Longtime Catawba College Advocate Dr. Martha Kirkland West Passes Away

Dr. Martha Kirkland West Dr. Martha Kirkland West ’59 passed away Thursday, August 26. Dr. West gave much of her time, expertise, and financial support to the College. Dr. West was a dedicated supporter of Catawba’s music program, football team, teacher education, campus ministry, science program, C...

Dr. Martha Kirkland West

Dr. Martha Kirkland West ’59 passed away Thursday, August 26. Dr. West gave much of her time, expertise, and financial support to the College. 

Dr. West was a dedicated supporter of Catawba’s  music program, football team,  teacher education,  campus ministry, science program, Chiefs Club, and renovation projects. 

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Martha, a dear friend and loyal supporter of Catawba College,” said President David P. Nelson. “Martha always had a smile and good word for everyone. Many at Catawba have and will continue to benefit from her generosity and insights about life.” 

As the daughter of legendary Catawba Coach Gordon Kirkland, Dr. West grew up on the Catawba campus. During her tenure as a faculty member at Catawba, she met and married her late husband, Dr. James King West, who served for 22 years as professor of religion at the College. 

Dr. Martha Kirkland West and her brother, Gordon A. Kirkland, Jr. '70, grew up on the Catawba College campus.

An honors student at Catawba, West majored in English and minored in history, and served as the editor of the college's student newspaper, "The Pioneer."  She went on to earn her master's of education degree and her Ph.D. in elementary education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Dr. West served as a professor of teacher education at Catawba for 16 years, from 1965 until 1981. She founded the children's author (Young Authors) project, collaborating with the Rowan-Salisbury Schools and the Rowan Public Library. The program thrived for more than 25 years, bringing many Caldecott Award, Newberry Award, and Coretta Scott King Award winning children's book authors to the community. Dr. West later donated a large collection of children's books, autographed by their authors, to Catawba College's Corriher-Linn-Black Library. She was also one of the writers of Catawba’s sesquicentennial history book, A College of Our Own: The First 150 Years of Catawba College, published 2001. 

She was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1995 and served continuously until April 2019. From 1995 until 2019, she was a member of the Academic Quality Committee of the Board of Trustees. In 2019, Dr. West was awarded Trustee Emerita status by the Catawba College Board of Trustees. 

In 2011, she received Catawba's highest honor, the Adrian L. Shuford Award. She also received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1992, given annually by Catawba's Alumni Association, to recognize individuals who have served their community, distinguished themselves in their profession, and have served the Catawba College community. When Catawba established its Shirley Ritchie  Academy for Teaching in 2007, the scholars of that academy were named the  Martha West Scholars in her honor. 

In the Salisbury community, she served as Director of Elementary Education for the Salisbury-Rowan Schools for 17 years. She retired in 1999 and then served four years on the Rowan-Salisbury School Board, two years of which was in the role of vice-chair.  She was a member of the Salisbury Symphony Board, serving two years as its president, the Rowan Museum Board, and board of the Salvation Army and served on the session, and as a member of the choir at her church, John Calvin Presbyterian. 

In 2016, she was honored by in the community by Smart Start with the Shirley P. Ritchie Champion for Young Children Award. 

Dr. West once noted that she had been the recipient of three miracles in relation to Catawba. The first miracle, she said, was when Dr. Dearborn asked her to be on the faculty; the second was her being invited to serve on the Catawba College  Board of Trustees; and the third miracle was her receiving the Adrian L. Shuford, Jr. Award from someone (Dr. Joseph Oxendine) who knew her father.

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