Dr. Kenneth Martin has left a legacy of creating opportunities for students at Navarro College. After 43 years with the school, Martin will retire as the final president of Ellis County campuses.
As president, Martin focused on encompassing all campuses of Ellis County and establishing partnerships within the area to provide more opportunities whether it be with certificate programs, dual credit, or obtaining a master's degree.
Martin has served Navarro College in various roles from advising students one-on-one to establishing innovative and inclusive programs. In 1976, Martin began his journey at Navarro as the director of the Comprehensive Employment Training Act. Four years later he was promoted as director of student support services and Upward Bound. Student support services counseled and advised individuals to be successful after the transition to college. Martin also inquired the Upward Bound program, which focused on the development from high school to college.
“I’m happy to see that both programs were very, very successful,” Martin expressed.
From 1987 to 1998, Martin transitioned into the role of dean of counseling. In this position, Martin experienced joy when he saw students graduate as professionals. Over the years he found himself advising generations of families into success.
Martin was then called as the assistant to the president from 1998 until 2003. He then worked as the vice president of student services for a year. Before appointed as president, Martin worked as the vice president of academic affairs from 2004 to 2011. During this time, he brought in industrial type programs that resulted in the addition of a new building on the Waxahachie campus. He also incorporated a partnership to transition Texas Juvenile Justice Department kids to a college setting.
“We provided training as well as education for those students even while they were incarcerated,” Martin elaborated.
“I’m also really proud when we acquired the partnership with Texas A&M Commerce to offer the upper-level college [baccalaureate and graduate] programs,” Martin expressed. Before the partnership, students had to travel to Baylor University or 100 miles away.
Dr. Richard Sanchez appointed Martin six years ago as the president of Ellis County campuses. “It was a delight working with the community as well as the county and representatives, senators as well as officials,” Martin relayed.
During his time as president, the construction of the C building for health sciences was completed.
Out of all the positions he’s fulfilled, president stood out to him the most.
“You’re able to not only establish a relationship with our community people, but you are affecting a number of people because you know the administrator and business people who can work with more constituents. […] You’re able to provide people working in the industry to better themselves,” Martin elaborated.
Martin mentioned a more recent success at the 10th anniversary of Brilliance, which raised more than $250,000 from the community.
“This year —to summarize the year — the appreciation was a pinnacle because we raised the most money than we’ve ever raised. And, the residual from that, it appears we will be able to offer more scholarships toward our Ellis County students,” Martin emphasized.
Navarro College has grown from 2,000 students to 10,000; from one county to five counties. The Ellis County campus was initially established in Ennis and relocated to Waxahachie, and another location was founded in Midlothian.
“Seeing this grow like it has, has been just rewarding,” Martin concurred. “It makes you think that the education you’ve invested in yourself and use some of the skills that you’ve acquired there and worked for you and to help other people.”
Martin is a first-generation college student who received his doctorate in leadership from Baylor University in 2001 — a significant milestone in Martin’s academic career.
When Martin was initially appointed, offering more academically in the technical field was a goal, which was achieved. Another significant accomplishment was the role he played in the establishment of Waxahachie Global High School. Another program he founded with Sanchez was the Open Doors to Success program that focused on students who wouldn’t ordinarily attend college for economic reasons. The program is utilized to this day.
But most importantly, Martin stressed the community support that allows these initiatives to exist.
“The people of Ellis County are real believers in education, and they have proven it by their investment in the programs that move their students ahead,” Martin emphasized.
Martin foreshadows the health science, and the engineering program will advance next. Also with the implementation of student organizations such as Student Government Association and Phi Beta Kappa, students can experience more of a college atmosphere on a two-year campus.
“The SGA program has been recognized throughout the state,” Martin mentioned. “Our commuter students have gotten involved, and I think that’s one of the biggest attractions to our college here. Not only can they go to work but be involved in student activities.”
Throughout the interview, Martin continually highlighted the outstanding, well-educated faculty and staff that run Navarro. “We have the most dedicated staff,” Martin reiterated. “This is the best faculty I’ve ever been around. We have quality faculty members, which make it easy to recruit students.”
In the 43 years working with Navarro, Martin identified his passion for helping the professionals of tomorrow.
“I will go to any extent to helping students,” Martin advocated. “I truly believe in education because I’ve seen the positive results in how some of the students I’ve assisted, I’ve seen it really turn some of these students around to make a positive impact in society as a whole.”
Throughout his career, Martin remained “[…] fair, ethical and honest. It allows you to make good decisions.”
Martin will finish out his seat as the Ellis County president in August to retire in Ennis to spend quality time with his family. Navarro has restructured the staff, which resulted in the removal of a president for Ellis County specifically. Now, the president of Navarro College will absorb those responsibilities. Dr. Kevin Fegan was recently appointed as the Navarro College president. Fagen expressed to the Daily Light Martin’s success with the implementation of programs as well as the significant relationships established.
“Number one, there is no way we will be able to replace Dr. Martin,” Fegan affirmed. “As I learned about the retirement through the process, we started to have discussions. My initial thought on the opportunity was, it is important for me to be engaged in all of our communities and that needs to be my responsibility.”
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-9517-1450