Martin named new FHSU president
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
She left little doubt the university would continue to be in good hands.
"I am filled with enthusiasm and relentless determination," Mirta Martin told the audience in Memorial Union on Friday morning, minutes after she was announced as Fort Hays State University's next president.
"Our programs will be known throughout the region and the world," she added. "We will continue to hold true to what makes us unique -- a forward-thinking, world-ready university, with students centered in our values."
Martin, 52, will take over for Edward Hammond, who is retiring from the presidency this summer after 27 years at the post. Martin will start her new job July 1.
Martin, the ninth president at the 112-year-old university, made FHSU history as the first woman president, as well as its first Hispanic leader. Martin was born in Cuba but came to America at age 5 with her younger sister and grandmother, escaping the communist regime but having to leave other family members behind.
"When I first looked at the profile for the Fort Hays State presidency, there was one that caught my eye," Martin said. "They were looking for a president that had a strong work ethic and wanted someone to lead in a strong and caring community."
After a successful career in the banking industry, Martin got into education in the mid-1990s and has served as the dean of the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business at Virginia State University in Richmond since 2009.
Martin and her husband, John, are the parents of two college-age children and felt it was time they could move on if they so chose.
"We've been looking for a home for the next 20 years," Martin said. "We believe we have found that home here at Fort Hays State University."
Martin was one of five finalists chosen by the presidential search committee to visit the FHSU campus and the city of Hays during a three-week period in March and April.
The search committee then forwarded its list of candidates to be interviewed to the regents, who conducted interviews in Topeka on Thursday.
"The presidential search committee did what we asked," Regents chair Fred Logan said at Friday's announcement, "to make the final selection tough. Selecting a president is about identifying the person that fits the university.
"We believe," Logan added, "this is the right fit for today, and for the future."
Regent Robba Moran, who lived in Hays for 28 years before moving to Manhattan a year and a half ago, was a member of the search committee.
"This is the third president I've been part of choosing, but the first time I served on a search committee," she said. "It's a tough decision, much tougher than I ever imagined.
"But," she added, "it was a great experience. Hays would be proud of the quality and quantity of candidates who applied to be president here at Fort Hays."
Now, Moran said she looks forward to seeing what Martin brings to the table, and she probably won't have to wait long.
"I want to hit the ground running," Martin said, "continue doing it well, then we're going to expand."
Logan said the regents were "looking for somebody with passion, somebody with commitment, somebody who is going to love Hays, America, as we have grown to love it."
The man Martin will replace can vouch for that.
Hammond and his wife, Mary, are building a house in Hays, and Hammond will remain at Fort Hays as a consultant. He said he looks forward to working with the new president.
"Mirta is very high energy and very, very bright," Hammond said. "Fort Hays is an institution that thinks outside the box. It's about time we have a woman for leadership.
"But more than her being the first woman president or first Hispanic president, I think it's more important to look at the success she had at another career," he said.
"She was a very successful businessperson, vice president of banks before she got into education. I think that will be a real plus."