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Alumni Experience

Envisioning a Better World with Design

John and Tracy Martin

John H. Martin, FAIA [BEDA ’85] is a principal at Elkus Manfredi Architects. Tracy A.B. Martin is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and is retired from a gratifying career as a pharmacist.

For John and Tracy Martin, designers are an integral part of any community. “Design of our physical environment has direct outcomes on our physical and mental health,” John says. “Design is about envisioning a better world and then acting to make that world real.”

Tracy, a retired pharmacist, feels similarly. Both believe that higher education is the greatest path to equity in our society, and they wanted to create a scholarship that reflected that. John was a Caldwell Scholar while at NC State, which provided him not only leadership development and valuable education but a full scholarship to the university. He vowed that he would one day give back to the institution that had given him so much.

“We hope the college will use our philanthropy to provide the opportunity of a design education to a talented, curious, and passionate person from an underprivileged background to show the world just what they can do,” Tracy says.

John knew he wanted to be an architect from the time he was in preschool. Once he was accepted into the College of Design, he felt that the faculty and staff who guided him through his education expanded his worldview and taught him how to integrate all the disciplines, not just architecture, into his work.

Both he and Tracy felt strongly that they wanted to help other students have a similar experience. “There are myriad initiatives that are changing the way we teach design – from new technologies for visualization to artificial intelligence for quickly generating hundreds of design options,” he says. “The college is preparing today’s students for a world very different than from what we graduated into – from the micro-scale of writing new code to the macro scale of evaluating design outcomes through the lenses of environmental stewardship, social equity, and community prosperity.”

Both feel that funding and supporting these initiatives is imperative if North Carolina is going to be a leader in the coming years, and support the college as best they can from their home in Boston. John currently serves as a member of the Leaders Council and has hosted events at his firm, Elkus Manfredi Architects, for both students and alumni alike.

The timing for the scholarship is serendipitous. As the College of Design celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023, it is exploring what the future of the profession may look like in the years to come.  

John and Tracy have both made provisions to expand the diversity of voices in the design profession. “Bringing diverse and underrepresented voices into that conversation only makes us stronger and better, and gathering those perspectives yields important benefits for our local, national and international communities. That’s the power of design,” John says.

Leading by Design celebrates and recognizes the impact that the College of Design has had on NC State and beyond while exploring what will propel us and drive us toward the next 75 years. Learn more at