For the first time in a decade, Florida Gulf Coast University will have a new president when Mike Martin assumes that role July 1, one day after President Wilson G. Bradshaw retires.
At 70, having served as president of New Mexico State and chancellor of both Louisiana State and the Colorado State University System, it might seem logical for him to retire.
He doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he considers his forthcoming role as a challenging new adventure and one he is eager to embrace.
“It’s an incredibly interesting place,” he says of FGCU. “I can do some things without looking over the wall to see what’s next. It’s a chance to focus on a few significant improvements to give the institution a much higher stature and make it more impactful locally. That’s the agreed-upon adventure. It’s a chance to have a final hurrah that’s different from many others, but much more interesting.”
Some of the priorities he cited when he interviewed for the position include doubling the university’s endowment and research funding in 6 years, creating multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programs that will raise the university’s profile and building quality programs that increase students’ opportunities to pursue meaningful careers and gain access to the best graduate schools.
He relishes becoming reacquainted with Florida and ”getting reengaged with education within the state,” he says, having served as vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida from 1998 through 2004 and watching as FGCU got its start.
He’s also excited about returning to a campus setting after several years as a chancellor, most recently at Colorado State, where the closest campus was 57 miles from his high-rise office.
“I’m looking forward to the energy the campus gives off, to the inspiration it gives you to use that energy,” he says. “Interacting with students was always one of the things I loved to do.”
Students should not be surprised if they find themselves seated next to him on the campus shuttle or if he offers to buy them a latte at Starbucks.
“I like getting out and mixing it up with the students, faculty and staff,” Martin says. “I like walking the campus whenever I have the chance. I never view students as customers; I view them as colleagues. It is going to be fun to do that again.”
Over the first few months, he expects to familiarize himself with the university, the students, faculty, staff and community.
“I want to find out how the community feels about the place. I want to meet local legislators, community leaders and renew friendships with people I knew before,” he says. “I also want to find a way to let people know who I am.”
Meanwhile, he, his wife, Jan, and their 18-year-old dog are focusing on packing up and making the cross-country trip from the West to their new home in Southwest Florida.