Volunteering, Giving, and Learning

Wood sculpture outside Morgan Library
Wood sculpture created by Christy (B.F.A., ’71; M.F.A., ’88) Martell and installed with Jim’s assistance outside Morgan Library

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

Commentary about lawyers seldom focuses on donation of their time. Among the attorneys who challenge that stereotype is Jim Martell (B.S., ’72), who has served on CSU foundation boards since 1980 as well as volunteered at other organizations on campus and in the community.

headshot of Jim MArtell
Jim Martell

The bulk of Martell’s extensive volunteer work has been on advisory boards. He served as attorney for the CSU Alumni Foundation from 1979 to 1986, when it merged with the CSU Foundation (CSUF). Since the merger, he has served on the CSUF Board of Directors, which has responsibility for managing and investing all charitable gifts to the University. He has served as board chair since 1991.

Martell says his volunteer spirit developed while serving on CSUF, calling it “an amazing, pleasurable experience.” He explains that he “learned so much from serving and from others at CSUF, the most outstanding people imaginable.”

His service in the community started with the Family Center/La Familia. He has served on advisory boards for Open Stage Theater, One West Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Art, Affordable Housing Consortium, and Downtown Development Authority. At CSU, he also served on the advisory board of the Gregory Allicar Museum.

This Life Member of the Alumni Association is a third-generation Coloradoan whose grandfather, Ace Gillett, owned Ace Gillett’s Coffee Shop and the Northern Hotel in Fort Collins. The hotel was where Martell’s mother met his father, who came to Fort Collins with the construction company that built the dams for Horsetooth Reservoir.

Martell spent most of his youth in Fort Collins, graduating from Poudre High School and earning his undergraduate degree in psychology at CSU. As other alumni of that era will attest, the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was a tumultuous time on campus, due largely to Vietnam War and other protests. On May 8, 1970, Martell and his now-wife Christy (B.F.A., ’71; M.F.A., ’88) attended a protest, then went to hear a band playing at the Field House on College Avenue. As they headed home, they noticed a fire and watched as the iconic Old Main building was reduced to rubble and memories.

Two artists working on a wooden sculpture
Jim helping Christy to assemble the sculpture for the Morgan Library plaza

Some of Martell’s fondest memories from his undergraduate years were of hanging out in the sculpture area in the Art Building, helping Christy and other art students pour bronze pieces. He also helped her prepare an outdoor sculptural piece that sat in front of Morgan Library for many years.

After receiving his J.D. degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Martell has practiced law in Fort Collins since 1977. He was a partner at Wyatt & Martell, then at Liley, Rogers & Martell. Currently he is at Belford & Martell with former communication studies student Kate Belford (B.A., ’10). Christy was a faculty member in CSU’s Department of Art, where she taught studio courses in painting, drawing, and sculpture over her 20-year career. She also worked with the Hatton Gallery, serving as its director for five years. The couple has helped support many scholarships and programs at CSU.

Two people posing in Rome
Jim and Christy in Rome

In 2004, during U.S. participation in a Middle East war, Martell saw that CSU offered a course in “Philosophy of Peace.” He was informed that the only way to register for that course was to enroll as a student. So, he applied and was accepted as an undergraduate pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in philosophy. After that first course, he took another one each semester on topics such as environmental ethics, animal ethics, and feminist ethics. Eventually his “failure to make progress toward the degree” caught up with him. Rather than register for required courses, as instructed by the Registrar’s Office, he dropped out.

We salute this amazing alumnus/”dropout” for his generous spirit and extraordinary service to CSU.