Alfalfa to Ivy is the most detailed memoir that I have ever read. Its author, Joe Martin, was a member of our class of 1959 at Eastern Mennonite College. Like many of my best friends in that class, he gained an MD from the University of Alberta. He added a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester.
Then, instead of becoming a medical missionary (his earlier intention) he went into the specialty of neurobiology wherein he conducted research (University of Rochester and Montreal Neurological Institute ) and then was drawn into administration (director of Massachusetts General Hospital, dean of the medical school and later chancellor of the University of California at San Francisco, and finally the dean of the Harvard Medical School for ten years.
He is currently the Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. In other words, his career has been in the big leagues.
The memoir is remarkable for its detail and precision. He tells of scores of people he worked with, emphasizing what each brought to the profession. He elaborated on medical mysteries he worked on. He described the complicated political issues that faced him as an administer. His report will be useful for historians as well as medical administrators.
This is not a chatty memoir interlaced with cheap shots. It is a work of scholarship and leadership.
I note with appreciation Joe’s continuing regard for his home base and his Mennonite affiliation. His report does not contain the anger and sorrow of an ex-Mennonite reacting against a harsh religious upbringing.
A final chapter, prior to the epilogue, outlines sixteen plus one “Maxims, Proverbs, and Aphorisms: A Humble Guide to Successful (Enjoyable) Leadership.” That chapter is a gem.
The 457-page tome was printed by The University of Alberta Press. Amazon carries it at significant discount.