Shirley & Jim Marten Student Leadership Award Launched

Shirley Marten at NECATs 5th Anniversary party in 2018.

This month, NECAT launched a special award program, which will be a lasting commemoration of two incredibly generous supporters – Shirley and Jim Marten. Shirley and Jim have been longtime advocates of and contributors to NECAT since the program was just a dream project of our Founder and Chairman, Maarten Hemsley.

Maarten first met Shirley and Jim Marten in 2010, through a mutual connection at the United Negro College Fund,

which they supported. Shirley and Jim quickly identified with NECAT’s mission and through their family foundation, they became regular supporters of NECAT starting in 2011 — that was two years before we even opened.  They were dedicated and eager to help Maarten get NECAT off the ground.

Their contributions have continued ever since, with quarterly donations and special project support.  Last year, they funded our first five-year strategic planning exercise. They are always there for us.

In his retirement, Jim has been an avid painter, and NECAT is privileged to have a number of his beautiful paintings on loan. Their presence, greeting a visitor when they first enter our center set the impression of what NECAT is– a beautiful and welcoming environment that facilitates learning and growth.

At right, Jim Marten’s paintings adorn the walls of NECAT.


In 2020 the couple’s family foundation made a multi-year commitment to NECAT of $500,000. In honor of this hugely generous gift, NECAT has launched the “Shirley & Jim Marten Student Leadership Award.”  Starting this month, in each graduating class, an awardee will be selected by their peers and the entire NECAT team, as the person who best exemplifies NECAT’s core values — an outstanding student and a class leader, whose commitment and dedication to learning and excelling is an inspiration to all of us.

The first Student Leadership Award Winner is Gwendolyn Gustave-Paul. “Gwen exemplified our core values,” says Deputy Director Martha Leahy. “She remained committed to this program and her training even in the face of many hurdles. She persisted through our pandemic closure and balanced her schedule alongside the needs of her family.”

“I did it!! Thank you so much!!” Gwendolyn texted us hours after graduation. The recognition of her achievement now hangs permanently in the halls of NECAT.

Gwendolyn, 4th from right, among her graduating peers. NECATs 36th cohort was the first to fully complete their training in-person since the pandemic. They started in August and finished in October 2020.