Lee C. and Martha Tootle Cain Science Education Scholarship

Lee C. and Martha Tootle Cain Science Education Scholarship

Merging the fields of science and education was always a lifelong pursuit and passion for Martha Cain and her late husband, Lee. The professors emeriti of Georgia Southern spent decades sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge of science with hundreds of students, and now their generous contribution has created a lasting legacy for the Georgia Southern University Foundation.

“We always felt strongly that there was a real need for science education,” said Martha, revealing the primary reason for establishing the Lee C. and Martha Tootle Cain Science Education Scholarship in 2004, a fund that enriches the educational experience of students majoring in K-12 science teaching.

The Cains joined the faculty just months apart Lee in the fall of 1962 as a College of Education (COE) professor, and Martha in January 1963, as the University’s first biochemist. Lee, a native of southeast Alabama, spent many years, like his wife, teaching high school science before arriving at the University. He served as purser/medical tech in the Merchant Marines during World War II, and as education officer in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland during the Korean War. At Georgia Southern, Lee taught secondary education and he was committee chairman during the building campaign for the Paul Carroll building, where the COE was formerly housed. “Lee wrote much of the instruction materials for student teachers. He advised master’s and six-year students in the social sciences,” said Martha.
The couple also shared similar family and educational backgrounds. Both came from a family of educators and cared for younger siblings upon the early passing of parents.

After Martha’s parents passed away in 1943, she lived with three brothers one older and two younger — until her graduation from Georgia Teacher’s College in 1950. Likewise, after Lee’s father passed away, he became head of the household, consisting of his mother and three younger siblings. “We both had many family responsibilities,” said Martha. In addition to the establishment of the Georgia Southern Foundation scholarship, the pair endowed scholarships at Troy University, honoring their mothers who were teachers. The Cains have also endowed scholarships for United Methodist students wishing to become clergy or full time Christian workers at Univerzita Matej Bela, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.

Martha’s teaching career began during her senior year at Reidsville High School, when she was asked by the principal to substitute as the chemistry teacher for her own class, while the chemistry teacher recovered from a serious illness. At Georgia Teachers’ College, she was further influenced by her mentor, William S. Hanner, revered professor who was chairman of the Division of Exact Sciences and athletics chairman. During a three-year period as an undergraduate at Georgia Teacher’s College, Martha worked as Hanner’s lab assistant. “Mr. Hanner’ really encouraged me to pursue a career in teaching,” she said.

Martha continued with her studies, earning a master’s degree in 1958 from the University of Colorado, and a doctorate in biochemistry in 1963 from the University of Connecticut. Through the years, she, in turn, has also mentored many students who have served well with their science degrees, pursuing careers in science education, chemistry, medicine, dentistry and nursing.

–Mary Beth Spence