President Martin Reflects on the Past, Gives a Glimpse of the Future


Jessica Piland

With FGCU as his final stop in his career in higher education, President Martin is proud of all that has been accomplished during his tenure, but is looking forward to spending time with his grandchildren, traveling the U.S. and possibly sharing his life with a memoir.

Emma Rodriguez, Assistant Assignment & Features Editor

Involved with higher education for more than five decades, FGCU is a unique “final stop” for President Michael Martin. His path has gone through established universities, including the University of Florida and Colorado State University. Helping build FGCU, a younger institution growing to be a staple of its community, was something new.

“It’s been an enormous revelation to see how a community can rally to the creation of a university that then they take some ownership and responsibility for,” Martin said. “And that’s not an experience I truly had before because places I’ve been were old and established. And there was always community interest, but this has been phenomenal.”

When asked about his legacy as the university’s fourth president, Martin humbly expressed it was not his to decide, but did reference a major goal of his tenure: to create a dedication to excellence, especially as a newer institution. Under Martin, FGCU has made a point to recruit faculty committed to serving the university, fulfilling this mission.

“In the last five years, we’ve done 170,000 square feet of new buildings,” Martin said. “That’s important. But what’s really important is what happens inside the building, and that means you have to recruit, retain and embrace really good folks.”

As a result of FGCU’s continued presidential search, Martin will remain in his role until his successor is found. 

Though he intended for his retirement to be effective Jan. 1 of this year, the change of timeline has not flustered him. Martin’s decision to remain president until the search concludes reflects his want for the university to succeed. In higher education, the hiring of an interim president is a complicated process, leading to the position being held for a relatively short amount of time. To avoid FGCU using resources, time and money to find an interim president, Martin agreed to stay on.

His appreciation of higher education ties back to his roots as a first-generation college student. Attending what was Mankato State College, now University of Minnesota, changed his life.

“That transformational experience of starting at Mankato State in the fall of 1965, and then working through my education to obtain my Ph.D. had this profound impact on the way I saw myself, the way I saw others, the way I saw the world,” Martin said. “I think if that can occur for others, and I can someway help manufacture that, then that’s what I ought to do.”

13 institutions, including FGCU, have employed Martin, indicating his worth and commitment to giving students a beneficial, life-changing college experience. He believes that the purpose of a university is to transform individual lives for the benefit of society. This philosophy is evident in his love of higher education.

As for what is next for our current president, seeing family is priority number one. He wants to return to his home state, Minnesota, to see his two grandsons, and perform what he calls “grandpa duty.” Eventually, he wants to go on a golfing trip across the country to everywhere he has worked in higher education, alongside a friend from his tenure at Oregon State University.

“This friend of mine goes back to my Oregon State days, 1977. We’ve been vacationing together for years,” Martin said. “When I mentioned it to him, he immediately volunteered to come along. In all likelihood they’ll probably find us both expired on the side of Interstate 10 one day if we’re not careful.”

Martin does not entirely write off future volunteer work in higher education. A small school in northern Minnesota, Tribal College, would be first on his list to help.

Both of Martin’s sons have urged him to write a memoir. If he were to write one, it would be called “An Entirely Accidental Life,” referencing the circumstances which have led to his success. He is still deciding if he should write it.

“My dad was 20 and my mom was 17 when they had me, I started as an accident,” Martin said. “I’ve had the enormous, good luck of being at the right place at the right time with people who are my advocates, advisors and mentors. One thing led to another, and I’ve been the president of two universities, and have gone on a heck of a journey.”