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Alumni gift establishes endowed director’s chair

Linda and Harlan Martens, who met at USC, have a long association with the Huntington Library. (USC Photo/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 College of Letters, Arts and Sciences 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 at 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.

“Harlan 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 A. 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, the USC Center for Law, History and Culture, the East Asian Studies Center, housed at 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 postdoctoral and faculty fellowship program in addition to partnerships with the University of Pennsylvania Press 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 USC Associates and the naming of Martens Plaza, located near 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 Martens, whose career as chief attorney of producing operations for the Exxon Corp. 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 Martens ’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.”

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Alumni gift establishes endowed director’s chair

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