PVAMU Mourns the Loss of Long-Time Supporter and Alumnus Lt. Col. Ernest Vassel Martin (ret.)

November 5, 2015

The Prairie View A&M University family mourns the loss of alumnus and long-time supporter, Ernest Vassel Martin, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army Special Forces (“Green Berets”).  Lt. Col. Martin died Wednesday, 28 October 2015 in Colorado Springs, CO. He is survived by his two daughters, Marjorie A. Martin of NYC and Michelle M. Martin of Centreville, VA.; a brother Grover Martin of Amarillo, TX; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and mentees whom he considered his extended children. He was devoted to Johnnie Ruth Brown Martin, his loving wife of 62 years, to whom he tended for 13 years as she fought breast cancer and a severe stroke. Also a Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) alumna, she predeceased him in 2012.

Martin was born on 12 July 1924 on the campus of what was then known as Prairie View State Normal & Industrial College, TX, where his father taught industrial education, and where his other siblings also got their degrees. Ernest interrupted his college studies to enlist in the Army during WWII, but later returned to get his B.S. in Biology at the then renamed Prairie View Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas. An active college student, he was in the drama/theatre club, ran track, and was on the debate team.  He was a member of the first class of the Army ROTC.  As an early indication of what would be a lifelong interest in science, with a contemplation of becoming a physician, he was recognized by his science professors for his innovative research in the fruit fly.

Getting his military commission in 1950, his 27-year career as a paratrooper in the Infantry saw service in the Korean War and two tours in Viet Nam.

His strong sense of service involved him in the Colorado Springs local community, his church, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and as mentor for untold numbers of teenagers and military service members at Ft. Carson, Colorado and the US Air Force Academy. He constantly encouraged young people to continue their education, usually advocating enrollment at PVAMU, and often privately giving tuition assistance to those in need.

He and his wife enjoyed dancing and playing bridge. He loved fishing, gardening and supporting nature conservation. Friends and acquaintances greatly appreciated his cooking and barbecuing.

Very active in the PVAMU Alumni Association, he attended every annual alumni convention, where he was known to challenge the other attendees to donate generously to University and Alumni programs. He chaired a lengthy and rigorous Blue Ribbon Committee task force, which submitted its report establishing long-range goals for the University to then-President Julius W. Becton, Jr., in 1990. He regularly provided financial support to a variety of University-focused projects.

A firm advocate of education, he and his wife established the “Ernest V. and Johnnie R. Martin Scholarship Endowment” through the University.  The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Endowment:  Online: <PVAMU.edu> click here, Scholarship Page or copy and paste (https://secure.touchnet.com/C20166_ustores/web/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCTID=385) to reach the Marketplace page.  —  By Post: Prairie View A&M University; Office of Development; POB 519 – MS 1200; Prairie View, TX 77446.”