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Lanny Martin Obituary: Northwestern University Mourns the Loss of Alumnus and Leader J. Landis Martin

Lanny Martin Obituary

Lanny Martin Obituary: The Northwestern University community is grieving the passing of distinguished alumnus and former Board of Trustees Chair J. Landis “Lanny” Martin, who died on September 1, 2023 at age 77. Over decades of unwavering dedication, Lanny Martin made an indelible impact on Northwestern.

Lanny Martin Obituary: Accomplished Alumni and Longtime Trustee

Lanny Martin graduated from Northwestern University in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, later earning his J.D. from Northwestern Law in 1973. He joined the Board of Trustees in 1999 and served with distinction for over 20 years.

Martin chaired critical committees and served as Board Vice Chair before becoming Chair in 2017, guiding the University through a period of tremendous growth. He provided steady leadership even amidst challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transformational Generosity and Philanthropy

Along with his wife Sharon, Lanny Martin was one of Northwestern’s most generous benefactors, with philanthropic contributions totaling nearly $45 million over the years.

Their gifts supported areas across the entire University including athletics, music, art, and the law school where they established scholarships, professorships, and capital projects that transformed the student experience.

A Passion for Removing Barriers

When reflecting on his philanthropy, Martin cited a passion for increasing access to education by eliminating financial barriers. As a student, he only attended Northwestern thanks to generous financial aid.

Martin created scholarships to pay that gift forward so future students could access new opportunities, just as Northwestern did for him.

Leadership Lessons and Values

Northwestern President Michael Schill praised Lanny Martin for epitomizing responsible and caring leadership that advanced the University “across almost every measure.”

His dedication to fostering partnerships, confronting challenges, and serving the institution with integrity defined his tenure. Martin lead by empowering others.

Celebrating a Remarkable Legacy

While the Northwestern community deeply mourns Lanny Martin’s passing, his legacy will live on indelibly through all he accomplished over 24 years of service to the University he loved.

From his generosity to his principled governance, Martin embodied what makes Northwestern a special community. His impact will continue being felt for generations.

Prioritizing Family and Community

Beyond Northwestern, Lanny Martin leaves behind his beloved wife Sharon, three children, and nine grandchildren, who were the center of his world.

He also demonstrated remarkable civic leadership in Chicago, Denver, and nationally through service on business, arts, and opera boards. Martin always strove to bring people together.


Few alumni have made a more profound impact on Northwestern University than J. Landis “Lanny” Martin over his 77 remarkable years. The entire Northwestern community is better thanks to his selfless service, philanthropy, and principled leadership over decades.

Though deeply missed, Lanny Martin’s legacy lives on through the countless lives he enriched at Northwestern and beyond. His integrity, generosity, and dedication will inspire Wildcats for years to come.

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