Man of his word. 100th anniversary of prof. Marijonas Martynaitis

Man of his word. 100th anniversary of prof. Marijonas Martynaitis

3 April marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Prof. Marijonas Martynaitis, Doctor of Technology, Rector of Kaunas Polytechnic Institute (Kaunas University of Technology since 1990) who was the head of this higher education school for 19 years. After the death of Prof. Kazimieras Baršauskas, he became the rector and actively continued the work and traditions started by his predecessor. On the occasion of the anniversary, Dr. Audronė Veilentienė, Head of KTU Museum, has prepared a virtual exhibition revealing the episodes of this individual’s life, work and relationship with the University.

Studies and complicated youth

In 1939, after graduating from Kaunas 3rd State Gymnasium, he began his studies at the Technological Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University. When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, M. Martynaitis believed in Communist propaganda and joined the Young Communist League (Komsomol) in September 1940. From April 1941, he was the secretary of the University Komsomol, and on 22 June 1941, at the outbreak of the war between the Soviet Union and Germany, he fled to Russia. In 1942, M. Martynaitis completed a radio course at the Moscow Special School and in the summer of 1942, he was flown to German-occupied Lithuania with a group of Soviet partisans and parachuted near Užusaliai. M. Martynaitis soon left for Kaunas and lost contact with other members of the Soviet partisan group. According to his autobiography, he worked with the illegal Kaunas City and County Komsomol Committee in 1942-1944. In the summer of 1944, after the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania, M. Martynaitis started working as the head of the student section of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth Union of Lithuania (LLKJS), and from October to 20 June 1946, he was the secretary of the LLKJS for school affairs. He was dismissed from this position and expelled from Komsomol “as having failed to justify the confidence of the organisation”. At that time, Lithuania was in the midst of a guerrilla war, and the occupying Soviet army was launching repressions against the Lithuanian population aiming to crush the resistance. The leaders of the Komsomol were forced to go to the villages to agitate the population to join collective farms and take part in repressive actions. The unofficial reason for the dismissal of M. Martynaitis was his refusal to participate in such actions. As KPI Rector, Prof. M. Martynaitis avoided sharing his memories of his partisan activities and his work in the Central Committee of the LLKJS. In the book “Professor Marijonas Martynaitis in the Whirlpools of Change”, Algimantas Nakas wrote: “The Soviet regime, primitive but brutal propaganda, the physical and spiritual destruction of the nation, and the inhumane repressions undoubtedly disappointed many Komsomol activists, including Eduardas Mieželaitis and Marijonas Martynaitis”. M. Martynaitis returned to continue his studies at the Faculty of Chemical Technology of Kaunas State Vytautas Magnus University. During his studies, from 1947, he worked as a laboratory assistant at the Department of Inorganic Chemistry at the former Technological Faculty of Kaunas State Vytautas Magnus University. In 1949, M. Martynaitis became a member of the Communist Party, and in 1950-1951, he was the faculty’s Partorg (party organiser). He graduated from the University with honours in 1950 and, after obtaining a qualification as an engineer in silicate technology, he started working as an assistant at the Department of Silicate Technology.

At the end of 1950, Kaunas State Vytautas Magnus University was reorganised into Kaunas Polytechnic Institute (hereinafter – KPI), and its Faculty of Medicine was reorganised into Kaunas Institute of Medicine. In 1952, M. Martynaitis was admitted to doctoral studies at KPI, and he defended his candidate’s (now doctoral) dissertation on the topic “Physico-Mechanical and Physico-Chemical Research of the Anhydrite Cement of Gypsum from Kirdonys Area” in 1955. The thesis supervisor was Assoc. Prof. Julius Mituza.

