Fairmont State University President Mirta Martin was named Educator of the Year for 2019 by WVNews.com. The annual award is given to recognize an educational leader who has made an impact on students and North Central West Virginia communities.
In her two years as the president of Fairmont State University, Martin has worked to turn the institution's financial position around from the deficit she inherited all while continuing to focus on student success and the Falcon experience. During her tenure, the University has seen a $5.3 million increase in its net position in the 2019 fiscal year from the $1.9 million deficit that was there when she joined the University.
Martin credits her hard work and determination to her upbringing, never losing a sense of hard work and always remembering where she came from. At a young age, she left Cuba with her grandmother and sister, living in a convent in Spain until coming to America at 14.
“On a leap of faith, our grandmother brought us to the United States. I did not speak a word of English, and neither did my sister,” Martin said. “My grandmother always said that God gave us two hands with which to work, and how grateful we should be for that. She was grateful we were in a country where we could practice our faith and live in a democratic society where the fruit of your labor would allow you the opportunity to become your very best.”
Martin started her career in banking but eventually made the transition into higher education. She transitioned into administration where she believed she could have a greater impact on the students. Being a first-generation student herself, she is able to relate to a lot of what student’s experience.
“The values of hard work and perseverance and my faith is what guides my path day after day. Even when things are difficult, it’s the faith that tells me to get up the next morning and come back in, because there’s always someone there in need,” she said. “The difference, perhaps, between me and others is that I haven’t forgotten where I came from.”
Martin also mentioned that the work at the University hasn’t been a solo effort, it’s truly taken the entire Falcon Community.
“Our continued financial strength is impressive, but I am most grateful for the fact that this was a campus-wide effort. Everyone understood the importance of long-term financial health and we worked together to find strategic initiatives that were not only cost-containing but ensured we maintained our high standard of academics and service to our students and other constituents,” she said. “I am very grateful to the faculty and staff for their hard work and embracing the strategic direction we have been moving in.”
The NCWV Media Editorial Board said the recognition is given every year to an educator who has made a difference not only in the lives of their students but has also made an impact in the communities around North Central West Virginia.
After reviewing several different educational leaders, they said Martin was an obvious choice because of the effort she has put in to better the Fairmont State experience for students while at the same time being able to streamline costs and increase revenue. She has worked to reverse the institution’s financial situation in a short amount of time which in turn enables the University to better serve its students.
With the financial struggles that higher education has been facing over the last several years, especially public colleges and universities receiving decreased amount of funding, the Editorial Board noted that Martin has continued to lead the University in an upward trend—One they are hoping people will take note of because of this award.