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Spelman Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Dr. Rhoda Miller Martin

April 2019

Rhoda Miller Martin, Ph.D.

Rhoda MartinRhoda Miller Martin, Ph.D., served Spelman College for 44 years. An associate professor in the English department since 1963, Dr. Martin joined the Spelman College English faculty as she was finishing her dissertation in medieval literature at Emory University and had just given birth to twin girls. She managed to juggle teaching, motherhood, and scholarship and completed her dissertation while keeping up with the four-course load that was standard for faculty at that time.

She was the department medievalist for 44 years, introducing English majors to the wit of Chaucer and the magic of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Dr. Martin’s concern for students stretched beyond the English majors, however, to include many others. She was a great resource as the English department shaped world literature courses that constituted part of the Spelman core curriculum for decades.

For several years, she patiently taught remedial English to students who had not had a strong high school training as others and brought them up to Spelman standards. She also developed a course called “The Adolescent in Literature” especially for students who planned to teach in high school. She shared her interest in science fiction by developing an elective course open to all students, initiating an area of study that was to become increasingly popular. She was a mentor to new faculty in the English department and willingly shared both her scholarly expertise and teaching techniques. Dr. Martin also taught composition, world literature, and children's literature; and her love for science fiction helped to bring noted author Octavia Butler to campus twice. 

Dr. Parekh with Dr. Martin, Feb. 2018 at the Octavia Butler conferenceDr. Martin enthusiastically supported the English department and the College in many activities.  One year, when “Faculty Follies” was a traditional part of Founders Day activities, she joined other English professors in putting on scenes from “Shakuntala.” The performance was received enthusiastically by students who were all familiar with the play from their required World Literature class. She supported both the English Club and the English Honorary, Sigma Tau Delta. She also served on many college-wide committees, such as study abroad; and helped to advise international students before the official formation of the office.

After her retirement in 2007, Dr. Martin came to many Spelman events, most notably those that engaged Black speculative fiction as well as the broader interdisciplinary field of Afrofuturism. For years, she attended conferences at Spelman that included topics on Tananarive Due, Octavia Butler, and other black women writers and movie makers. Her interests reached deeply into the past and also explored an imagined future. Her colleagues will miss these occasional visits.

As reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "On Thursday, March 14, 2019, in the calmness of the morning, Rhoda Miller Martin gained her wings. Rhoda was born to the late Houser Alexander Miller and Ida Louise Miller on July 3, 1938, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She leaves to celebrate her memory daughters Rachel Martin and Elizabeth Davis (Kenneth); grandchildren K.J. and Kristina; the father of her children, Clarence T. Martin; siblings Isaac Miller (Rose) and Elizabeth Miller; niece Klancy Miller. Rhoda will be missed by a host of family and friends."

Memorial Services:
April 27, 2019 at 10 a.m.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
306 Peyton Road S.W.
Atlanta at 10 am.

In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to one of the following organizations: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Fisk University
Spelman College

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