From assistant to rector

In 1955-1962, M. Martynaitis worked at the Department of Silicate Technology as a senior lecturer, associate professor and head of the department. In 1958, he was awarded the title of associate professor. After becoming head of the department in 1956, M. Martynaitis was appointed deputy of KPI Director Prof. K. Baršauskas for academic affairs, and in 1958-1964, he was the vice-rector of KPI for academic affairs. As vice-rector, he held the position of the head of the Department of Silicate Technology as a secondary job and worked on a voluntary basis. In 1962, when the number of jobs at the Rector’s Office increased, M. Martynaitis resigned from the position of the head of the department. After the death of the first rector of KPI, academician Kazimieras Baršauskas, M. Martynaitis took over the position in 1964. He proposed to ask the leadership of the Lithuanian SSR to grant the name of Prof. K Baršauskas to Kaunas Polytechnic Institute. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Lithuania (LKP) did not approve the naming of the institute after K. Baršauskas, and in 1974, after the death of A. Sniečkus, KPI was named after A. Sniečkus. Under the leadership of Prof. M. Martynaitis, KPI continued to develop dynamically by establishing new faculties: the Faculty of Automatics (1967), the Faculty of Engineering Economics (1968), the Preparatory Office (1969), the Faculty of Construction and Plumbing was established through the reorganisation of the Faculties of Plumbing and Construction (1971), and the Faculty of Computing Techniques (1977); the scope of research work expanded, and the research centre Vibrotechnika was established alongside the research centre Politechnika, which had been operating since 1962; teaching facilities were strengthened: the following buildings were constructed on the territory of KPI Student Campus: the Chambers of Construction (1965), Electronics (1967) and Chemical Technology (1970), the student cafe “Kolegos” (1973), the Experimental Workshop (1975), and a new dormitory was built every 2-3 years. A 130-bed prophylactic hospital was set up in one of them (1976). The construction began for the Faculty of Light Industry (1982), followed by the building of the Computing Chamber, etc. The rector, with his business-like management of the Rector’s Office and the deans, was able to earn the trust and respect of the entire community of the institute. He is remembered by those who worked with him as a particular, demanding and fair leader. Prof. M. Martynaitis continued the works started by Prof. K. Baršauskas. One of them was the establishment of KPI Museum in 1965. Under the leadership of the Rector Prof. M. Martynaitis, there was no restriction on the admission to KPI of persons who had been repressed by the Soviet authorities and those who had been exiled, or their children. The Institute also employed staff and teachers who had suffered at the hands of the Soviet authorities. KPI Rector Prof. M. Martynaitis was keen to provide the teaching process at KPI in the Lithuanian language and agitated the teachers to prepare textbooks and methodological tools for students in the Lithuanian language and have them printed as soon as possible. Prof. M. Martynaitis, alone or with co-authors, prepared and printed 6 textbooks and several methodological publications for students studying the technology of mineral binding materials. In addition to speciality textbooks and methodological tools, Prof. M. Martynaitis prepared, compiled or edited books on the history of higher education institutions, such as “Kazimieras Baršauskas” (1969), “Kaunas Polytechnic Institute” (1979), “KPI Faculty of Chemical Technology” (1987). Due to his health condition, Prof. M. Martynaitis resigned from the position of the rector of KPI in 1983 and after his retirement, returned to work at the Department of Silicate Technology.


Harmony in the family was one of the greatest values for Prof. M. Martynaitis. He sincerely took care of his parents, and his relationship with his wife, Assoc. Prof. Zenona and his children can serve as an example for many families. The Martynaičiai family raised a daughter Jolanta and a son Arvydas. Prof. M. Martynaitis was a loving father, but at the same time, he was demanding and fair making sure that his children did not stand out among their friends and applying the same requirements. Martynas Malakauskas, the long-time Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Plumbing, recalled how Rector M. Martynaitis warned him not to award a scholarship to Arvydas Martynaitis because he had “earned” one grade 3 in a session. His son Arvydas wrote that the demanding nature of his father made it clear that you are the only one responsible for your own happiness, and that the most important thing he taught was humanity.  When M. Martynaitis was seriously ill, his family members surrounded him with their warm attention and constant care. Thanks to them, the professor lived a full life until his last days, interested in the latest KTU achievements, joys and problems of life in Lithuania and the world.

Professor Emeritus

In 1988, the Sąjūdis movement was established in Lithuania and the national revival began. At the end of 1989, the Communist Party of Lithuania split from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, but some communists, led by Mykolas Burokevičius, did not support the breakaway. Prof. Jurgis Slavėnas recalled the testimony of a former Soviet partisan, when supporters of Burokevičius invited Prof. M. Martynaitis to join them, the professor replied: “I am with the people”. After Lithuania won its independence, KPI was reorganised into Kaunas University of Technology on 31 October 1990. At that time, former Rector Prof. M. Martynaitis worked at the Department of Silicate Technology of the Faculty of Chemical Technology as a consultant professor; he taught general technology of silicates, technology of binding materials and mineral binding materials. He worked in this position until 1993. Professor was involved in the creation of KTU Veterans Club and various University events. In recognition of the professor’s merits, KTU Senate granted the title of Professor Emeritus to M. Martynaitis in January 2009. Prof. M. Martynaitis died on 4 November 2009 and was buried in Kaunas Petrašiūnai Cemetery.