| Carondelet president Martin
remembered for her 'light'
Students, faculty and staff members at Carondelet High School in Concord gathered April 16 in the school's inner court to remember and pray for Jennifer Martin, the high school's president who died suddenly the day before at her San Jose home.
Martin, 46, had been president of the all-female school only since last summer. Despite her brief tenure, the educator had made a big and lasting impact on the campus.
"For those of you who were lucky enough to have had the opportunity to meet Jennifer you know that she embodied the spirit of Carondelet and always took the time to engage with students, parents, faculty/staff and our Carondelet community," Principal Nancy Libby wrote in an April 15 letter circulated by email to the parents and guardians of the students.
"Jennifer can probably be best described as a 'light' with a genuine heart and an infectious smile that would light up the room," Libby wrote.
Both students and adults spoke at the prayer service. The school's choir sang "Amazing Grace," as a photo of Martin, flanked by flowers and a candle, held a place of honor.
Martin's "light" was cited often in the remembrances, said Christina Ditzel, the school's communications director. "She just brightened up a room," she said.
"She was able to connect with anybody," Ditzel said. Even though Martin's title was president, "she wasn't above anybody."
Students frequently saw Martin on campus, Ditzel said, but Martin's video presentation during the annual Fontbonne Forum made a big impression on students.
The Board of Directors of Carondelet High School has appointed Sister Ann Bernard O'Shea, CSJ, as the school's interim president. Since July, Sister Ann Bernard, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, served as senior adviser to Martin.
Martin, a native of Germany, came to the United States at the age of 3. She grew up in Southern California, enrolling in Humboldt State University at the age of 16. After graduating with her bachelor's and master's degrees, she moved to the Bay Area with her husband. She received her administrative credential in Catholic school leadership in 2005 from Santa Clara University.
She started her career at Presentation High School in San Jose — a place she likened to Carondelet, in an interview with The Catholic Voice last fall. She served as dean of students and head counselor for a dozen years at the San Jose high school, before becoming academic dean of Woodside Priory School. After that, she went to St. Lucy School in Campbell.
"With each job, there was a broader and broader set of responsibilities," she said. "I really enjoyed the principalship."
When the presidency of Carondelet opened up last year, it was Martin's Santa Clara classmate, Kristina Luscher, academic vice principal at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, who forwarded Martin's name to the search committee.
Martin wrote "amazing letters of recommendation" for her students seeking admission to high school, said Luscher, who was on the receiving end of those richly detailed letters. "You could tell she knew these students," Luscher said.
The enthusiasm continued in Martin's next venture. "She was so excited about her work at Carondelet," Luscher said.
She said she will remember Martin not only for her dedication to her students, but dedication to her family as well. Martin had a great sense of humor, she said.
"She really lived out the ideals of the Catholic Church in a real way, a contemporary way," Luscher said. "She lived out what she believed. She would speak the truth, and demonstrate her care for students and family."
A funeral Mass was celebrated April 20 at her parish, St. Christopher of San Jose, with the Rev. Paul Sheridan, SJ, president of Bellarmine College Preparatory, presiding.
She is survived by her husband, Jeffrey; two daughters, Zoe and Maisie; and son Wiley.
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