President’s journey: Dr. George E. Martin

Editor-in-Chief

Hilltop Views takes an in-depth look at the man who has led the university for almost fifteen years

When asked how he made the jump from spending more than five decades in the Tri-State Area to becoming the president of St. Edward’s University, Dr. George Martin replied with a smile, “By plane.”

That serious-looking, 6’5” man you may have glimpsed walking on campus or driving his year-old Hyundai Equus—a gift from Bill Munday of Munday Library fame—is Martin, 69, who has led St. Edward’s for the past 15 years.

For a busy guy, he’s got a good sense of humor.

Sitting in his Main Building office, it’s clear Martin has a lot on his plate. The sitting area and conference table are spotless, but the large wrap-around wooden desk is covered with books and papers. Hiding behind the stacks are framed photos of Martin and his family. His family includes his wife of seven years, Eva, and his daughter Susannah, 31, a 2004 St. Edward’s graduate. Susannah received a degree in Communication and is currently in between jobs.

“I don’t think there is a normal day. Every day is different, which is one of the things I find enjoyable about the job,” Martin said. “Every day brings new challenges, some of them exciting and positive, some of them frustrating.”

The Road to Presidency

Martin was born in 1944 in Brooklyn, New York where he was one of eight children and stayed in the city until he was around 30 years old.

What kind of a kid was he? “Well it depends on who you ask. I was a delightful child, some others might disagree,” Martin joked, then stopped and returned to his businesslike demeanor. He described his childhood as “nothing outstanding” and himself as a “regular kid.”

Martin didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a university president.

“I don’t think I ever had a fixed idea on who I wanted to be when I grew up,” he said. “That kind of evolved through a number of things that interested me depending on who I was surrounded by.”

Because he studied political science, earning an undergraduate degree from St. John’s University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, Martin considered entering public service, but that passed. At one point he considered becoming a lawyer, but that also passed after he lost interest in his law courses.

During his education, Martin held a number of eclectic jobs including newspaper deliverer, movie usher and claims adjuster for an insurance company. The extra income helped while he attended college on scholarship.

It wasn’t until he taught high school that he gained the desire to become a professor. After three years teaching English, geography and history at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, Martin became a junior faculty member at Saint Peter’s University in New Jersey. For 30 years, Martin climbed up the ladder at the university, eventually gaining a position as academic vice president.

A New City, A New Job

The next rung on the ladder for Martin was president of a university. When he received the call from the search firm saying there was a school in Austin, Texas that he had to check out, Martin replied, “I was born in Brooklyn, I think you’ve pulled the wrong file.”

But he took the risk and was hooked within the first 10 minutes of his interview.

“What attracted me in those first 10 minutes was it was very clear that the mission of St. Edward’s University was something that I had really dedicated my professional life to,” he said. “I was immediately impressed by the sincerity of the people that I met.”

After 15 years at the school, Martin still nearly always refers to it by it’s full name, never “St. Ed’s” or even just “St. Edward’s.”

A Former Student Reminisces

Not many students have spoken directly to Martin, but St. Edward’s graduate Amarette Edmonson made sure she spoke with him before she graduated.

“Towards the end of my senior year I decided to meet with Dr. Martin,” Edmonson said. “We talked about just being involved and him having more of a presence on campus, because, I feel like a lot of students wanted that.”

She felt that as the president, Martin should be given a student perspective and felt compelled to share that with him.

“I even suggested and said, ‘I know you go to Ragsdale and buy food every once in a while, but why not go to Ragsdale, buy food and sit down and have that be a regular thing?’” According to Edmonson, Martin wasn’t too fired up about the idea.

“I think I answered that at the time by saying, ‘If a student wants to see me, they can always make an appointment,” Martin said.

He doesn’t believe simply sitting at a table on campus is an effective way to reach out to students.

“They sometimes try to look away when I say hi to them, but I still insist on saying hello to them,” he said.

Edmonson was a resident assistant for three years and considered herself a “highly involved” student before graduating in 2012.

“If [the students] knew they had a president that was excited about being at St. Ed’s and was on fire about St. Ed’s, it might change their perspective a little bit,” she said.

Although he may not show it, when speaking with him, it is obvious that Martin is indeed excited about being here.

“I love talking to students,” Martin said. “They should feel free to stop me and say hello…If I’m rushing off to a meeting then I’ll say ‘Send me an email and we’ll set up a meeting.’”

The Public’s Opinion

Perceptions of the president vary widely among the St. Edward’s community.

Super senior Lisa Sine has only seen him twice in the five years she has attended the university.

“There should be more communication with him and the students themselves,” she said. “SGA meetings are a place where he should really be present.”

Octavio Sanchez and Michael Cimino, president and vice president of SGA, understand why he does not make more of an appearance on campus.

“I understand that he works hard to be on campus as much as he can. I would say maybe it would be nice to see him a little bit more with the students and going to the games and stuff but I don’t blame him for that because I know that he’s working hard,” Sanchez said.

Cimino has found that his impromptu meetings with Martin, often occurring when the two bump into each other on campus, tend to have a positive outcome.

“He’s so willing to initiate change and open to just about everything we want on campus,” Cimino said. “He’s willing to get the ball rolling no matter how controversial the issue is.”

As members of student government, Sanchez and Cimino see the effects of his influence on campus.

“He may not be here physically but you see his impressions every where you are,” Cimino said.

In an anonymous online survey of 50 students, 68 percent believe that Martin does not have enough of a presence on campus with 78 percent wishing he had more of a presence. Only 40 percent of responders have spoken to Martin and 18 percent have never seen him in person. Sixteen percent admitted to not knowing his name with ten percent thinking his name is Robert Martin.

Privileged President

The main thing Martin wants students to know about him, a fact he mentioned several times, is how privileged he feels to have this job.

“I think the best part about the position is I see the president really as someone who enables, enables a community to achieve within the contexts of the university mission,” he said. “I never wonder why I come to work.”

Lorraine Pagan, Martin’s administrative assistant, came from a job at the University of Texas at Austin to St. Edward’s in April 2012 after his secretary of 14 years wanted to semi-retire.

“I think he’s amazing, he’s such a great leader,” Pagan said about her boss. “He has such great vision and drive.”

Pagan admires Martin’s accessibility and eagerness to help.

“I can knock on his door anytime,” she said. “Even as busy as he is, he’s so willing to teach so you can learn from him.”