Bertha Martin is largely credited as the founder of the theatre program at UNI. She came to the Iowa State Normal School in 1905 from the Columbia School of Expression in Chicago and helped transform a traditional program in elocution into a modern program of oral interpretation and theatre education.
Professor Martin introduced a new method of acting, focusing on more natural and human movements. In addition to directing, she also trained those students interested in public speaking contests and expanded the course offerings in drama. Professor Martin was admired and respected by both her students and her peers. Among her students were Hazel Strayer, who would succeed her, and Stanley Wood.
She passed away after a brief struggle with pneumonia in 1929, and the entire campus felt the loss of this gifted teacher.