Lifelong devotion: Elon alumnus makes estate gift of more than $3 million

Christopher P. Martin ’78 P’13, an Elon alumnus, trustee and parent from Tinton Falls, New Jersey, is one of the university's most loyal and generous benefactors. His recent gift will provide funding for scholarships and other key priorities in the future.

Chris Martin ’78 P’13 said he was proud to place Elon in his estate and help his university remain strong for generations to come. It is a commitment shared by his wife, Nicolette Martin P’13, and their son, Nick Martin ’13, of Howell, New Jersey.

“I’m so proud of the way Elon has evolved and elevated itself, and I thought this was the right way to give back to an institution I feel strongly about,” Martin said. “You see what comes out of Elon. Our students are involved from Wall Street to the Peace Corps and they are adding value to our world. I agree that the world needs Elon graduates.”

One of New Jersey’s most prominent banking executives, Martin serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Provident Financial Services, Inc., and The Provident Bank, the oldest state-chartered bank in New Jersey. He is also a dedicated volunteer in his community. With his recent estate gift, Martin has contributed a total of $4.7 million to the university, placing him among Elon’s most generous benefactors.

“Elon is grateful to Chris Martin for his generosity and outstanding leadership. He demonstrates the values that we seek to instill in every Elon graduate,” said Elon President Connie Ledoux Book. “Chris, along with Nicolette and Nick, are true champions for Elon. We are forever indebted to them for helping propel Elon to new levels of national distinction.”

Martin said establishing an endowment through his estate was the right move financially and philanthropically for his family. The estate gift, currently valued at approximately $3.6 million, will support Elon’s greatest needs in the future.

“I wanted this gift to be solidified and to ensure that Elon is provided for in my estate along with my son Nicholas, which I’ve done,” Martin said. “I made it an unrestricted endowment gift because I want it to go where it’s needed the most, including to support scholarships. I trust Elon to do the right thing with this gift.”

A Legacy of Philanthropy and Service

The philanthropic spirit of the Martin family can be felt across Elon’s campus, strengthening the student and alumni experience. Their lead gifts have supported the following key institutional priorities:

The Inn at Elon: A $500,000 commitment from the Martin family will support construction of a three-story, 80-room inn that will meet the long-standing need for on-campus lodging for thousands of alumni, parents and prospective students and their families who visit Elon each year. The Inn at Elon will be located next to the Ernest A. Koury, Sr. Business Center and is scheduled to open in fall 2019. Amenities will include a restaurant and lounge, ballroom, conference rooms, fitness room and outdoor gathering spaces. A new “front door” to Elon, the inn will be an endowment-owned asset of the university, an innovative business enterprise whose profits will support student scholarships.

Martin Alumni Center: The Martins contributed $400,000 to establish a home base for Elon alumni returning to campus for Homecoming, reunions and other events. Located in the heart of campus, the MAC features spacious reception areas and inviting porches and terraces that encourage alumni of all eras to reconnect and share their love for Elon. The center also houses the university’s alumni engagement staff. Approximately 5,000 alumni have visited the MAC since it opened in 2013.

The Martin Family Scholarship was established in 2010 with a $100,000 gift to assist students with financial need. Among the recipients is Steven Klausner ’20, an international business major from Plainview, New York. “This very generous gift has enabled my family to send me to a school that is incredible,” Steven said. “I know this scholarship will enable me to experience all that Elon has to offer and allow me to grow as a person.”

Elon Day matching gifts: The Martins contributed $25,000 in matching funds in 2017 to help ensure the success of Elon Day, which celebrates the importance of annual giving and pride in the university among alumni, parents and friends.

Doing More with Less

Raised in the small town of Summit, New Jersey, Chris Martin and his three brothers learned early the value of hard work and integrity—and sharing space. Their modest, two-story home had just two bedrooms and one bathroom for the entire family, which included his grandmother.

“You learned to do more with less because you didn’t have much,” Martin said. “You got a dollar for an allowance and you had to make it last. We all hung out around the radiators in the winter because our house had no insulation. This isn’t a ‘woe is me’ story. The challenges you face in life make you stronger and build character.”

