I’ll never forget the message from my son-in-law that my daughter had gone into early labor with her twins. She had worked so hard to conceive them and all of a sudden the prospect of her delivering healthy babies seemed dire. Their lungs were not fully developed and if they came too soon there was a good chance that they might incur brain damage, blindness and other serious defects. I was beside myself with worry and had every person that I knew praying for a miracle. As it happened that miracle came. My daughter’s labor unexplainably stopped and with full bed rest she was able to carry her babies for a few more weeks. They were still premature but neither of them had the horrific problems that might have otherwise befallen them.
Ian Martin was the larger of the two babies. He got very banged up in the birthing process and spent some time in the NICU to heal. When he did finally come home there was no looking back. He flourished, all the while demonstrating an uncanny ability to learn. As a two year old he was able to name all of the planets and their moons. He was adding and subtracting numbers and he wowed people with his vocabulary. It became apparent that he was indeed a gifted child.
Ian spent his boyhood building Lego structures meant for people far older than he was. He read voraciously and had a natural ability with numbers. His Uncle Mike, who worked for Boeing as a NASA contractor in Houston, was Ian’s hero. The two of them marveled at each other in a kind of mutual admiration society. All the while Ian seemed able to excel at everything he tried, including playing the cello, writing, and learning about history. He showed all the signs of being a Renaissance man.
In high school Ian has advanced through mathematics courses with a perfect one hundred average. Taking mostly advanced placement coursework he steadily held on to the number three spot in a class of almost eight hundred students while also playing his cello at church, launching rockets, and founding the school Robotics team. He proved to have a quiet and relaxed personality much like his Uncle Mike and he continued to build more and more elaborate Lego structures and even create some of his own. His most interesting hobby became reading about history which reminded me of my own father who also was very much a man for all seasons.
A few years ago my brother Mike and his wife Becky took Ian to the Texas Star Party, an annual gathering of astronomy enthusiasts who gather in far west Texas armed with telescopes to watch the nighttime skies and learn the latest trends in star gazing. It was there that Ian really began to focus on a dream of one day using his skills in mathematics, physics, and engineering to become an Aerospace Engineer. Thanks to some incredible coaching from his Aunt Becky, who was also a NASA engineer, he realized that his first love was always going to be focused on the exploration of the skies.
Ian has never been a one trick pony and to that extent he competed for a spot at a summer leadership camp at the University of Notre Dame and secured one of the highly coveted spots. The experience enhanced his confidence enough that when his school selected him for Boys State he was more than ready to represent. He enjoyed the interaction with other young men from a diversity of backgrounds and beliefs, learning that there is much to be gained from teamwork.
Ian applied to some of the most outstanding universities in the United States with an eye to eventually earning a degree in engineering. In the end he was faced with a difficult choice with acceptances from the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, the University of Colorado/Boulder, The University of Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and Rice University. His ultimate decision came down to Rice and Notre Dame, both of which were dream schools for him. Notre Dame fought hard and eventually outbid Rice in financial aid, so this fall Ian will become a member of the freshman class of the University of Notre Dame.
I can still hear that little tike identifying moons and planets and describing their features while sitting in a high chair. I remember him following his Uncle Mike like an adoring puppy. I think of his ability to put together Lego sets that would give adults a hard time. I see him designing robots and launching rockets. I smile at the thought of him mixing it up with the adults at the Texas Star Party. I remember him dreaming of going to Rice University, but not daring to think that he would actually be accepted there. I’ve watched him growing into a quiet and confident young adult with a clearly defined plan that I know he will achieve.
Ian Martin has been a miracle ever since he first began growing inside his mother’s womb. He has amazed us continually with his brilliance, humility and unending curiosity. He is a very good and kind person, but nobody’s fool. He is a man of his word and a defender of all that is right and just. Somehow it has always seemed that he was sent to the world as a special gift to us all and that he understands his responsibility to give back to the world.
This weekend Ian Martin will graduate from Smithson Valley High School with the highest honors. After that he is figuratively and literally aiming for the stars. I will be watching him with awe and pride, knowing that his journey will most certainly continue to be spectacular.