Martin Methodist College bears the name of Thomas Martin who provided for the establishment of a school for girls in Giles County by giving the original endowing gift of $30,000 through a provision in his will in 1870. His bequest was the fulfillment of a dream of his daughter Victoria who, before her death at the age of twenty, requested that her father establish such a school for young women.
Thomas Martin, the son of a Methodist minister, was born in 1799 and moved to Pulaski, Tennessee, while he was a young man. He possessed unusual business acumen and made his mark in the business world early in life, soon becoming a millionaire. He was a friend of President James K. Polk of nearby Columbia, Tennessee, and was once offered the position of United States Treasurer. He served as president of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, president of a local savings bank, an influential political figure in the region, and a loyal member of the Methodist Church in Pulaski.
The college moved to its current location in 1875 on seven acres purchased from Governor John C. Brown for $16,000. For many years the college was operated as a four-year boarding college for women, with an elementary division for the children and young people of Pulaski. Many persons of influence are numbered among its illustrious graduates. Its first building stood near the site of Martin Hall. As the college grew, new facilities were added and the site of the campus expanded.
In 1908, an agreement was reached whereby the Board of Trustees transferred the property of the college into the hands of the Tennessee Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The name was changed from Martin Female College to Martin College, and financial support for the institution, as well as its influence, began to increase. In 1938, the College became coeducational. The number of male students has grown until the student body shows a ratio of approximately half women and half men. As the College grew, adjoining property was purchased and added to the campus.
In 1983, the College constructed the Robert E. Curry Christian Life Center from the proceeds of a capital funds campaign. Martin Methodist College students, faculty, and staff, as well as persons from the community and the churches of the Tennessee Conference, use the center.
In April, 1986, the Board of Trustees added the word “Methodist” to the college’s name. This addition affirms Martin’s strong ties to The United Methodist Church and clearly states the values of the Wesleyan tradition which undergird the college.
Martin Methodist College became a four-year institution beginning with the 1993-94 academic year. The decision by the Board of Trustees to become a baccalaureate-degree granting institution was one of the most far-reaching decisions in the history of the school and was implemented to expand and enhance the school’s opportunities to achieve its objectives.
In 1998, the College purchased 44 acres 1.5 miles east of the main campus and completed construction of the East Campus Athletic Facility in 2013. The East Campus serves as the home for Martin Methodist’s Men and Women’s Soccer, Baseball and Softball programs. The complex is home to Grissom Pitch, home of the RedHawk Men and Women’s Soccer teams and the Carylon and JB Baker Practice Field, which is used by the soccer teams as well as other intramural sports.
In January of 1999, the Board of Trustees of Martin Methodist College made the momentous decision to seek growth in the size of the student body to at least 1,000 students. This decision set into motion a 10-year plan, Martin 2010, which is necessary to accommodate the projected 2010 enrollment of 1,000-1,200 students. This plan includes the ability to offer expanded programs and services for students.
In April of 1999, the Center for Church Leadership was established by Martin Methodist College as part of its mission as a church-related institution of higher education. The center assists in the training and support of church leaders, both lay and professional, and has begun to provide an ambitious level of service to the churches of the region.
The college purchased the stately antebellum home of former Governor John C. Brown in 1995. The property is located on the east side of the campus adjacent to the men’s dormitory. Damaged by age, fire, and winds, the home has been removed from the property. The College has reconstructed the historic home, now known as Herbert and Grace Grissom Colonial Hall, using as much of the original material from the old structure as possible. The building houses the administrative offices, reception and meeting rooms, and the Senator Ross Bass Archives.