Educator and clergyman Alexander Martin was born in Scotland on January 24, 1822. When he was 14, he moved with his parents to Jefferson County, Ohio, adjoining the Northern Panhandle.
Martin became principal of Kingwood Academy in Preston County in 1846 and later taught at and served as principal of Clarksburg’s Northwestern Academy.
He also was a Methodist pastor in Charleston, Moundsville, and Wheeling. During the Civil War, Martin became the West Virginia president of the Christian Commission, a social services agency that relieved some of the war’s hardships.
In December 1863, Martin played a key role in getting the West Virginia Legislature to pass public schools legislation. In 1867, he became the first president of the Agricultural College of West Virginia, which became West Virginia University the next year. The core of WVU’s downtown campus took shape during Martin’s time as president, including construction of what would become known as Martin and Woodburn halls.
In 1875, Alexander Martin left WVU over a dispute regarding the school’s direction. He went on to help develop DePauw University and died in Indiana in 1893 at age 71.