WESTFIELD – Dr. Martha van Allen passed peacefully at home surrounded by her family and friend in Westfield, Massachusetts on September 1, 2021, at the age of 92. She was born to Leland and Helen (Kennedy) van Allen on March 13, 1929, in Little Falls, New York. Her parents, sister, Norma Jean, brother, Neil, and her nephew Leland preceded her in death. She leaves several nieces and nephews and their spouses, Allan and Joy Edmunds, Bernie and Linda Edmunds, Mark and Fran van Allen, Cindy(Edmunds) and Phil Baker, Linda(Edmunds) and Fred Case, Donald and Yukari Edmunds and Cindy Edmunds, wife of Leland. She also leaves her grandniece and caregiver Rebekah LaVertu and her husband Christopher, grandniece Jennifer Knoop and her husband John, along with other grandnieces and grandnephews who will remember her fondly and cherish her memory.
Martha grew up in Little Falls, New York where she attended local schools. She was a 1950 graduate of New York State University at Cartland with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education. Upon graduation she taught Health and Physical Education in the Little Falls public school system, moving to Argyle Central school in New York and then to the New York State University at Potsdam from 1956 to 1963. There she was one of the first to initiate and coach women’s sports teams in New York. In 1963 she was a Teaching Fellow at Springfield College while pursuing a doctorate there. Upon completion of the doctorate, she became a faculty member at Springfield. Along with her teaching responsibilities she also coached the women’s basketball team. Finally, in 1970, she accepted a teaching position in the Women’s Physical Education Department at Westfield State College(now called the Department of Sports Medicine and Human Performance). Her love of sport led her to become a nationally rated official in basketball and field hockey. As a pioneer and advocate for women sports opportunity, she served on a committee to establish the first State Colleges Women’s Intercollegiate Association and worked on developing its Constitution and Bylaws that ultimately provided the framework under which the current women’s sports program in the Massachusetts State University system is conducted. In 1975 Dr. van Allen was promoted to full professor and held that position until her retirement. At Westfield State she was primarily responsible for the Juniper Park Elementary School Physical Education program and was instrumental in initiating the women’s sports teams and voluntarily coaching the first women’s softball, tennis, basketball, and field hockey teams as well as supervising intramural. Her many contributions to the college and its Physical Education program were recognized in 2020 when she was honored as the first department faculty member the Physical Education Honor Award. Also following her retirement the university granted her status as a Professor Emirata.
As an active member of her state, regional, and national professional organizations Martha presented numerous programs at professional meetings and in collaboration with Cathy Nadon, a former faculty member in the Music Department, presented programs in Music and Movement. In 1984 she received a Merit Award in Physical Education from the Eastern District of the American Alliance in Health, Physical Education and Recreation and it was followed in 1986 by the Presidential Medallion.
A former student and now a physical education teacher stated that she taught prospective physical education teachers, “how to build relationships and have a conversation with students”.
A Celebration of Life Service will take place on Thursday, September 9th from 5 to 7 PM at Avalon Life Celebration Center, 691 College Hwy, Southwick, MA 01077
Donations in her name may be made to the Department of Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Westfield State University, checks or money orders made payable to and mailed to Westfield State Foundation, Inc., ATTN Department of Sports Medicine and Human Performance, PO Box 1630, Westfield, MA 01086-1630, or a charity of your choice.
To express condolences, please visit Dr. van Allen’s memorial page at www.avaloncelebrations.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. Martha Inez van Allen, please visit our floral store.
Westfield State Foundation, Inc., ATTN Department of Sports Medicine and Human Performance, PO Box 1
PO Box 1630, Westfield MA 01086-1630