Given her 18-year career as a psychiatrist, it’s difficult to tell Dr. Sharon Martin anything that will leave her speechless. The exception? Finding out that she had been chosen as Mississippi College’s 2013 Alumna of the Year.
“I was totally shocked,” Dr. Martin says. “I told [my husband] Bobby to look at the envelope again, that I must have received the letter by mistake. It’s rare that I’m speechless, but I was at that moment. I recognize what this award stands for and I am so honored to have received it.”
Those who know Dr. Martin, however, were not surprised she was chosen for the honor. Her compassionate work on behalf of the mentally ill and their families, her faithful service to Mississippi College, and her devotion to her family embody the ideals upon which this highest honor is based.
As an admitting psychiatrist with the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield, Dr. Martin has spent nearly two decades treating mentally ill patients who have been deemed a danger to themselves or to others, or who are unable to care for themselves. She has witnessed terrible suffering on the parts of both the patients and their families, and has built her professional life around providing care for those who have nowhere else to turn. Rather than making her jaded or cynical, her work has made Dr. Martin more compassionate.
“When you talk to these people, their stories are compelling,” Dr. Martin says. “Some really want help and they don’t have anywhere else to get it.”
Dr. Martin and her husband, oncologist Dr. Bobby Graham, met when they shared the same cadaver in an anatomy class at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. Dr. Graham is an alumnus of Millsaps College, but the couple decided early on not to bring the Backyard Brawl into their own backyard. Both are loyal, generous supporters of MC, and regular sponsors of the annual spring scholarship banquet.
“We donate to things we believe in,” Dr. Graham says. “I’m not an alumnus, but like Sharon, I believe in what MC stands for.”
“We feel that helping young people attend MC who otherwise could not is an excellent investment,” Dr. Martin says. “It’s nice to have noted speakers come to MC for the banquet, but knowing that we’re helping someone who might not otherwise have a chance to get a good education attend MC is the real reason we want to be involved.”
Dr. Martin has strong family ties to Mississippi College. Her mother earned bachelor’s, master’s, and specialist’s degrees at MC, and her father graduated from the Jackson School of Law, now MC Law. Dr. Martin and Dr. Graham’s three sons are all MC alumni. Dr. Martin also served as a member of the MC board of trustees.
“The friendships between students and their teachers are one of the many positive things about MC. I know those relationships meant so much to me when I was a student there, and our sons continue to stay in touch with friends they met while at MC.”
Dr. Sharon Martin
“If I had to describe MC in three words, I would choose ‘friendship,’ ‘tradition,’ and ‘scholarship,’” Dr. Martin says. “Many friendships begin at MC and continue long after graduation. Those friends include not only peers, but also faculty. The friendships between students and their teachers are one of the many positive things about MC. I know those relationships meant so much to me when I was a student there, and our sons continue to stay in touch with friends they met while at MC.
“There are so many special traditions at MC, like the Follies at Homecoming, the Festival of Lights, and Santa and his elves giving out hot chocolate and cookies before winter exams,” Dr. Martin continues. “It’s reassuring to know that parts of college life are just going to be there year after year. And finally, MC is all about scholarship. I remember studying and cramming for exams, more than my share of late nights in the lab, and doing extra credit work. MC is challenging academically and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Even more than friendships, tradition, and scholarship, it’s MC’s vision as a university committed to the cause of Christ that brings the 2013 Alumna of the Year both pride and a sense of responsibility.
“I am humbled to think that people felt I was deserving of this award. I’ll now work harder then ever to live up to the ideals of this Christian university on a daily basis,” Dr. Martin says. “Mississippi College is obviously doing something right. She continues to grow and thrive. I believe that is because the people there, from the president on down, truly seek God’s guidance for the college and He provides it.”