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MIRTA M. MARTIN, Ph.D.


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About Mirta M. Martin, Ph.D.

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The early years

Mirta Maruri Martin (pronounced MEER-tah), was born in Havana, Cuba. The Communist regime led by Fidel Castro stripped her family of everything but their education and religious faith.
She remembers happy family gatherings in Cuba when she was very young. She also remembers seeing a padlock on the neighborhood beauty shop one day on her way to school and being told that the Communists had taken over the shop.

She remembers going to bed hungry. To this day, one sure way to upset Martin is to leave food on your plate.

She remembers that her parents were allowed to buy only one pair of thin, cheap shoes a year for their children, so they bought shoes that were too big, figuring the kids’ feet would grow into them. They stuffed paper and cardboard into the shoes to fill them out, but the stuffing kept compressing and her feet kept slipping and sliding in the shoes as she walked, so her toes constantly clawed and grasped at the soles.

Alongside her sister and grandmother, young Mirta fled Cuba via Spain when she was 6 years old, leaving behind her mother, father, two brothers and the rest of the family.

“The government decided who was going to leave, when and how, and in our case, it was just my grandmother, my sister and me who were permitted to leave,” she said. When the day came, to dehumanize the situation, they put us in what was called a fishbowl in the middle of the room.”
A street in Havana, Cuba
The four walls of glass separated her from the rest of her family, so even in their final moments together, they were unable to stay together and say one last goodbye.

“They kept us there for hours, and I remember my brothers, who were just 1 and 2, just sitting on the other side, Indian-style, with their head against the glass, and we couldn’t touch,” Martin said. “I remember my parents on the other side. I remember my grandmother away from her husband.”
Mirta Martin and her grandmother
Mirta, her sister and her grandmother went to Madrid, Spain and lived in a convent. For many years, Mirta’s family had helped build convents across Spain and Cuba. So, when it was time to leave Cuba, the Mother Superior in Cuba wrote the Mother Superior in Spain. It was the sisters in Spain who came to pick them up at the airport. It was the sisters who gave them their first winter coat. And in their convent, they found a home. 

The girls attended school with another religious order, and together with their grandmother, they continued their efforts to rescue the rest of the family from Cuba. As their efforts proved unsuccessful in Spain, they immigrated to the United States when Mirta was a young teenager. Her grandmother hoped this would be a more effective way to get the rest of the family out of Cuba. They did not speak a word of English.

Her mother and two brothers finally made it to the US. It had been thirteen years since she had last seen them. It would be 33 years before she would lay eyes again upon her aged father. Many in her family, however, she never saw again.

Because of the relationship between the US and Cuba, Martin’s father can only obtain a visa that allows him occasional visits to the U.S.

Her father used one of those visits to join her at Fort Hays State University when she was inaugurated as their first woman president in 2014.

Mirta sees him about every other year, she said. She does what she can, she said, but he often lacks many essentials, including enough food to eat every day.
Career Accomplishments

Dr. Martin began her career in the banking industry where she ascended to the role of Senior Vice President before transitioning to a life and career in higher education. As a full time, tenured faculty member at Averett University in Richmond Virginia, she was named Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year and briefly served as Interim Dean/Regional Director.

At the University of Richmond she served as Associate Dean for the Robins School of Business and Executive Director for the Management Institute where she developed and implemented the trademarked miniMBA™, spearheaded a successful financial turnaround of an executive education division and attracted award-winning faculty. 

She spent time as a Special Assistant to the President, Executive Vice President and Executive Director for John Tyler Community College before becoming Special Assistant to the Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System.

Dr. Martin became the first female Hispanic Dean of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2009 as the Dean and Professor of Management for the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business at Virginia State University. In 2012, the program was named the Best Business Program in the Nation among 108 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

In 2014, she was named President of Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, where she increased enrollment and retention, established programs to facilitate and encourage international experience, developed the Doctoral of Nurse Practice program, and launched the Hispanic College Institute — a program that received the 2017 National Outstanding New Program Award from the NASPA.

Currently, Dr. Martin serves as a Presidential Consultant to Kansas Board of Regents and Fort Hays State University. She also serves as the Senior Education Adviser to former Mexican President Vicente Fox and a Senior Scholar for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

Martin is a sought-after professional and lends her expertise to a variety of boards, including but not limited to serving as a trustee and past president for the Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (VALHEN), director for Racing Toward Diversity Magazine Advisory Board, AACSB BizEd Advisory Council, and the International Association of Universities (IAU), a UNESCO-based worldwide association of higher education institutions that brings together some 120 countries for reflection and action on common concerns.

Additionally, she serves as a Managing Director for the Kirchner Group, a firm founded on two fundamental premises: every business can be improved and every business should improve the world. She also served as a Trustee of the State Board for Community Colleges of Virginia and the American Association for Community Colleges (AACC).

Throughout Dr. Martin’s career she has been a transformational leader, setting aggressive and innovative goals and meeting them. To read more about Dr. Martin’s career, visit the CV page.
Family Life
Mirta met her future husband, John, during freshman week at Duke University. By Christmas they had started dating, and their relationship progressed throughout their college years.

In fact, the couple was married a month after graduation. The newlyweds soon moved to Richmond, Virginia, John's home state. They have two children, Katherine and Patrick.

John holds a BSE in Civil and Environmental Engineering and has a PE in structural engineering.

Katherine earned her BS from Washington University in St. Louis, and just earned her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Miami, where she did research to identify the early onset of autism.

(Yes, there is a second Dr. Martin, and she’s out to change the world!)
 
Patrick attended the University of Virginia where he earned his BS, and went on to receive his Masters at Wake Forest University.
Mirta Martin and her family
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