The Fairmont State University Board of Governors has made an intriguing hire for president. Dr. Mirta (pronounced MEER-tah) Martin will assume her responsibilities at the Fairmont campus Jan. 1, pending approval from the Higher Education Policy Commission.
Martin has a unique back story. She was born in Cuba, and one of her earliest memories of life in the communist country is how her parents were limited to one pair of shoes per child per year, so they always made sure they were big enough to grow into.
At age six, she was allowed to leave along with her sister and grandmother for Spain, where they lived in a convent for eight years before immigrating to the United States. Her work ethic was established early and by necessity.
“My grandmother worked two jobs to put food on the table,” Martin told me on Talkline Thursday. “I went to school full-time and worked a full-time job. On Sundays we would get up and go to church, then go clean houses.”
She pursued a career in education, earning degrees in psychology and political science from Duke, a masters in business from the University of Richmond and a doctorate in management and leadership from VCU. Martin also has valuable private sector experience as a business consultant.
However, Martin also has some baggage. Last November, Martin resigned as president of Fort Hays State University in Kansas after just a little over two years on the job. It appears Martin was forced out after clashing with some members of the tenured faculty.
Martin’s money-saving plans to increase class size and cut back on the overload classes that generated additional pay for faculty during the summer caused a revolt among the tenured professors who might have to instruct a few more students and give up their summer gravy train.
Carl Miller, professor of philosophy and president of the University’s Faculty Senate, told the Kansas Board of Regents that Miller caused the University to be “clouded by anxiety and dread.” However, students rallied to support her and the Hays Daily News opined that the forced exit “was wrong, unfair and likely could warrant legal action.”
The Fairmont Board of Governors was aware of those circumstances and they still believe Martin was the best candidate. This should be a fresh start for her and the University.
As Martin told me, “In America, with hard work and resilience, everything is possible.” That’s a life lesson that Martin knows well from personal experience, and one she can share with the students, faculty and staff in her new job.
Welcome to West Virginia.