ELKHART, IND. — Lee Martin, former president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of NIBCO, died March 26 at the age of 83, in Naples, Fla.
Martin, vice chairman of NIBCO’s board of directors since 1995, dedicated nearly 60 years of service to the company, which was founded in 1904 in Elkhart by his maternal grandfather, Casper Schweitzer.
Martin joined NIBCO in June 1943 and served in various production and engineering functions, including management of the Nacogdoches, Texas, production facility. Martin built and managed the South Glens Falls, N.Y., production facility prior to being named president in 1957.
Under his direction and determination to be an industry leader, NIBCO embarked on a long-range growth and diversification plan. He served as president until 1976, chief executive officer from 1965 to 1992 and chairman of the board from 1976 to 1995. Martin believed his greatest contribution to NIBCO was his devotion to manufacturing efficiency and his drive to be the lowest-cost producer.
Martin was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Lewis S. Armstrong Award, presented by Indiana University, South Bend, in recognition of distinguished achievement, leadership and contributions to the advancement of business and quality of life in the Michiana area, and the Sagamore of the Wabash, an honor presented by the governor of Indiana. He also received an honorary doctorate of law degree in 1997 from Indiana University, South Bend.
He was member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Indiana Chamber of Commerce; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; General Management Council of the American Management Association; past president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Information Bureau; past director of First National Bank of Elkhart; past director of Valve Manufacturers Association of America; director of Emeritus Indiana Corp.; member of Indiana University, South Bend, Advisory Board; member of Elkhart General Hospital Foundation; and former member of Young Presidents Organization.
Martin co-founded and served as past director of The Martin Foundation, which contributes to educational and environmental causes and is one of the largest philanthropic foundations in Indiana. He was one of three founders and a former chairman of the board of the Denver-based Samaritan Institute, a non-denominational, not-for-profit provider of counseling and wellness services. He was past chairman of the United Fund Campaign, chairman of the Elkhart Community School Building Corp. and was instrumental in leading and contributing to the building campaign of the YM/YWCA facility of Elkhart County.
Martin was born in Elkhart on Feb. 7, 1920, to Ross and Esther (Schweitzer) Martin. In 1945 he married Geraldine Fitzgerald, who survives. He also leaves a sister, four children and 10 grandchildren.
Martin graduated cum laude from Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. He served with the U.S. Navy during World War II.
NIBCO Inc. remains under the current leadership of Martin’s son, Chairman, President and CEO Rex Martin. Rex Martin was named president in 1986, became CEO in 1992 and chairman of the board in 1996.
NIBCO sells to the residential and commercial construction, industrial, and irrigation markets. It operates 12 manufacturing plants throughout the U.S., Mexico and Poland.