Passings: Chemistry Professor Marshall 'Marty' Wright
August 9, 2011
SAN LUIS OBISPO -- Marshall "Marty" Wright, 85, passed away peacefully after a two-year battle with cancer Tuesday, July 26, 2011. A native of Portland, Ore., Professor Wright earned bachelor's degrees in Chemistry (1946) and Philosophy (1952) at Reed College, and his M.A. in Chemistry at the University of Oregon in Eugene (1949).
He brought his family to San Luis Obispo in 1960, where he taught chemistry for 31 years at Cal Poly, retiring from full-time teaching in 1988. During the spring quarter of 1991, he returned to campus to teach a course in Jazz History.
Both Professor Wright and his wife, Virginia, were musicians. By the time of their marriage in 1950, Virginia Wright had become principal clarinetist with the Portland (later Oregon) Symphony Orchestra, and Professor Wright played saxophone and clarinet with local dance bands. He also played on the road with the Ray Baduc Orchestra (1948) and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (1949). The Wrights moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1952, where Marty played with the Jack Fina Orchestra, Gerald Wilson Big Band, Earl Hines' Traditional Jazz Ensemble and a quintet led by the late Brew Moore.
He continued his music while teaching chemistry. From 1984 until the spring of 2008, he played clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone with the San Luis Obispo Symphony Orchestra. He performed with the symphony during the concert tour of Spain in 1996, the 2001 concert at Carnegie Hall in NYC, the 2006 performance at the Sydney Opera House in Australia and at the symphony's June 2008 performance at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. From 1994 until the summer of 2009, Professor Wight was a member of the Royal Garden Swing Orchestra.