Beloved College of DuPage professor fights cancer with optimism.


Tiffani and Eric Martinson

Tessa Morton, Editor-in-Chief

At the beginning of the 2018 spring semester, Eric Martinson, like most College of DuPage professors, was preparing for classes, a new crop of student names to learn and a snowy Illinois winter. What he was not preparing for was a cancer diagnosis that would keep him away from the classroom and shape his family’s lives for almost an entire year.

Feb. 14, 2018, was supposed to be like any other Wednesday morning for Martinson, but a routine blood review appointment led to a months-long stay in the hospital. After two rounds of chemotherapy, Martinson returned home in April, and after two more rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, he was declared cancer-free in June.

Upon his return home in July, Martinson faced a long recovery journey. By October, he was preparing for 2019 classes and a return to normal life. That’s when doctors told Martinson the cancer was back.  He would need more chemotherapy.

Despite this, Martinson planned to return to class this spring semester. Even as he began clinical trials over the Christmas period he remained hopeful. When a biopsy showed the cancer had worsened, the Martinson family changed course again. Martinson realized he would spend another semester away from teaching at the school he loved.  

College of DuPage is more than just a place of work for Martinson. He is an alum, having received both an Associates of Arts and an Associates of Sciences at COD. In 2010, he left a career as a financial analyst to return to COD as an adjunct professor. By the end of 2014, Martinson was a tenured, full-time professor in the English department and beloved by his students.

“He was the very first faculty member I met when I first started here. He’s been, not just a colleague, but a really close friend of mine,” said Timothy Henningson, an English professor at COD.

“We’re all envious of him in this English faculty suite because he is so immensely popular with his students,” Henningson continued. “He’s got this natural ability to make students comfortable and to want to learn from him.”

Students from Martinson’s English classes have posted glowing reviews for him on

“Martinson is the best,” said one post from 2017. “He was like a friend to me. He taught me how to love an English class.”

Another student from Martinson’s 2018 English 1101 class posted, “He’s my favorite professor so far.”

Martinson has been overwhelmed by the support he has received from both students and the wider College of DuPage community.

“It was incredible, the support I got from students right off the bat. They were calling and texting, and I got hundreds of emails,” Martinson said. “It meant the world to me.

“The college has been unbelievably supportive to the point where it felt like family,” he continued. “This is something no one plans for, and the support was so needed. I am so grateful for it.”

Martinson is planning for the future based on the ideal outcome. With treatments underway, Martinson anticipates he will go back into remission this spring and looks forward to returning back to COD.

“I fully expect to be teaching summer school classes,” Martinson said. “That is my goal, and that’s what I’m shooting for right now. I plan on returning to campus in May.”

Henningson is also looking forward to Martinson’s return.

“He’s a special faculty member here. The fact that he’s been away for a year is a detriment to the College of DuPage community,” Henningson said. “His office is right across the hall from mine, and I want to see that office light on.”

After almost a full year away from work, Martinson and his family continue to face the emotional and financial challenges that a battle against cancer can bring. Recently, friends of the family started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for Martinson so he and his family can focus on his health. Links to this campaign can be found on our website.

In April, the College of DuPage will be partnering with Be The Match to host the “COD Heroes Drive Event.” This event is a bone marrow registry drive and a part of the fight against blood cancers, like leukemia. Presentations raising awareness for the event will occur from Feb. 11 to Feb. 14. To find out more visit their website: