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SPOTLIGHT
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Change at FHSU

Published on -5/4/2014, 12:45 PM

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It was going to take a unique individual to follow the longest-serving president of Fort Hays State University, Dr. Edward Hammond. With his imprint forever stamped on campus and on the school's far-reaching online and international efforts, Hammond's successor would need to be one-of-a-kind.

The Kansas Board of Regents opted to go with somebody who's never held a job in the education field. At least that is how Dr. Mirta Martin described her experience when visiting Hays in March as a candidate for FHSU's top position.

"Since I came into education, I've never held a job; this is a passion," Martin said.

Regents members obviously were persuaded by the current business school dean at Virginia State University's self-description. On Friday, the board unanimously named Martin president of Fort Hays State University.

When she begins her new passion July 1, Martin will be the ninth president in school history and the first woman to hold the post.

"I believe my selection as president is an affirmation of the Regents' and Fort Hays State University's commitment to entrepreneurial leadership, opportunity, diversity and innovation," said the 52-year-old native of Cuba.

We would add FHSU needed a trail-blazer to follow Hammond's amazing 27-year tenure -- and it found one in Martin.

Since fleeing communist Cuba at the age of 5 along with her younger sister and grandmother, Martin has made the most of every opportunity. With degrees from Duke, Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth, she enjoyed success in the banking industry before taking on increasingly prominent positions in education. Prior to her deanship at Virginia State's Reginald F. Lewis School of Business, Martin had been special assistant to the chancellor, executive vice president and associate dean.

"Dr. Mirta Martin is the personification of the American dream," said Fred Logan, chair of the Regents. "She has been successful in every challenge she has ever faced. She will be successful at Fort Hays State University."

Numerous challenges await the new president. Fort Hays State is in expansion mode as it strives to reach 20,000 student enrollment, forges a partnership with Dodge City Community College, and strikes new alliances with overseas institutions. Martin also will have the unique experience not only of dealing with Hammond's legacy but his continued physical presence as a consultant.

Martin has said she was ready to create new family in western Kansas. While still being interviewed, she had offered: "You will hear me talk about family all the time because a family sticks together, believes in each other, trusts each other."

On Friday, she explained the approach she will take as the head of the family: "As your president, my priority is to enable you to become your best self."

Faculty, staff and students alike couldn't ask for more.

As Dr. Hammond celebrates his 70th birthday today, Dr. Martin is preparing her move to Hays, America. The community should extend open arms, as the Board of Regents has chosen wisely.

Even before we say good-bye to Ed Hammond, we offer a warm hello to Mirta Martin.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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