By David Mamaril Horowitz
Martha Lucey Olchowy, whose marketing grew City College enrollment to its highest ever, passed away on Aug. 24, 2018. She was 76.
While serving as the college’s director of marketing and public information, Mrs. Lucey oversaw enrollment, which surpassed 100,000 students in 2007.
“She instilled a pride in working at City College,” former Communications Committee Chair Francine Podenski said. “One group of students named the college ‘our Harvard on the hill.’”
Born in Ukraine, Mrs. Lucey moved to Germany before immigrating to New York City, where she met her future husband George Olchowy. They were married for more than 40 years.
Her shining moment, friends said, was when she adopted a 12-year-old girl, Alexandra, from Ukraine.
“She gave me everything,” Alexandra said. “She gave me family. She always made me feel like I had a friend. I had a mother.”
If there was one value her mother passed on to her, Alexandra said, it was to be independent.
Although she studied and danced ballet, Mrs. Lucey earned a Library Science degree to provide for herself. She was also a member of the Dance Library of Israel.
Her friend there, Renee Renouf Hall, said in a tribute that Mrs. Lucey had a smile which was always ready and a laugh that was full. Others described her personality as strong-willed and vivacious.
She started at City College in 1995 and earned a reputation for being straightforward and standing by her beliefs, even when it meant challenging the chancellors.
“She wasn’t a yes-person at all,” former Chancellor Philip Day said. “She would always push you a little bit to justify or provide the rationale.”
One controversial decision she made occurred when the college needed an editor to publish City Currents, the defunct faculty newsletter. She hired Patricia Arack, an ESL teacher with a background in journalism.
“It was outside the norms of Human Resources, God forbid, but she was the type of person who intuited that I could do it and went for it,” Arack said. “‘To hell with procedure or process because I need somebody yesterday.’”
Mrs. Lucey communicated with the press, directed the publication of press releases, communicated with the chancellor and worked with local marketing resources to sell the college. Due to insufficient funding, Mrs. Lucey would work seven days a week to do the job of several people, Podenski said.
Since Chronicle advertising was unaffordable, Mrs. Lucey would find under-enrolled courses and advertise them in the neighborhood newspapers two weeks before classes began. She marketed on local television and utilized the Broadcast Media Electronic Arts department.
Podenski said Mrs. Lucey was at every San Francisco parade, and that she focused on marketing the faculty and students even more than she did the administration.
When Mrs. Lucey retired in 2010, Alexandra said that she took her stories with her.
“We went together to City College a lot of times because she was always trying to keep up with her friends, sometimes students,” said Alexandra, who went there herself for two years at her mother’s suggestion. “Her life was in City College.”
Mrs. Lucey leaves behind her husband George, her daughter Alexandra, her son-in-law Edward, her granddaughter Milana and family in Philadelphia.