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Securing the Future

A $1 million gift by USC Dornsife alumni Linda and Harlan Martens establishes the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute’s Endowed Director’s Chair.

By Laura Paisley
November 27, 2013

On the University Park campus, from left, USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay, Linda and Harlan Martens, and the Linda and Harlan Martens Endowed Director’s Chair for the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, Peter Mancall. The endowed chairship was made possible through a $1 million donation by the Martens. Photo by Steve Cohn.

On the University Park campus, from left, USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay, Linda and Harlan Martens, and the Linda and Harlan Martens Endowed Director’s Chair for the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, Peter Mancall. The endowed chairship was made possible through a $1 million donation by the Martens. Photo by Steve Cohn.

Growing up in Pasadena, Calif., Harlan Martens’ family would bring out-of-town visitors to the magnificent Huntington Library. His wife Linda, originally of Fullerton, Calif., also remembers visiting the library as a child. It has held special significance for them.

Now this is true for a new reason.

A $1 million donation by the couple, both USC Dornsife alumni and lifelong supporters of USC, has established the Linda and Harlan Martens Endowed Director’s Chair for the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute (EMSI), housed in USC Dornsife.

This gift accompanies a matching grant of $1.5 million made by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in recognition of EMSI’s success during its 10 years fostering intellectual community and forging a global approach to early modern history. The Martens’ gift plus an additional $500,000 clinches a $3 million endowment.

Peter Mancall, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, vice dean for the humanities, and professor of history and anthropology, holds the new endowed director’s chair.

“Harland and Linda are great supporters of USC and really stepped up to the challenge,” Mancall said. “We conduct a wide range of programs through EMSI, and this endowment provides stability and security by ensuring a permanent source of funding for the director’s position.”

EMSI, founded in 2003 with seed funding from the foundation, has a strong collaborative partnership with the Huntington Library. The institute supports advanced research and scholarship on human societies across the globe between 1450 and 1850. It advances interdisciplinary research in the areas of history, art history, literature and music.

USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay praised the Martens for their gift.

“Longtime champions of USC, Linda and Harlan Martens have made an incredible investment that will allow the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute to pursue the ongoing research and programming for which it has become so widely esteemed.”

The institute has demonstrated its commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship by hosting conferences and seminars with the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, USC Center for Law, History and Culture, the East Asian Studies Center, housed in USC Dornsife, and the USC U.S.-China Institute. Its ambitious program of public events includes sponsorship of 75 to 90 scholarly presentations a year.

EMSI has a prestigious postdoctoral and faculty fellowship program in addition to partnerships with the University of Pennsylvania Press, leading journal of early American studies The William and Mary Quarterly and the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.

“This endowment gives us the capacity to sustain these partnerships forever, which expands our reach and ability to contribute to major discussions about the early modern world,” Mancall said.

Harlan and Linda met at USC in the late 1960s when they took the same comparative religion class. Since then, USC has been a central part of their lives. For more than 30 years, the Martens have offered financial support through membership in the USC Associates and the naming of Martens Plaza, located near the Leavey Library. 

They said they support President C. L. Max Nikias’ vision of USC as an elite global research university.

“Given our tie-in with Huntington Library, this funding opportunity resonated with us,” said Harlan, whose career as chief attorney of producing operations for the Exxon Corporation took him to 65 countries around the world.

Linda Martens ’69 graduated with a bachelor’s in history and has an affinity toward that discipline, said Harlan, ’70, who earned his bachelor’s in economics.  

“But the key was that EMSI is something that’s really out front in academia right now, and if we could help propel that further we really wanted to,” he said. “We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for initiating this endowment and pleased to support this important institute at USC.”

“USC has been near and dear to our hearts our whole lives,” added Linda, a National Charity League board member, past president, and a volunteer with the Association of Junior Leagues International and other organizations.

“USC is making a mark not just in Southern California, but across the country and the world. It’s a great pleasure to be a part of it.”