Kennard Martin and his daughter Maria Shisler hold a plaque presented to Martin by Goshen College naming the year, “The Year of Kennard Martin, Leader in Service.”

 Kennard Martin is an example for everyone at Goshen College to emulate.

Goshen College President James Brenneman told the faculty, staff and student body Wednesday morning at the start-of-year convocation, Martin, a maintenance man in the physical plant at the college, has spent the past 50 years keeping the grass mown and the snow shoveled at the college so others could go about their daily duties of teaching and learning.

In honoring Martin’s service to the college, Brenneman announced the theme for the 2011-2012 school year would be "The Year of Kennard Martin, Leader of Service."

Martin was astonished. Sitting in the audience among other staffers, his eyes lit up and his face broadened into a smile.

"He has mowed our lawns and plowed our walks in the winter day-in and day-out for 50 years. Hear that? 50 years!" Brenneman said from the pulpit of the College Mennonite Church.

As Martin step forward to receive his plaque, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Martin is now the longest-serving employee of the college. He began working there because when he was young, there was still a military draft in the United States.

In 1961 as a young man eligible for the draft, he was classified "1W" on his draft card, meaning he was a conscientious objector. His alternative service to the draft landed him at Goshen College for two years, where he then stayed on after that service was completed.

He worked for a year in the dining hall, then moved over to the athletic department, where he was a custodian at Union Hall. Union Hall is where basketball and other sporting events were held before the recreation center was constructed.

Back in 1961 the campus looked much different.

Standing in front of the college library, Martin said the campus has changed much since 1961.

"When I started here, Yoder dorm was out here," he said pointing east across the railroad tracks that divide the campus. "Of course East Hall was right beside it — and the physical plant, that was essentially all that was on the east side of the tracks."

Goshen College is now covered by hundreds of trees that give the campus a wonderful, colorful Midwest feel when the days turn crisp in the fall. Martin said many of the trees were planted in honor of the 1971 inauguration of past GC President J. Lawrence Burkholder.

People on campus know Martin as a humble man who works hard.

"He is a very dedicated and conscientious person," said co-worker Willie Deegan. "He’s never been a complainer or a whiner. He always did what he was asked to do. And he is very, very modest."

What Martin is sometimes asked to do is get up at 3:30 a.m. and begin clearing the college sidewalks of snow. He also mows the vast expanse of lawns and playing fields at the college.

Brenneman sees Martin’s dedication to his job, which helps many others throughout the year, as fitting perfectly with the college’s philosophy of helping students become committed to being servant leaders.

"For many reasons he is the quintessential example of the servant leader. He is leading in service. It is rare these days that anyone works in any one place for 10 or 15 years much less 50. He is the kind of person he must sleep in his uniform with his snow boots on. He stays late, gets up early and makes sure he has done his job to the best of his abilities."

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