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Find out what Colby-Sawyer alumni have been up to since graduation.

Currents: in memoriam

The Honorable Judge Martha Ware '37

Alumna, Trustee, Benefactor

The Honorable Judge Martha Ware, a member of the Colby Junior College Class of 1937 and former trustee, passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009, at the age of 91. She led a long and distinguished career and life, with pioneering positions as a jurist and in local and state government, and equally important volunteer leadership and service to the protection of children, to educational and charitable organizations, and to her beloved alma mater, Colby-Sawyer College.

Born in Weymouth, Mass., in 1917, Ware graduated from high school in Abington, Mass., her lifelong place of residence. She earned an associate's degree in secretarial science in 1937 and went on to study at Boston University and Portia Law School (now New England Law/Boston), where she graduated with an LL.B. cum laude in 1941.

After passing the state bar in 1942, Ware became Abington's first female selectman, a position in which she sought to address what she viewed as the inadequate size of the local police department and its lack of legal training. Once elected, she helped to enlarge the police department and arranged for its officers to take courses in criminal justice.

Ware then sought a seat in the House of Representatives in the Massachusetts State Legislature, campaigning by telephone from a hospital bed when she was suddenly stricken with polio. She was elected and served for three terms (1950-1956), one of just two women in the legislature at the time.

In 1956, Ware was appointed as the first female judge in Plymouth County, where she served until her retirement in 1979. She was particularly proud of her service to children in the state's juvenile courts, and often said she was drawn to the law due to her interest in fair play and equity for all people. “I felt that I had found my niche,” she told a local newspaper reporter in 1990 of her judicial appointment. “I'm a people lover. Of course, I think the life of a judge is not what you'd call a happy life. You see so much sadness.”

Following her retirement, Ware focused on many of her philanthropic and charitable interests. She gave generously to Colby-Sawyer College's Annual Fund and in 1983 founded the Samuel L. and May Davis Ware Memorial Scholarship fund to assist students in receiving a college education. She then joined the Colby-Sawyer College Board of Trustees, which she served with distinction from 1988 to 1997. The college recognized her service to the institution and to society with the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service, the college's highest award, in 1989, and an honorary doctorate in 1994.

Ware was previously recognized by the college with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1985 and the Alumni Service Award in 1974. In 2003, she was inducted as an inaugural member of the college's Legend's Society, a group whose membership includes those who donate $1 million or more during their lifetimes to Colby-Sawyer.

Ware became president of Plymouth County's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and later served as chairman of two area March of Dimes chapters. Additionally, she served as a trustee for both Stonehill College and New England College of Law and was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from both schools, Stonehill in 1979 and New England College of Law in 1988.

Martha said that one of the greatest days of her life was Sept. 4, 1990, when Colby-Sawyer College dedicated its Library-Commons building and Fernald Library as the Ware Campus Center, in honor of her and her beloved parents, Samuel and May Ware. Then President Peggy A. Stock said in her speech that it was difficult to adequately acknowledge Ware's contributions.

“As a jurist and as a private citizen, you have demonstrated a singular interest in the protection, rehabilitation, care and support of juveniles,” President Stock said to Ware. “Your concern has carried over to Colby-Sawyer, where as an alumna and trustee, you have held paramount the welfare and education of our students.”

Over the years, Ware's involvement with Colby-Sawyer continued, often through visits with old and new friends. Current President Tom Galligan, himself a lawyer, became well acquainted with Martha in recent years. “Judge Ware was an incredibly special person. Not only was she was a fantastic lawyer, public servant and alumna, but she was a ground-breaker as a woman in her profession and her community,” he said. “She was an exemplar to men and women of what a person with resolve, intelligence, compassion and concern could accomplish.”

President Galligan noted that Judge Ware was also among the most loyal and devoted Colby-Sawyer alumnae, having served as a trustee and as a trusted friend and advisor to every president with whom she worked. For him, Ware was also gifted with an engaging and sparkling personality, and fun to spend time with. “Personally, she was a great storyteller who would regale you with stories of her early time in China, her family, her time at Colby Junior, her law practice and service as a selectman, and her years on the bench,” he recalled. “Martha was quite simply a remarkable human being who always had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face.”

Beth Cahill, Colby-Sawyer's vice president for advancement, traveled many times to visit with Ware at her Abington home. The visits were enlivened by Ware's easy smile and laugh, her songs, and her stories about the people in her community, her parents, and the students she'd helped and come to know. “Judge Ware was a committed civil servant who was passionate about people and dedicated to her parents and the family of friends she came to hold as her own, and she was always devoted to her college,” Vice President Cahill said. “She was a most generous benefactor and longtime trustee who remained committed to the college's success all of her life. Her legacy at Colby-Sawyer College is exceptional and will benefit students for generations to come.”

Donations in memory of the Honorable Martha Ware may be made to: Attn: General Scholarship Fund, Brockton Hospital School of Nursing, Contributions payable to Signature Healthcare, 680 Centre Street, Brockton, MA 02302.

-Kimberly Swick Slover