Having a police officer for a father can also build character. Robert Martin served for 25 years on the Summit police force before retiring as a lieutenant detective and working in private security. There wasn’t much room for error growing up in the Martin household.

“I was the geek in my family and my father always knew that when something bad happened that it wasn’t me,” Martin recalled, laughing. “I was very proud of my father. I never saw him cry, but when he and my mother dropped me off at Elon, I saw a tear in his eye. He was very proud.”

Diane Martin worked as a bookkeeper for a plumbing company in Summit and together with her husband “instilled the right values in us,” Martin said.

Among those values was the importance of working hard to achieve your goals. Martin’s first job was a paper route when he was 8. In high school, he played on the golf team and caddied on the weekends to earn extra money. At 16, he worked as a bank teller. As an Elon student, Martin served as a resident advisor in his dorm and also worked at Carolina Biological Supply Company, founded by the late alumnus and former Elon professor Thomas E. Powell Jr., a 1919 graduate of Elon.

“I studied a lot because I didn’t want to let my parents down or let myself down,” said Martin, a founding member of Elon’s Sigma Pi fraternity. “I still live by that rule today. Others may be smarter than I am, but I’m going to work harder, and Elon helped develop that in me.”

After graduating from Elon in 1978 with a degree in accounting and business, Martin went on to work in inventory control and as a financial analyst at Johnson & Johnson. After earning his master’s degree at Monmouth University, Martin moved into the banking sector in 1984 with First Sentinel Bancorp, rising through the leadership ranks over the next 20 years. After First Sentinel was purchased by Provident in 2003, Martin was asked to stay on as president and later was named the organization’s chairman, president and CEO.

Keeping Elon Close to His Heart

One of Elon’s biggest champions, Chris Martin has served as a member and past president of the Elon Alumni Board and served on the presidential search committee that brought President Book to Elon in March 2018. In 2012, he was named Elon’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for his professional achievement, community service and contributions to the university, including regularly opening the doors of his company to Elon students and alumni seeking internships and jobs. He was elected to the university’s Board of Trustees in 2013.

As a first-generation college student, Martin appreciated the financial assistance he received to attend Elon. Investing in scholarships is his way of giving back to donors he never knew.

“We didn’t have any money to go to college, so I know how tough it is to get out of school and have that debt. It’s intimidating,” Martin said. “Elon students have done phenomenal things, and the more we can help these students, the better society will be.”

One of his proudest moments was watching his son, Nick, graduate and join him as a proud Elon alumnus. “The young alumni are so energetic and have so many good ideas, and I take pride in that,” Martin said. “I look at them and see how they want to stay involved, supporting the university.”

Nick Martin ’13, a marketing coordinator and assistant treasurer at Manasquan Bank, is following in his father’s footsteps by staying connected to Elon. He serves as a member of Elon’s Young Alumni Council and is passionate about giving back to his alma mater with his time and his resources.

“The Elon brand speaks so much to us as a family,” Nick said. “Elon mirrors our values and it gave my father and me a chance and opportunities, and I am grateful for that. I think giving back is the only way to be a responsible alum. It’s easy to do and makes you feel great.”

Nick credits his mother for supporting the family’s philanthropic tradition at Elon. “She has a strong commitment to Elon and she gets the big picture, which is important,” he said.

In recognition of their generosity, Chris and Nicolette Martin are members of the following giving societies: The Founder’s Circle of The Elon Society, the university’s premier annual giving recognition society, the Numen Lumen Society in honor of their lifetime giving to Elon, and Order of the Oak, which recognizes donors who make estate and other planned gifts to the university.

Closer to home, Martin dedicates much of his spare time to improving the communities that Provident serves. He serves as president of The Provident Bank Foundation, which has provided more than $22 million in grants since its founding for programs focusing on education, health and wellness, recreation, the arts, and social and civic services. In addition, he is a trustee of The 200 Club of Middlesex County, which provides financial assistance and scholarships to families of law enforcement and public safety officials. Martin is also a former member of the board of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth/Middlesex Counties, and volunteers at local food pantries and Habitat for Humanity build sites.