ISHR Remembers Dr. J. Paul Martin

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Institute for the Study of Human Rights mourns the death on January 7, 2024, of J. Paul Martin who, with Professor of Law and University Professor Louis Henkin, created the Center for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) at Columbia University in 1978. Along with colleagues Arthur Danto and Mitchell Ginsberg, Paul and Lou pioneered the study of human rights as an interdisciplinary field that not only involved multiple forms of practice—from law to public health, journalism to advocacy—but also engaged directly with the humanities and the social sciences. The first of its kind, the Center—later Institute—that they founded flourished and now runs a popular undergraduate major and a Master of Arts program, and is considered one of the leading centers of human rights studies in the world.

A visionary director of the Center, Paul initiated the marquee Human Rights Advocates Program, now in its 35th year with more than 350 global alumni doing human rights work all around the world. He led in developing the Institute’s curricular programs, compiled numerous resource materials on human rights, and served as a devoted classroom teacher and thesis advisor to scores of students. He mentored countless Advocates, undergraduate, and M.A. students and kept in touch with and supported many of them throughout their careers. After 29 years serving as founding director of CSHR, Paul became the Director of the Human Rights Program at Barnard College until his retirement. In recent years he served as a member of the ISHR steering committee, where he always thought about the big picture and the long term, persistently advocating for students. Paul had special interests in human rights education and the relationships between religion and human rights, subjects on which he taught and wrote.

Beyond the Institute, at various points in his career Paul served as director of the Earl Hall Center and Chapel at Columbia University; lecturer in the School of International and Public Affairs; and adjunct professor at Teachers College. Beyond Columbia, he served as dean of students at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS) and was tireless in his advocacy for human rights. 
We mourn the loss of Paul as a far-sighted program-builder, teacher, advisor, advocate, and friend.