JoAnn Martin, ’75, of Lincoln, alumna and dedicated supporter of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, died Oct. 20, at the age of 67. She was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative neurological disease in July.
“All of UNL mourns the much-too-soon loss of JoAnn, one of the greatest Huskers, most distinguished alumna, and widely-respected business leaders who ever lived,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “She deeply loved her university and we deeply loved her. She made us all better.”
Throughout her life and career, Martin, a former CEO of Ameritas, was actively engaged in many community and industry organizations both locally and nationally.
“JoAnn was a great leader — in business and in the community,” said Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation. “She was a mentor to so many people. Personally, I will forever be grateful for her investment in my own professional and personal development.”
A Nebraska native, Martin attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and graduated from the College of Business in 1975, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting, going on to receive a Master of Business Administration at Colorado State University.
Her involvement with the College of Business did not stop after graduating. Martin came back to her alma mater countless times to speak with students, sharing her vast insight into the business world through events like Executive Insights or classes like Special Topics: Ameritas Marketing Class (MRKT 490).
“JoAnn is one of those special individuals who checks every box on leadership, business accomplishment, service and mentoring. There’s no better example than JoAnn Martin to show our students what they can do when they believe in what they’re doing and focus on the greater good,” said Dr. Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business.
Martin also returned to Nebraska Business to serve as a master in 2014, in which she shared her experiences and knowledge with students. A member of the College of Business Dean’s Advisory Board, she provided insight to help guide the college in creating the next generation of business leaders.
She joined Ameritas in 1984, served in various leadership roles and was appointed its CEO in 2009. She retired from Ameritas in 2020.
Martin became a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation in 2009 and was elected to its board of directors in 2010. She was elected to serve as the board chair-elect in 2015 and was chair of the board from 2017-19. During her tenure as a trustee of the foundation, she also volunteered her service on 10 board committees, in addition to serving in many volunteer roles at the University of Nebraska.
She also served on the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corporation Board of Directors. She was a passionate supporter of Husker athletics and earned the Barbara Hibner Trailblazer Award, an honor reserved for outstanding support and generous contributions to the university’s athletics programs for women.
On Oct. 1, the foundation’s board of directors voted to honor Martin as its 2021 recipient of the Perry W. Branch Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service.
“JoAnn’s legacy is one of civic and servant leadership, and she will be remembered fondly by those whose lives she touched,” Hastings said.
Martin continues to inspire students, alumni and friends in Howard L. Hawks Hall as a life-size photo appears outside of the Teaching and Learning Center on the lower level. Farrell considers the legacy Martin leaves behind to have a lasting impression on the college, community and beyond.
“JoAnn has made a tremendous positive impact on business and the Lincoln community. She will be dearly missed,” Farrell said.
Martin is survived by her husband, Derrel Martin, two daughters and three granddaughters. Read more about Martin’s life and lasting impact.