Every winter morning in 1976, a Goshen College student woke up at 5:30 a.m. to make doughnuts for the cafeteria. As he made his way to work, Kennard Martin was already on the job, plowing the sidewalks to make the student’s walk easier. That student’s name was Jim Brenneman.Little did either know that 35 years later Brenneman would be president of the college and designate the 2011-2012 academic year the “Year of Kennard Martin, Leader of Service at Goshen College.”
“I never imagined that Kennard would still be here so many years later to welcome me back and get me from my car to my office on those cold wintry days even now,” Brenneman said.
This school year is Martin’s 50th working for Goshen. He is the longest-serving employee in the history of the college, according to the Goshen’s Facebook page.
Martin began employment Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1961, the day after Labor Day. During the draft, Martin declared himself a conscientious objector to war. The U.S. Selective Service awarded him 1-W status, a classification allowing him to do service work, instead of joining the military.
“There was an opening at Goshen College,” Martin said. “So I checked it out and interviewed.”
After the college offered him the position and it was approved by the draft board as acceptable 1-W service, Martin worked for two years in the dining hall as a custodian, stock boy, receiver and dishwasher. Martin decided to work in the dining hall for a third year after finishing his two years of 1-W service.
“I considered going back home to my father’s farm,” Martin said. “But my father told me, ‘They can pay you more there than I can pay you on the farm.’” Martin has been here ever since.
After working in the dining hall, Martin spent 21 years working for the athletic department, doing custodial work and getting the fields ready for games. He said his duties, such as keeping fields fresh and buildings clean, sometimes overlapped.
“I had to figure out how to keep the inside people happy and the coaches happy,” Matrtin said with a laugh. “Sometimes there were two sports going on at once and then it really got tricky.”
When Martin heard his name called for the Leadership in Service award at the opening convocation of the school year, he was completely surprised. One of his co-workers overheard him say, “Oh, brother.”
“They wanted to surprise me and they certainly did,” he said. “It feels good to be acknowledged for being here that long.”
“We felt such a lifetime achievement deserved special recognition, as indeed it does,” Brenneman said. “What an unparalleled living example of service we have right in front of us day in and day out. Kennard is a ‘leader in service’ at GC and worthy of a year in our lives to celebrate his commitment.”
Even after 50 years, Martin still enjoys working for the college.
“I feel like I’m doing something to help the students out, make the campus look nice and keep it safe in wintertime,” Martin said. “I enjoy the changes of seasons. I’m a farm boy at heart. I get to mow in summer and then it snows in the winter. Each snow is different.”
Martin said he hopes to keep working for the college for a long time.
“As long as I’ve got good health and the college is willing to have me, I’ll keep plugging away at it and doing a good job for them,” he said. “I was 20 years old when I started working here. I’ve worked here practically all my adult life.”
Brenneman said he is glad Martin is receiving the recognition he deserves.
“In honoring Kennard, all of us received a great blessing as well, and that’s how it should be,” Brenneman said. “I’m just waiting for a design student to create a ‘Kennard T-shirt.’”