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Martin Trust, apparel industry entrepreneur and philanthropist, dies at 84

Mr. Trust helped found the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and cofounded Mast Industries.Trust family

Sure that he could manufacture apparel abroad at a lower cost than his former employer did in New Hampshire, Martin Trust traveled to Hong Kong in 1970, toting along a plaid suitcase filled with sample sweaters.

Striking deals with two people there, he returned to launch a business in the basement of his family’s Canton home, working initially only with his wife, Dena.

He called it Mast Industries — the first three letters in the acronym stood for the names of his colleagues overseas, the last for Trust. “Marty called it ‘Industries’ because he said he thought it made it sound like a big business,” his daughter, Laura Trust, said Wednesday in a eulogy at his memorial service.


Mast was later acquired by The Limited, on whose board Mr. Trust served for a quarter-century. He launched other ventures as well and helped found the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

Mr. Trust, who was part of the ownership group that bought the Boston Red Sox in 2001, died Sept. 12 in his Boston home. He was 84 and divided his time between Boston and Palm Beach, Fla.

“He gave so much back. He believed in medical research and medical innovations,” said Dr. Toni Choueiri, who was Mr. Trust’s oncologist and is director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Though they met as doctor and patient, “over time, I became more of a close friend,” said Choueiri, who also is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “He introduced me to his family, he introduced me to his kids, he introduced me to the Red Sox, he introduced me to his life. He was a man who enjoyed people, and enjoyed just spending time with people and telling a story, because Marty is a storyteller.”


Through the Trust Family Foundation, Mr. Trust donated substantial funding to Dana-Farber for research, including for Choueiri’s kidney cancer studies.

Mr. Trust also “revolutionized the production of clothing,” Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, wrote in a tribute.

“The new concepts of building a capability in ‘speed sourcing’ and ‘supply chain’ by fostering strategic partnerships in all parts of the world long before ‘globalization’ was initiated proved to be game changers,” Aulet added. “Now new fashion trends were not only spotted quickly, but could be delivered upon at a speed and price point that were unheard of and at which others could not compete.”

After launching the center at MIT that bears his name a decade ago, Mr. Trust “was both patient and impatient in this process,” Aulet wrote. “While he always supported us, he also pushed us to increase our velocity and also our ambition. We would not have been able to get started without his generous gift, and we would not have been able to reach the heights we have today without his continued support.”

Mr. Trust was just as determined with his own businesses. Mast Industries grew quickly, due in part to the partnership he initiated with The Limited — which was then a small chain of stores and later became Limited Brands and L Brands.

He was, however, an unlikely candidate to foster fashion industry innovations. Short and colorblind, his daily outfit was “a dark suit, a button-down shirt, tie, and black leather dress shoes,” his daughter recalled in her eulogy. She added that Mr. Trust’s wife “put tags in his jackets and pants so he could match them up.”


Even when his business grew to span continents, he would say that “a business is never as much fun as it is when you are running it at your kitchen table,” his daughter said.

Mr. Trust’s companies eventually had outposts in far-flung places including Sri Lanka, whose government awarded him the honorary title of “Ranjana” for his distinguished service in that country’s apparel and textile industry.

In 2001, he founded Trust Family Industries and launched Brandot International, another apparel manufacturing business.

“He loved walking the floors of the factories and he believed that business was best done in person,” said his daughter, who is president and a director of Trust Family Industries.

She formerly worked for Mast and, with her husband, Alan Litchman, built Finagle a Bagel into a local chain, and founded SJB Bagel Makers of Boston. She is now president of Trust Family Industries, the family’s apparel company, and Samtex, the family’s domestic operation.

“His energy level never waned when he was conducting business — no matter the hour, country, day of the week, or last meal anyone had eaten,” Mr. Trust’s daughter said.

The older of two siblings, Mr. Trust was born in 1934 and grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Max Trust and Rose Sherman.

At age 8, he began joining his father on his bread truck routes, delivering bagels and bread from factories to restaurants and delis, an experience that gave Mr. Trust an appreciation for manual labor, and for his father’s own work ethic.


He would later tell his family he got his intelligence from his mother, passing the entrance exam to attend Brooklyn Technical High School, and then going to college at The Cooper Union in Manhattan — because he could attend free, he would later explain.

After graduating, he taught at what was then Lowell Tech before going to what is now the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he received a master’s.

A scholarship provided “by a man he didn’t know and had never met” paid for his first year’s tuition, Laura said in her eulogy.

“Marty credited that scholarship and that man with changing his life and it shaped Marty’s lifelong commitment to giving back to others the opportunities he was given,” she added.

He met Diane Kagen, who is known as Dena, in 1957, when both were vacationing in the Catskills in upstate New York. They married in 1960.

“Mom would often lament that Marty’s favorite word was ‘Dena!’ ’cause whether Marty was working or sleeping, or doing nothing at all, he wanted Mom with him,” their daughter said.

The young couple moved to New Hampshire, where Mr. Trust installed mainframe computer systems at MKM Knitting in Manchester and learned the sweater manufacturing business.

They eventually relocated to Canton, where Mr. Trust and his wife launched Mast Industries.


“He was a magnificent person. He came from nothing and he built a business with my mother in our basement of our house in Canton,” Laura, who lives in Brookline, said in an interview. “Regardless of the successes he achieved, he never changed who he was, and I think that’s something that really strikes people.”

A service has been held for Mr. Trust, who in addition to his wife and daughter leaves a son, David Trust of Boston, who is executive vice president and a director of Trust Family Industries; his sister, Carol Cohen of Boynton Beach, Fla.; and three grandchildren.

Throughout Mr. Trust’s relationships in business, sports, the boards on which he served, and his philanthropy for medical research, “he believed in partnership in the truest sense. His integrity was impeccable,” his daughter said.

“He leaves a legacy of a man who gave so much,” Choueiri said. “I think the whole world lost someone who will be mourned for a long time.”

Bryan Marquard
can be reached at