In 1975, on the east coast, Jon Martens was working as an engineer at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh. He’d been involved with a few small computer-centered projects with the company and was fascinated by the technology. The experience excited him and made him consider a more technology-focused job. So, Jon began looking into computer and technology graduate programs.
“It was 1974, 1975, so well before the day of the personal computer,” says Jon. “When I was looking at computer science schools, there weren’t many at that point, but I thought it would be a fun and useful path to pursue.”
One of the few schools that offered a graduate program Jon was interested in was Syracuse University. He scheduled an interview with Dean Robert Taylor and recalled how comfortable and casual the conversation felt. “It was very informal, but he was very collegial,” says Jon. “We chatted about all sorts of things. He told me about his impressive background, and that was a positive factor in my choosing to go to the iSchool.”
Around the same time out west, Betsy Van der Veer (Martens) was working in publishing in Denver. She, too, was looking to pursue a graduate degree. Betsy wanted to attend a library school and recalls seeing the unique admissions catalog for Syracuse, filled with graphics, and was instantly attracted. With that, Betsy applied to Syracuse, jumped on a Greyhound bus in Denver, and headed to New York state.
Jon and Betsy both arrived at the Syracuse campus in September of 1976 but were intent on different academic paths. Jon’s studies were computer-oriented, while Betsy focused on librarianship. Being on separate educational tracks, the two didn’t have any classes together. However, they both had Dean Taylor as an advisor and were both graduate assistants. They shared a small work office and started talking and spending time together.
“Now that we’ve been university professors ourselves, we realize the importance of having a stellar faculty, and certainly, the iSchool has had that in spades.” – Betsy Martens
Jon and Betsy got to know each other throughout their time at Syracuse, and their relationship blossomed. They decided to marry and move to Boston in their final semester, where Jon had gotten a job with the New England Regional Commission. Jon and Betsy spent a little more than a year in Boston, where Betsy worked at MIT’s Center for Advanced Engineering Study. “That was my first job after Syracuse, which shows you what a great education the iSchool gives you,” says Betsy.
In 1982, Jon got a job at IBM as a software engineer. His work brought the couple to Florida, while Betsy continued her publishing career, then back to upstate New York. It was now early to mid-90s, and the internet was coming onto the scene. In terms of information and libraries, Betsy saw the internet and digitization as poised for explosive growth and interest. Since they lived not too far from Syracuse, Betsy decided to return to the iSchool for her doctorate, working as a teaching assistant for various faculty members, including Dean Ray von Dran, and graduating with her Ph.D. in 2004.
While finishing her dissertation, Betsy landed a job with the academic publisher Cornell University Press. After five years as the Electronic Marketing Manager, she decided to change her career focus and pursue her own research and publishing interests. Betsy had co-taught a research methods course with Barbara Kwasnik while studying at Syracuse and earned the ALISE Eugene Garfield Award for her dissertation. She figured now would be a good time as any to make the change to an academic career in the field. “The big influence on me in realizing that I could be a good teacher was Barbara Kwasnik. When I went into the Ph.D. program, she was the Ph.D. program director,” says Betsy. “She retired a few years ago, but she was the one who helped me realize, by having me co-teach with her, what an inspiring teacher can do for students. I thought that if I could be somewhat like Barbara, I’m probably a good hire.” Apparently, the University of Oklahoma agreed: in 2006, Betsy started as an assistant professor there, and has continued to design and teach multiple classes in information studies as well as to publish scholarly articles on such topics as the philosophy of information.
Now it was Jon’s turn to follow Betsy as she pursued her career, and the two moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jon had flexibility with his position at IBM. He was a consulting education specialist and could continue his work in Oklahoma until he retired in December of 2007. Retirement opened Jon’s schedule, and he followed in Betsy’s footsteps and earned his Ph.D. in Adult and Workforce Education from Oklahoma State University. While studying, Jon kept himself busy working as a graduate research assistant there.
Jon earned his Ph.D. in 2016 and followed Betsy’s lead once more, getting a teaching position with the University of Central Oklahoma. As an instructor, Jon taught classes in adult learning principles and practices, curriculum design, designing and using educational technologies for adult learners, and facilitating online learning. He worked as an adjunct professor for three years until his retirement in May of 2019.
Through their many travels and career paths, Jon and Betsy always stayed connected with the iSchool. They have been long-time annual donors, contributing to the Hinds Hall collaboratories named after Professors Marta Dosa and Antje Lemke. In April 2019, they made a significant pledge to the iSchool to fund a LIS scholarship in memory of the former iSchool Dean Robert Taylor, the man who unintentionally brought them together and acted as their shared advisor during their graduate studies.
“Syracuse and the iSchool do mean a lot to us,” says Betsy. “That’s where we met and were married and always has kind of informed our subsequent careers. We appreciate the opportunity to give back to the school and give future students the opportunities we were given. And now that we’ve been university professors ourselves, we realize the importance of having a stellar faculty, and certainly, the iSchool has had that in spades.”
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