By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Mirta Martin knows what she is looking for in a home. She said she would like to make her next home Hays.
The 52-year-old Martin, who lives in Richmond, Va. — the second of five finalists seeking the presidency at Fort Hays State University — is in Hays along with her husband, John Martin Jr., for a few days to get to know the community and campus better.
The Kansas Board of Regents arranged the day-and-a-half visits for community and campus groups to woo the candidates, said Denis Miller, chairman of the search committee.
Mission accomplished, according to Martin.
“Every group that I have addressed today said, ‘I came (to FHSU). I thought I would leave. And I stayed, because I love it,’ ” Martin told the audience at a Thursday afternoon reception in Memorial Union.
“After being here for a couple of days and experiencing firsthand this amazing place that we call the family of Fort Hays State University, you are going to have to get me out of here with a crowbar. Since I came into education, I’ve never held a job; this is a passion.”
Martin described herself as a person “with high energy,” and she lived up to that description from the get-go at the reception.
She didn’t stand back and wait for people to come up to her. Instead, Martin approached them first, holding out her hand and introducing herself.
“I do business with a handshake,” Martin would say more than once during the next hour.
She didn’t get behind the podium but instead walked back and forth in front of the audience, giving those in attendance a glimpse of who Martin is.
Martin, now dean of Reginald F. Lewis School of Business at Virginia State University, told of how she learned from early on in life how to deal with challenges.
At 5 years old, Martin and her 4-year-old sister joined their grandmother in coming to America from their native Cuba to escape the Communist regime.
The rest of her family would not make it out of Cuba, but Martin was able to get an education in America.
“Every challenge is the opportunity to be the first to solve a problem, to be able to give back,” she said.
That motivation drives Martin daily.
“I make time each and every day to be part of the life of the community,” she said. “We are a family. You will hear me talk about family all the time because a family sticks together, believes in each other, trusts each other.”
While Martin is the second finalist to visit campus over a period of three weeks, coincidentally, the first candidate also was a woman, FHSU’s vice president of student affairs, Tisa Mason.
“They were both strong, and we still have three (finalists) just as strong,” said Cindy Elliott, assistant provost for strategic partnerships and dean of distance learning at FHSU and a member of the presidential search committee.
“What an honor it is to have these strong of candidates apply to be our president, ones with such diverse experience,” Elliott said. “We are privileged.”
Martin is scheduled to speak and answer questions at a Friday morning press conference. The name of finalist No. 3 will be announced at noon Monday, followed by a 4:30 p.m. reception on campus Tuesday and a press conference Wednesday. The final two candidates are scheduled to come to Hays the week of April 7.
FHSU will submit its candidate recommendations to the regents at the conclusion of the campus visits, and the board anticipates naming the ninth president of FHSU by late April, with the new president taking office July 1.