Chris Martin of Martin Guitar to Deliver Johnson College Commencement Address on May 13, 2013

Johnson College will hold its 94th Commencement Ceremony on Monday, May 13, 2013 starting at 6:30 p.m. The ceremony will take place at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave, Scranton.

At the commencement ceremony, Johnson College expects to award over 170 Associate Degrees. Along with the presentation of degrees, the program includes: special remarks by this year’s commencement speaker; an address from Dr. Ann L. Pipinski, President and CEO; and a statement from Louis A. Costanzo, Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Johnson College is pleased to announce that this year’s commencement speaker will be Christian Frederick Martin, IV, Chairman and CEO of the world-renowned C. F. Martin & Co.

C. F. Martin, IV, or “Chris” as he prefers, is the Chairman and CEO of the world-renowned C. F. Martin & Co. and the sixth generation of Martin family members to run the business. Martin acoustic guitars are prized worldwide for their exceptional tone, design, craftsmanship and attention to detail. Under Chris Martin’s direction, the Company has maintained its integrity and industry wide respect while growing and prospering to unprecedented manufacturing and sales levels. Chris is an active community friend and donor to Johnson College.

Christian Frederick Martin, IV, was born on July 8, 1955. He grew up in
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and his familiarity with the family business was limited to occasional visits to his grandfather, Christian Frederick Martin, III, and to summer jobs working at the factory. As a child, Chris took guitar lessons but “still doesn’t play in public.” For a while, he considered a career in marine biology but when he attended UCLA, he majored in economics. While in Los Angeles, Chris apprenticed at Westwood Music, building a classical guitar and familiarizing himself with the retail end of the business. After just a year, he headed back East to work in the guitar factory where he learned more about the design and construction of the Martin guitar and became familiar with many of the different operations. He attended the local community college at night and, after 18 months; he transferred to Boston University’s School of Management, earning a bachelor degree in 1978.

Chris then moved to Nazareth where he became more involved in the company, first as assistant to the president, then as vice president of marketing. When
C. F. Martin, III passed away in 1986 at the age of 93, the heir apparent was still learning about the Martin Guitar Company and he was inexperienced in running a business. Chris was also only 30 years old. Nonetheless, after a short transition, the somewhat hesitant members of the board named him chairman.

The Martin Guitar Company was not doing well when Chris took over. The preceding decade had been one of decline for the organization. Following an expensive factory expansion, there had been a severe economic recession and a strike by Martin employees. The effect of the economic downturn was compounded by a change in popular taste from folk music to electric guitars, disco and digital keyboards. In an effort to keep up with the times, the company had diversified aggressively, acquiring a drum company, a banjo manufacturing firm, a guitar string company and a guitar factory in Sweden. Of all its acquisitions, only the string company was to survive.

Shortly before Chris took over, The Martin Guitar Company cut its work force. In 1982 production had dropped to just 3,153 instruments, the lowest since World War II. Following C. F. Martin, III’s death, serious consideration was given to either selling or liquidating the company.

The new, young Chairman was determined to put the company back on track. After taking over a family business that had been in existence for over 150 years, Chris did not want to be the one to write the final chapter. He took a short course in strategic planning, was personally transformed by Outward Bound, learned public speaking and eventually re-focused the company and its employees on its primary strengths: steel stringed acoustic guitars and strings.

Chris believes in a team approach and he demands that management and employees be involved in The Martin Guitar Company’s annual strategic plan. This document is not simply prepared and filed, but is carefully created and ultimately implemented and embraced at every level. Chris regularly joins both management and hourly workers on Outward Bound programs, believing that the experience forces people to look both to themselves and members of their team for cooperative survival.

Chris’ decade-long efforts to turn the company around has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. Last year was The Martin Guitar Company’s most successful in the organization’s 173-year history. Martin has re-established its reputation worldwide as the builder of the highest quality guitars. Eric Clapton and Paul Simon are among the artists who have chosen to be involved in designing new limited edition guitars, and Martin once again makes more acoustic guitars than any other company in the U. S. The process is difficult and time consuming, but it’s also rewarding. Interestingly, some of the biggest competition for Martin comes from used Martin guitars which are sought after by both performers and collectors.

The Martin Guitar Company is thriving under Chris’ direction. His team-oriented management style is friendly and personal, yet firm and direct. Chris travels extensively in order to stay abreast of market trends and to hold instructional clinics at Martin dealerships around the world.

On May 19, 1990, Chris married Diane S. Repyneck, district justice from Lower Saucon Township and Hellertown, Pa. Several days after Chris had appeared in her courtroom for a traffic violation, he called to ask Diane to consider having dinner with a lawbreaker. She consented.

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Christian Frederick Martin, IV, Chairman and CEO of the world-renowned C. F. Martin & Co., will deliver Johnson College’s Commencement Address on Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple.