President Martin: My home is your home

mirta martinFHSU University Relations and Marketing

By Randy Gonzales

HAYS, Kan. — For Dr. Mirta M. Martin, it’s all about family.

That’s why Martin — the ninth president of Fort Hays State University — was pleased to welcome her Tiger family at this year’s recent open house, which she hopes to host every year at Christmas time. Martin is adamant that the president’s residence is the home for all of Tiger Nation.

“This is the university house,” Martin said while welcoming FHSU faculty and staff at the front door last Friday. “You’re part of the university, this is your house. I just happen to live here.”

Martin, FHSU’s president for 16 months, has made some changes to the 8,000-square foot, two-story house built in 1954. She has added pastel colors to suit her taste, and where there was carpet before, there now are hardwood floors.

Howard Schmidt, who has been a custodian on the second floor of Rarick Hall for 16 years, was at the open house for the first time. He was impressed by the woodwork –and Martin.

Schmidt said he came to the open house “just for the new president. I get along with her really well,” he said. “She’s so friendly.”

On display at the open house was artwork from FHSU faculty, as Martin has a mixture of the best FHSU has to offer with personal touches, such as a portrait of her grandmother’s grandmother, done in 1809 in Paris.

Dean Stramel, an adjunct professor in chemistry, joked he went to the open house for the free food but added he was amazed by the artwork he saw.

“Just the talent of the people at Fort Hays State,” he said. “There are amazing people here doing amazing things. This is a nice place to showcase some of that.”

Alexandra Shaw, assistant director of student services and academic advising at the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science, liked seeing people from other departments at the open house.

“I think it’s really nice to connect with other offices across campus in a semi-formal setting,” she said.

Connecting with people. Feeling a part of family. Everybody at the door gets a hug from the president on the way in and is reminded to take home an ornament on the way out.

“I get to see everybody,” Martin said. “I can’t be everywhere to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ but here I can. That’s why I stand at the door for the next six, seven hours, welcoming everybody.”

After all, they’re part of Tiger Nation.

That feeling of family, of its importance, can be traced to Martin’s early years — from being born in Cuba to being raised in Spain to coming to the United States to live the American Dream.

“Family for us means everything,” Martin said. “We were torn apart, not of our doing.
“That’s why family is so important to me, because it’s that strength you draw from within.”

Martin remembered the first time she set foot on the FHSU campus.

“When I interviewed here I wasn’t looking for a position, I wasn’t looking for a university,” Martin said. “I was really looking for home, and I was looking to be part of a family.

“The last 16 months I’ve been here, for me, I made the right choice to make Fort Hays State my destination of choice — affirmed over and over again,” she added. “You all have embraced me. You all were here before I got here. And yet, you open your arms to me. You’ve embraced me as part of a family, not as an outsider. That’s very special to me.”

With Christmas music playing softly in the background, with hot cider and cookies for all to enjoy, with a Christmas tree brightly lit and a roaring fire, the house at 7 College Drive felt like home for the holidays.

“Christmas is my most favorite time of year,” Martin said. “It’s the time families come together.”

It’s Tiger Nation, united.

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