Martin Walter, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1980


Walter R. Martin has been a member of Waterloo’s English department for eighteen years, and has been professor since 1969. Professor Martin is a scholar and teacher of literature. His scholarship has centered mainly on Jane Austen, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Elliot and D. H. Lawrence. Because these authors are read by his students in both undergraduate and graduate courses, professor Martin’s scholarship and teaching are firmly linked, and his students benefit from that connection. The nomination of professor Martin included many eloquent tributes to his contributions as a teacher. A group of undergraduates described him in these words: “As a teacher he is warm, clear, poised, and exact, using his language with… precision and respect …” This sensitivity to language has been passed on to his students. Their tributes clearly paint the picture of a warm, sensitive teacher whose criticism is always constructive and whose ultimate aim is to teach students to think for themselves. That teaching method is described by another student “To approach each topic with enthusiasm and freshness of vision, to ask questions that rouse and develop the critical faculties of his students – these are Dr. Martin’s strategies. Students’ views and contributions are heard with respect, weighed and tested against literary evidence – rather than against professional dogmatism – then dismissed or accepted on their merit. The final result of such training is a class of students who can think for themselves, and analyze literatures responsibly and intelligently. Student tributes to professor Martin cite his enthusiasm, his availability to help students, the discipline which he brings to classroom teaching, and his evident delight in teaching the literature he loves. Both his department chairman and his students have emphasized the extent to which professor Martin uses the marking of essays as a teaching tool. This time-consuming task, which can all to easily become a chore, is for him an instrument of encouragement, praise and constructive criticism. The criteria for the Distinguished Teacher Award are demanding and the standards for meeting them are high. It is the most important single act of recognition which the University can give to a teacher, and professor Martin richly deserves it. I think, however, that Walter Martin will attach more importance to the recognition which his students give him continuously. One student has perhaps summarized this recognition best: “There is not one of us who has sat in his classes, met him in the hallway, or heard his readings at department gatherings who is not a little wiser and a little better for having known him.”

[Professor Martin died in 2015]