The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has motivated many of our alumni to consider how they might help law students in need. Perhaps the fact that he was so recently a student himself prompted 2019 graduate Garrett Kinkelaar to reach out to offer his support.
While entering law school with the Class of 2018, Garrett’s service as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves deferred his graduation to December 2019. After passing the bar exam in February, he joined the tax group at Baker & McKenzie in the Chicago office. He recently contacted the College of Law to set up an immediate and monthly recurring donation of $500 to the Marian Martin Emergency Fund.
“Though my time at the College of Law was different than most, it shaped who I am today. I believe that many of our alumni provide necessary and excellent services in the public sector, and I hope to support that legacy. It is more important now than ever that students of public institutions have access to emergency resources in times of crisis,” Garrett said.
The woman for whom the fund was established and named would have fully embraced that sentiment. Marian Martin was a fixture at the College of Law for her over 40 years of service to the institution. She was the long-time secretary to Dean Albert J. Harno, as well as to the legendary John C. Cribbet, but to many, especially law students, she was so much more.
Norm Thorpe ’58 recalled the crucial role that Marian played in his acceptance to Illinois. Having decided to abandon his plans to pursue a fellowship from the Economics department, he called the law school in August of 1955 to inquire about admission to the fall class. He spoke to Marian Martin.
“She pointedly observed that school started in two weeks and it was really quite late to be making this inquiry. But since I had done my undergrad work at Illinois, she agreed to request my transcript and consider it. A few days later she called to say that I would be welcome to attend the law school and gave me the information needed about the start of classes. I don’t know who else might have been involved in this admissions process, but it seemed clear to me at the time that Miss Martin was a very good person to know. She was always sympathetic and helpful to students, whether their issues were academic or personal.”
Peter Maggs, who started as a young professor during Marian’s tenure, said she was also very supportive of junior faculty.
“When I started teaching in 1964, I prepared an exam for my contracts course with around 5 essay questions. I turned it in on Friday. The exam was to be given early the next week. On Sunday, Marian Martin called me and said, ‘I’ve been checking your exam and I think in one of the questions you got the parties mixed up. Wasn’t it Jones and not Smith that committed the breach of contract?’ Indeed, it was.”
Upon Marian’s 65th birthday in 1972, a celebration was held in her honor, with nearly 200 alumni, students, faculty, and friends in attendance. The Marian H. Martin Emergency Loan Fund was launched on the occasion, and thousands of dollars were contributed in her honor as a response to the help she had given (often from her own personal funds) to generations of law students.
In the concluding paragraph of Marian’s own speech that evening, she eloquently summarized her career at the law school.
“I have believed in the College of Law for almost forty years, and I shall continue to believe in it. I think I would not have remained so long if this were not true. I do not always agree with every aspect of our operation, and I sometimes secretly - but I know very unworthily - hope that it will fall apart when in a few years I shall have left it. I believe that its motivation is good, that its purposes are noble, that its students are improved by their contact with it, and that its accomplishments are written large in the books of the law schools. If I can do anything to help in a small way to fortify this belief in the College of Law, I shall feel my years here have been well spent.”
Several years later, at Marian’s memorial service, former dean John Cribbet reminisced about Marian, and offered the perfect tribute to her legacy.
“What she had helped others to attain she never found the time to seek for herself. But what a lawyer she would have made! If the 'twenties had been as hospitable to women at the bar as the last decade has been, I feel confident the profession's gain would have been the College's loss. Her brilliant mind (she was Phi Beta Kappa and Bronze Tablet), her ready wit, and her sense of service above self would have graced the profession she served in an indirect way.”
We thank Garrett Kinkelaar for his ongoing commitment to help students in need via the Marian Martin Emergency Fund. If you are interested in how you can join Garrett, we encourage you to learn more about the College of Law’s priorities and the With Illinois campaign.