Richard’s Almanac: A chat with Islander Paul Martin

RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO Islander and professor of human rights Paul Martin on his 82nd birthday.

Islander and professor of human rights Paul Martin on his 82nd birthday.

Recent studies show that more and more seniors are choosing to remain at their jobs well into their 80s if health permits. These individuals have a great deal to offer to younger folk and most of them agree that working and thinking keeps them young. We have a number of such people here on the Island so I thought I’d take some time to speak with them here.

I spent a morning last week chatting with Paul Martin at his home in the Heights overlooking Goat Hill Golf Course. During the course of our conversation, Paul’s gracious wife Robin offered me coffee and delicious pastries from Marie Eiffel.

Paul is a professor at Barnard College in New York City. Barnard started out as the women’s branch of Columbia when Columbia was all male. Columbia is now coed, but Barnard is still a women’s college.

Paul teaches two undergraduate courses and has a total of 40 advisees. His field is human rights.

In 1978 he founded the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia. He then went on to develop the program at Barnard. His two classes are “Human Rights in Theory and Practice” and “Religion, Human Rights and Social Justice.” He serves as chair of the human rights program.

“I worry about what kind of world the generation coming up is going to have,” he said, adding that “climate control, health care, immigration and education are all issues they’re going to be facing.”

“Life in the future for children now will be very different,” he said. “We have to prepare them for it.”

Paul grew up in England where he studied at boarding school and university. He served in the British Army from 1954 to 1956 and remembers his time as a “learning experience.” He received his PhD from Columbia in 1967.

When I asked Paul his age, he said that I was interviewing him on his birthday. He just turned 82 and said that he spends most of his time in the summer writing and preparing for the fall classes. His wife works at Columbia developing programs for teachers, particularly in the areas of East Asian studies.

Paul and Robin have two children, a son who’s an immunologist in California and a daughter who’s project director for the Children’s Museum of New York.

The Martins maintain an apartment in the city but relish their time on the Island.

“I just take the train from Penn Station and then walk up to the house from the ferry,” he said, adding that he enjoys the conveniences of the Heights.

“Sometimes I’ll just call up Joanne at the Flying Goat and ask what the specials are for that evening — so close, so simple,” Paul noted.

Recently recuperating from knee surgery, Paul has not been able to enjoy his regular Island activities like tennis, swimming and sailing.

“Late afternoon sails are very relaxing,” he said.