Martha Dixon, Andalusia philanthropist and longtime friend of Auburn University, passes away

Published: January 10, 2018
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Martha Dixon, widow of Solon Dixon and former president of the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation, passed away Dec. 16, 2017, at her home in Andalusia at the age of 102.

A WWII veteran and retired employee of Alatex, an Andalusia manufacturing company, Martha married Solon Dixon, a pioneer of the state’s forestry industry, at Huntingdon College in 1976.

Their shared sense of community and passion for education and the state’s natural resources fostered a lifelong philanthropic legacy which has benefited Auburn University and many other organizations within the state.

Shortly after the sale of the Dixon Family timber enterprise in 1976, which included sawmills, turpentine stills, gristmills and farms, the Dixons formed the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation in support of forestry education, the arts, health organizations and other charities.

As a 1926 graduate from Auburn University, Solon Dixon aspired to promote excellence in forestry education by providing students with a hands-on laboratory to develop and practice responsible forest management.

In 1978, the Dixons fulfilled this vision with an initial monetary donation and 80-acre gift of land to Auburn University. This land would later combine with another larger deed of property—at the time the largest of its kind in Auburn’s history—to create the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center, a 5,350-acre forestry and wildlife conservation education facility located in Andalusia.

After Solon’s death in 1986, Martha served as president of the foundation’s board of directors until 2001 continuing her involvement until her passing with the assistance of its current members and Board President Doris Tyler.

Nearing 40 years of operation, the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center has been a cornerstone of the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences educational program.

In addition to Auburn students, thousands of university students and natural resource managers from Alabama and across the country visit the center annually to learn best practices in forestry, wildlife and natural resources management.

Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Dean Janaki Alavalapati credits Martha’s leadership of the foundation for the success of the center. “It is this unique educational asset that allows the school to excel in preparing resource managers,” said Alavalapati.

With the support of the foundation, the Dixon Center has grown to include the 6,500-square-foot Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation Learning Center, which houses a state-of-the-art auditorium, classroom and conference room; two large bunkhouses, five semi-private dormitory buildings, a rec center, administrative building, classroom and computer lab building, maintenance shop and cafeteria.

“Martha was instrumental in fulfilling Solon’s wishes and we are very grateful she was able to see the many generations of students graduate from Auburn with the knowledge and skills necessary to become leaders in their field,” said Alavalapati.

In addition to their significant contributions to Auburn, the Dixons also supported many other educational programs and institutions in the Andalusia area, including the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, Lyman Ward Military Academy and Camp ASCCA.

Martha was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Auburn University in 1991.

She was born in Covington County in 1915 and was preceded in death by her parents, Fannie Brewer Belvin and Robert L Belvin; her sister, Allie Dunn; and her husband, Solon Dixon. She is survived by her extended family and many devoted friends within the community of Andalusia.

Funeral services and interment were held Dec. 28 at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center. Memorial gifts may be made to the Dixon Center through the Auburn University Foundation, 317 South College Street, Auburn, AL 36849.