‘She’ll Always be Remembered’ — Alice Martin’s Spirit Continues Through Illinois Softball
By Sean McDevitt
The first time Rex Martin spoke with his soon-to-be-wife, Alice, on the phone he asked her to marry him. It’s a story Rex loves to tell.
At that time, Alice was a commercial banker working with Rex’s family company, NIBCO. She was coming in to meet the family and she called to set up a meeting.
Rex said, “She called and said, ‘I’m Alice Martin and I’m with Continental Bank.’ And I said, ‘Are you married?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, marry me and then you can be Alice Martin Martin.’”
Rex and Alice’s daughters, Ashley Martin and Alexis Martin-Klose, who have heard this story on more than one occasion, chimed in. Ashley said, “She always thought it was funny. She would say, ‘He didn’t even know what I looked like.’”’
Six months later Rex and Alice were married.
A family story that tugs a bit at the heart strings and induces a mild chuckle is par for the course with the Martin family. Remembering a wife and mother who left too soon brings quick smiles and animated stories.
It is this infectious personality that Rex and his daughters Ashley and Alexis wanted to honor with the $3 million lead naming gift towards a new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility for the Fighting Illini softball program.
The new $6 million Rex and Alice A. Martin Softball Training Center will provide a premier indoor performance and development facility for Fighting Illini softball student-athletes. The structure, measuring approximately 13,000 square feet, will be constructed as an addition to the existing softball clubhouse and will include a full infield as well as hitting and pitching cages. The center’s ability to host full infield practice will be rare among comparable softball training facilities. Other features include a new recruiting lobby and hall of fame, an expanded player lounge, increased storage, and improved parking. Project construction is expected to commence in late 2020 and will conclude in December 2021.
It is the second major gift from the Rex and Alice A. Martin Foundation. The family donated $1 million in 2008 to complete additions to the softball complex, including, most notably, the softball clubhouse.
“Changed her life in a more positive direction.”
Alice Martin received her MBA from the University of Illinois. Being on campus was one of the most important times in her life.
Ashley said, “She really believed that the university, getting her MBA here, changed her life in a more positive direction.”
Supporting the University and women’s athletics especially was an important cause for Alice.
“One of her passions was women and supporting women in general,” said Ashley. “She believed women playing sports helps develop their leadership skills, empowers them, and they just become stronger women and better leaders once they’re out of college. She saw this as a great way to continue supporting women and getting them in better leadership positions.”
Alice Martin loved Illinois athletics. She was a passionate Illini fan which her daughters witnessed several times. A memorable reaction was the Illinois versus Arizona Men’s basketball game in the run to the National Championship in 2005.
Alexis said, “I remember we were watching the game together. The game took an unfortunate turn and Illinois was not doing so well and she wholeheartedly blamed the refs. Wholeheartedly. And she walked out of the room. She left. And then two minutes to go, Illinois pulls it back. And so she comes running back into the room. And starts cheering ‘ILL!’
“It’s huge for us.”
The Rex and Alice A. Martin Softball Training Center will be one of the best college softball facilities in the country. Illinois head softball coach was grateful for the gift.
“It’s going to put us on par with some of the other facilities of its kind in the region and it’s going to put us above quite a few of the schools in the Big Ten,” said Perry. “The design and having a recruiting area attached to it. It’s huge for us.”
Alice had a special connection to Illinois softball.
“Alice had a strong relationship with Tyra,” said Rex. “I know she sent her some books and other things that she thought would inspire her and help her. She always stayed involved with the softball program. She kept up on the whole University of Illinois. Sports, but also education. She followed everything the university did.”
Over the last two years, the Illinois Office of Athletics Development has raised more than $80 million dollars towards capital projects. The Softball Training Center is the fourth naming gift received. Other naming gifts have included funding and support for Demirjian Park for track and field and soccer, the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center, and the Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center.
“We always talk about how great Josh is and how he loves all the sports,” said Perry. “This is proof. So when a recruit comes in, they’ll see a baseball facility and a softball facility that are identical. That’s important.”
“It wasn’t a difficult conversation.”
Making the gift was an easy choice for the family. When they were approached about the gift everyone was enthusiastic.
“It wasn’t a difficult conversation or decision,” said Rex. “We said, ‘Alice would love it and we want to do this in her memory,’ and it was that simple.”
Ashley and Alexis agreed.
“I don’t think she would have hesitated at all being asked about this,” said Alexis.
“I think she would be coming through really excited for these young women to get to experience this new facility and all that it brings,” said Ashley.
Originally published at https://fightingillini.com on June 3, 2020.