By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
For the second day in a row, Mirta Martin greeted a large audience at Fort Hays State University with zeal Friday.
Martin, 52, is the second of five finalists for FHSU's next president to visit the campus during the next three weeks.
The dean of the School of Business at Virginia State University, Martin opened with telling those at a morning news conference in the Dreiling Lobby of Sheridan Hall that she is "thrilled to be part of family."
Martin and her husband, John Martin Jr., who accompanied his wife on the trip to Hays, are the parents of two college-age children, Katherine and Patrick.
But she wasn't just talking about her immediate family.
"I will speak about the Fort Hays family, because that's what we are," said Martin, attired in the university's signature black and gold colors.
"I will carry the voices of the Fort Hays family into the community, into the state, into the nation, into the world."
Martin said the concept of family has been a big part of who she is her entire life. A native of Cuba, Martin escaped the Communist regime as a 5-year-old along with her 4-year-old sister and their grandmother, leaving behind the rest of her family.
"My family was taken away from me; I've spent all my life looking for family," she said, "and everywhere I've been, I've created family."
Martin, a graduate of Duke University, talked of how she worked full-time while going to college full-time, so she is well aware of the challenges facing today's students.
"That job was not an allowance; that job was to put food on the table, that job was to buy books," she said. "So my job now today, the reason that I'm here, this is my opportunity to pass it forward, to created a pathway of a better tomorrow for our students.
"It's not just about bringing students to campus," Martin said. "It's about getting them across the finish line so that they will become responsible citizens of our nation."
Martin, who has had successful careers in both industry and education -- in banking and in positions at several universities -- has traveled the world and is well aware of FHSU's numerous international partnerships with universities in other countries.
"We are in the midst of unprecedented changes, in our world, in our nation and certainly in the landscape of higher education," she said. "With unprecedented changes come unprecedented challenges, but with challenges, great opportunities arise. We at Fort Hays are positioned to seize the moment."
The name of finalist No. 3 will be announced at noon Monday. There will be a 4:30 p.m. reception on campus Tuesday and a press conference Wednesday. The site of Tuesday's reception will be announced with the release of the third candidate.
The final two candidates are scheduled to come to Hays the week of April 7.
FHSU will submit its candidate recommendations to the Board of 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.