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Martha M. Roderick

Photo of Martha M. Roderick
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Civic Involvement, Education


Martha Brady Martin was born in 1931 in Knoxville, Tenn. At age 16, she went to Radcliffe. In 1955 she came to Alaska “just for the summer” intending to return to Boston for a job with John Hancock Insurance Company. She did not go back. Her first job in Anchorage was to sell advertising for the program of a traveling circus. Giving her sales pitch at Cordova Airlines, she was asked her dress size, and when it was determined she would fit the stewardess uniform, was offered a job. She accepted, and traveled on a DC-3 around Alaska. She met an attractive truck driver (Jack Roderick) in Anchorage and married him. They raised two daughters.

Martha was interested in politics, and the year she arrived in Anchorage she was elected secretary of the local Democratic caucus. She joined the League of Women Voters and chaired a committee conducting a two-year study of Anchorage’s first general plan. She was a member of the speaker’s bureau promoting the formation of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough. After statehood, Gov. Egan appointed Martha Alaska’s representative to the Western States’ Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE).

The Roderick family went to New Delhi, India, in 1967, where Jack served a year as regional director for the Peace Corps. After their return, Martha pursued her particular interest in education. She served on Anchorage School District committees from 1969 to 1983, and was elected to the Anchorage School Board in 1984 and served on it for four years, her last year as president.

As a child, Martha had watched her grandfather pay his garden workers, mostly African-American citizens, to stay after their work day so he could teach them to read. Inspired by that, Martha regularly volunteered for more than 40 years, particularly at Fairview Elementary School, to help children succeed at reading. Her commitment to education was sincere. One year, Martha spent her Permanent Fund dividend on a “for-keeps” book for every student at Fairview School. Later, she taught as part of the Title One program at Fairview, and taught pre-GED students at the Adult Learning Center. She found success with her approach to determine what was of interest to the student. For boys who answered “heavy equipment”, Martha would have them use a heavy equipment manual as the textbook.

In 1980, Martha attended the Radcliffe Management Training Seminar and did an internship at Massachusetts Education Television. On her return to Anchorage in 1981, she became the first community access coordinator for Multivisions Cable Company. There, she set up what is now the Anchorage School District Channel 43. She met with local groups and worked to get them to produce and broadcast television shows about issues and events of interest to their constituencies.

Martha contributed her time, intelligence, skill, and energy to helping young people learn to read, and to working to help the Anchorage school system excel. She believed the ability to read could make a difference between a life of success and one of discouragement. The Martha Roderick Books for Kids Fund, established after her death in 2008, allows her family to continue her program of giving a “for keeps” book to every child at Fairview Elementary School.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech