinary vision of the curriculum that does more than focus on academic development for its students: It focuses on social development, and asks students how their learning can make a difference in the world.”
The second strength he mentioned was Wagner’s location overlooking New York City and its “Arcadian” campus. “It’s a gateway, a portal to opportunity for anyone who dreams big. … That’s powerful symbolism of what this college means to students and to the future of our society.”
Finally, he emphasized the personal culture at Wagner. “The people of Wagner are incredible,” he said. “The culture you have here, the friendliness, the warmth, is authentic. … We have found our family.”