In Memoriam: John R. Martin ‘54, emeritus professor of Eastern Mennonite Seminary

Eastern Mennonite Seminary Emeritus Professor John Richard Martin, 92, died at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, Harrisonburg, Va., on March 23, 2021.

A pastor and scholar, Martin returned to his alma mater to serve then-Eastern Mennonite College as a trustee from 1966-71. He then became a faculty member, teaching Bible courses, and in 1978, moved to Eastern Mennonite Seminary where he served in various positions, including registrar, director of field education and professor of church ministry, for 18 years. 

Nancy Heisey, now associate dean of the seminary, remembers “John’s wise and patient guidance” upon her arrival in 1992 to finish her Master of Divinity degree. “Like a true pastor, he affirmed my gifts and experiences as useful to the churches.”

Martin was a strong supporter of the university, with special attention to the seminary through prayerful support, his years of service and through the John R. and Marian S. Martin Seminary Scholarship, an endowed scholarship initiated by his former pastorate, Neffesville Mennonite Church in Neffesville, Pa. 

Martin was a Harrisonburg native who graduated with a degree in bible studies and theology in 1954. He went into the ministry, first in Indiana and then in Washington D.C., where he was ordained in 1957 at Woodridge Mennonite Church. He pastored there three years along with serving as associate executive secretary of National Service Board for Religious Objectors. He later pastored Neffsville Mennonite Church for ten years. 

Martin went on to earn degrees at Goshen Biblical Seminary, and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and then while on the faculty at EMS, earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

During his years of ministry and teaching, he served on a number of denominational boards and programs, including Director of 1-W Services, Moderator of Virginia Mennonite Conference, president of Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries, and president of Mennonite Broadcasts. Among his conference work, he was overseer of the Ohio and Eastern Mennonite Conference from 1962-71 and moderator of the Virginia Mennonite Conference.

In a 2015 visit to campus, John R. Martin (right) shares a laugh with his classmate Amos Yoder (middle) and Laban Peachey, former Dean of Men. (Photo by Jon Styer)

Martin also authored four books as well as articles for various periodicals.

On March 31, 1956, he married Marian Stover Landis of Blooming Glen, Pa. Marian preceded him in death in 2016.  In 2018, he married Evelyn Jost Martin.

He is survived by his wife Evelyn Jost Martin, three children and seven grandchildren:  Don R. Martin and his wife Barbara of Harrisonburg, Va. (Daniel, Timothy and Philip); Lee Martin and his wife Peg of Kimball, West Virginia (Maria and Curtis); Ann Martin and her husband Jim Stutzman of Lancaster, Pa. (Emma and Ben).  He was also preceded in death by his eight siblings:  Robert, J. Weldon, Mary (King), Virginia (Derstine), Ruth (Harnish), Margaret (Weaver), Perry Sanford and Ralph.

The memorial service will be live-streamed from Park View Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Va. on Saturday, April 17, at 2:00 pm.  The sanctuary will be closed to the public. For details on the live stream, go to The burial will be held privately.

Memorial contributions may be made to the John R. and Marian S. Martin Seminary Scholarship, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va. 22802, or the Compassion Fund, Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, Harrisonburg, Va. 22802.

Those wishing to view and sign the register book may do so on Friday, March 26, 2021 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the funeral home.

Online condolences may be made to the family by visiting

Join the Discussion on “In Memoriam: John R. Martin ‘54, emeritus professor of Eastern Mennonite Seminary

  1. During my senior year at EMU in 1981 I took a course from John Martin on Christian Discipleship. We read a book entitled Practicing His Presence by Brother Lawrence and Frank C Laubach. Six months later I began an internship with Laubach Literacy International (now ProLiteracy), founded by Dr. Laubach himself. Little did I know that the class with John was an introduction to what became a rich, 24 year career with Dr. Laubach’s global literacy organization as well as engaging with his writings on prayer, social justice, and literacy. Dr. Martin leaves a beautiful legacy of kindness and deep faithfulness that inspires all who knew him.

  2. I grieve with John’s family, friends and colleagues as we remember his life. When I served on the staff of Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries, I first came to know John as an organized, efficient, thoughtful board chair. Later, as we collaborated on projects related to Mennonite spirituality, his firm commitment to Anabaptist theology and church life enlivened our work. His voice will be missed.

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