NCCF remembers the generosity, leadership and service of Rod Martin

The North Carolina Community Foundation is heartbroken to share news of the death of Rodney (Rod) Earl Martin, chair of our board of directors.

Rod martin

Rod is survived by his wife, Patti, and their two sons, Paul and Chris. He was born in Miami, Florida and graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in biology.

Rod served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist before his nearly 50-year career in the Burger King franchise system. He began working in the Burger King system in 1973 as a manager trainee in Anderson, South Carolina. In 1978, he became a franchisee and ultimately operated more than 40 restaurants. He was also integral in the formation and operations of numerous Burger King and restaurant organizations.

Beyond the Burger King system, Rod tirelessly served our state for decades. He came to the NCCF family by way of his professional advisor to create an endowed fund. Once Rod came to understand the power of endowment, he became involved in philanthropy at every level across North Carolina.

Rod was elected chairman of the NCCF statewide board of directors in 2019, following his service as vice-chair. Prior to leading our board, he served several terms as chair of the grants committee, where he championed grantmaking across North Carolina and played a significant role in building support for the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund and robust disaster recovery grants following hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

He was steadfast in his commitment to eastern North Carolina and love for his community. He was the founding board president of the NCCF affiliate serving his county, the Onslow Caring Communities Foundation. He never lost sight of giving back to his beloved community and state.

Rod was the 2005 recipient of the Lewis R. Holding Philanthropic Leadership Award, named for NCCF’s founder. He is a past director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Eastern NC and the Onslow Memorial Hospital Foundation.

 He passed away on March 14 with his wife, Patti, and his two sons, Paul and Chris, by his side.

NCCF CEO and President Jennifer Tolle Whiteside worked with Rod as a fundholder and board member for more than fifteen years. “Rod was one of the most generous people I have ever met – he never asked someone else to do something he had not done – and he loved everything about NCCF,” she said. “We have lost our great and humble leader, our dear friend, a kind and generous man, husband and father. Rod exemplified the dream we have about the power of philanthropy to change the world.”

Debbi Ray Rouse, affiliate board president in Onslow County, fondly remembers Rod as a leader, champion for their community, mentor and friend. “He was truly one of my greatest mentors in life and has been such an awesome inspiration to me and all who knew him,” she said. “He brought a new and thoughtful way of giving in Onslow County and helped steward hundreds of thousands of dollars to many nonprofits throughout Onslow County. I will continue to strive to be more like him.”

Steve Wangerin serves as vice-chair of NCCF’s statewide board and on the Onslow board, much like Rod did. At the next meeting, he will fill the chair role and continue Rod’s legacy of leadership. “There is no doubt I have big shoes to fill,” he said. “Rod was a giant of our community and state. I am deeply honored to have known him and served with him for more than 25 years. He has been a personal mentor for me in philanthropy and I hope we can make him proud.”

Laura Beasley also serves on the NCCF board, where she had the chance to co-chair the grants committee alongside Rod. She recalls his warm welcome at her first meeting and excitement for the impact philanthropy can have. “Rod was a champion for grants, scholarships and all that philanthropy has to offer our communities,” she said. “He was a tremendous mentor and friend to me.”

Rod knew better than most what generosity, service and dedication look like. Many remember the column he wrote following his election to NCCF board chair. “I’ve been a marine, a business owner and dedicated husband for more than 40 years, so I know a little something about long-term service and commitment,” he wrote. “We all have our different styles of service, but the most important thing is the commitment we all make to service. Our service makes our communities and state a better place.”

All are encouraged to read Rod’s full column, remember his service and continue forward, remembering the lessons he taught us. “It’s my hope that during my tenure as board chair I will have the opportunity to connect with as many of our dedicated affiliate board members, generous fundholders and nonprofit grantees as possible,” he wrote. “We succeed when we all partner together in service. I hope you’ll join me.”

Rod’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made the North Carolina Community Foundation, 3737 Glenwood Ave., Suite 460, Raleigh, NC 27612. Information on how to make a gift online is available here.

NCCF’s board of directors, affiliate foundations, fundholders and staff are all deeply grateful for everything Rod gave to our foundation and state. Those who knew him are better because of it.