Continuing with our RMASFAA Distinguished Service Award series. Throughout the series we will be asking past recipients of this award to share their stories and experiences with RMASFAA. The second post in this series features David Martin, Director of Financial Aid at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City, SD.
When I think back to when I received the Distinguished Service Award, my first thought was how special it was that my wife Laura was able to be at the Utah conference at Snowbird with me. I asked Laura the other night if Jeff had called her and encouraged her to attend the conference and she said no. Well, maybe not, but Jeff has been a very good friend for a lot of years and it was something I could see him doing knowing how special that would be.
My first experience with RMASFAA was in 1986 when I attended my first Summer Institute less than two weeks after taking on the role of Financial Aid Director at Trinity Bible College. Some may find this hard to believe, but I’m an introvert at heart and finding myself in a large gathering of people that I did not know was rather frightening to me. I’m sure when I walked into the University of Colorado’s Darley Commons and approached the registration table, I looked pretty lost and overwhelmed. But I heard a voice of calm and assurance that offered assistance and set me up for a good experience. The voice I heard was that of Rita Bayless, who at the time was at St. Mary’s College of the Plains in Kansas. Like so many other people I have known over the years in RMASFAA, Rita didn’t stop checking on me from time to time over the years to see how I was doing. She even trusted me to work for her for 9 days when she was doing consulting.
I have attended two Summer Institutes over the years. It was either at my first one or maybe the second that Michael Johnson (Utah) said something in a session he was leading that has stuck with me ever since. He shared that regardless of how good of a relationship you have with your Vice-President, you should build a good relationship with at least one other VP on your campus. You never know when you might need another voice on the administrative level going to bat for you. This could be especially advantageous if your VP happens to be a PVS. (I won’t divulge what that stands for here; contact Michael Johnson or see me at the RMASFAA conference in Kansas this October!)
In September of 1990, I began working as the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Black Hills State University, where for the next 6 years and about 3-½ months, I got to work with John Gritts (now at the U.S. Department of Education Denver Regional Office). One of the things I learned from John is, there are times when you are working on a difficult project or maybe dealing with a difficult situation, and you just need to step out of the office and get away for a few minutes. It’s not to just get out of the office for the sake of getting out of the office; John left to get recharged! There were people on campus that he would go see and, when he came back, he was ready to tackle whatever the challenge was that faced him. He didn’t go see the negative people we all have on our campuses; no, he went to those who would encourage him and speak life into him. To paraphrase something I wrote inside the front of my Bible that a former pastor of mine said many years ago in reference to raising our children – “Am I the wings upon which the dreams and aspirations of others soar or am I the shovel that buries those dreams and aspirations forever?” May we all do our best to be the former!
I was out of the Financial Aid profession for about 1-½ years. Right after New Year’s Day 2000, I was contacted by William “Bill” Jones, Director of Academic & Enrollment Services at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and asked if I would consider coming on board as the Acting Financial Aid Director. The then current Director, Sharon Colombe, was pursuing a disability retirement due to complications from MS. It would be a three month at a time gig depending on the evaluation of Sharon’s condition at the end of three months. I started January 10th and, well, three months became another three months and then another and finally Sharon was approved. In November of 2000 I was appointed the Director. Now if you look in the RMASFAA HONOR ROLL of RMASFAA Presidents, you will notice the name of William Jones, President of RMASFAA for 1978-79 (the Michael Johnson I mentioned earlier served from 79-80 and John Gritts from 91-92). I had the privilege to work for someone who had been on the ground floor of the start of SDASFAA and RMASFAA! In the early years, Bill was a financial aid trainer, and although I don’t think there is anyone still in the profession that would have known Bill back then, his influence was all about the early development of Financial Aid professionals in our region. And even though by the time I got to work with him he was well over a decade removed from the daily involvement with Financial Aid, it amazed me that he could still talk about the weightier issues of the Financial Aid profession. What a privilege it was to work for him!
I have always enjoyed attending RMASFAA conferences, but it wasn’t until I became President of SDASFAA in 2006 that I experienced life on the RMASFAA Board! How in the world could such a fun and sometimes nutty bunch of people get so much work done! Sally Schuman did her best to groom me for a higher office, but once my year as SDASFAA President was over, I said farewell to service to RMASFAA, at least for a few years.
One day in early 2011, RMASFAA President-Elect Brenda Hicks called and asked if I would agree to have my name on the ballot for RMASFAA Treasurer. Hum, now that sounded interesting. I said yes and was elected and had a crash course in the duties of the Treasurer with John Curl, who was on his second go-round as Treasurer after the untimely death of Randy Thompson. It was great working with Jeff Jacobs and Brenda during their terms as President. (Yes Brenda, even when hounding you to death over credit card receipts you didn’t know if they were at home, your office or in the truck!) When President-Elect Deb Byers called and said she wasn’t able to find enough people to run for Treasurer, she asked if I would run again. I said yes (I was afraid to tell my staff) and was elected (my staff found out the same time everyone else in RMASFAA did!). Deb’s year as President started off like normal, but then tragedy struck and Deb was gone! When Past-Presidents Brenda Hicks and Jeff Jacobs and President-Elect Art Young stepped up to ensure the business of the association would go on (after a little hiccup to get the right names back on association bank accounts), the Treasurer functions went on as usual. I can honestly say I enjoyed my two terms as Treasurer, but especially the people in our association that I got to work with over the course of those four years.
Thank you RMASFAA for the opportunity to serve, the honor I was given for the 2014 Distinguished Service Award (I was only doing what I was asked to do) and the many friends I have made along the way!
I have known David for many years through SDASFAA, yet I learned so much about David when he submitted the information for the Spotlight article!
Lake Area Technical Institute
RMASFAA Association News Committee