Fairmont State BOG decides to move on from Martin, begin nationwide search

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The Fairmont State University Board of Governors voted Wednesday to end President Mirta Martin’s contract early following Martin’s announced departure from the institution.

Mirta Martin

Martin notified board members on Tuesday that she will not seek a contract extension beyond its listed end date of Dec. 28. The board approved a motion to end Martin’s contract on July 18 and begin a nationwide search for a successor.

The arrangement followed a meeting between board members, Martin, her husband and legal counsel.

“Fairmont State University has a longstanding history of strong and transformative leadership. Each of our 26 presidents has left a unique and distinct mark on the Falcon Family and President Martin is no different,” Board of Governors Chairman David Goldberg said in a statement.

“Through her passionate and energetic leadership, Dr. Martin achieved all of the goals set before her by the Board. The University has returned to a strong financial position, more than 36 certificate, major, minor or concentrations at the undergraduate and graduate levels have been created and enrollment is trending up for the fall semester. And none of us will ever forget Dr. Martin’s leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when the world was forced to make unprecedented decisions in order to keep our communities safe and moving forward.”

Goldberg abstained from the board’s vote. Staff representative Jon Dodds and student representative Maiya Bennett opposed terminating Martin’s contract.

Rusty Hutson (Fairmont State University)

Board of Governors Vice-Chair Rusty Hutson Jr. requested all of Martin’s authority as president be given to Dianna Phillips, the institution’s vice president of academic affairs and provost. The board approved the transfer of authority.

Hutson also asked the body to begin working with an attorney to draft a contract related to the board’s future relationships with the interim and permanent presidents.

Higher education recruitment firm AGB is responsible for conducting the search for a new president. The process will include forming a search committee consisting of campus community members, alumni and Board of Governors representatives, as well as on-campus interviews.

Martin began her tenure as president in January 2018, and she was instrumental in improving the institution’s finances by $20.5 million. The Board of Governors criticized Martin during her first months for cost containment policies, but the body gave Martin a positive review in December 2020, in which members cited her financial restraint and enrollment as factors in their decision.

Martin said Tuesday in a letter to the campus community she informed the Board of Governors of her decision to give board members enough time to search for a new president, adding a desire to assist with the transition.

According to a Wednesday release from the institution, Martin began considering her departure during the winter holidays.

“I am so incredibly blessed to have already served in this role for nearly five years. During this time, Fairmont has become my home, and the Falcon family, my family,” Martin said Wednesday. “It is an honor and an absolute privilege to serve all of you. It is also my honor to serve this institution and the State of West Virginia as your President, as President of the Council of Presidents, and as President of the Board of the Mountain East Conference.”

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