Kappa Alpha Order

Moral Compass

FGCU Alumnus Named Tillman Scholar, Receives DoD Fellowship

Many KA brothers continue on after college to lead lives of exceptional achievement, but there are some whose accomplishments and successes are far beyond the norm. Luis A. Martinez Jr. (Zeta Pi–Florida Gulf Coast ’09) is one of those men whose passion, drive, and obvious intellect have helped make him a man destined to make a difference in the world.

With a Bachelor’s in Criminology from FGCU, a Master’s in Information Technology – Homeland Security Management from University of Maryland University College, a Master’s in Geoscience – Geographic Information Science & Technology from Texas A&M, and currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Texas A&M geography program, Martinez Jr. plans to use his education to serve his country. Which is something he already began doing during a stint as a United States Marine.

And he’s done all this before the age of 30.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping others,” Martinez Jr. says. “I initially decided to pursue a criminal justice degree and work for a Federal agency upon graduation. After graduating from FGCU, I then decided to join the Marine Corps to follow in the footsteps of my father, who is currently active duty with 32 years of service in the Navy. Wanting to fill the time between leaving for bootcamp, I decided to begin a Masters in Information Technology – Homeland Security Management because I figured it’s good to know IT, and because I wanted to work for a Federal agency someday. Upon enlisting, I was given an intelligence contract, and at bootcamp was assigned the military occupational specialty of Geospatial Intelligence Specialist.”

“No one, including myself, at bootcamp really knew what that was,” he says. “They said it dealt with maps and I would learn more upon graduation from recruit training. I ended up having a knack for it and graduated at the top of my class as the Basic Geospatial Intelligence Specialist Course Honor Graduate. It wasn’t until I went to work with a reconnaissance team that I saw the value geospatial intelligence provided for the guys on the ground. There, I decided I wanted to pursue an education and further my experience in this field. While working on my Master of Geoscience virtually through Texas A&M, a professor took interest in my career and personal goals. Little did I know that he indirectly was trying to recruit me to apply to their program. A Ph.D. was never the goal, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

There’s more to the story of this exceptional KA brother, though. He’s the recipient of the Pat Tillman Scholarship, an award of the Pat Tillman Foundation, named for the onetime NFL safety who left football to sacrifice his life as a member of the U.S. Army Rangers in Afghanistan. Tillman Scholars receive scholarship funding to pursue higher education and continue their service in the fields of health care, business, law, public service, STEM education and overall education, and the humanities.

“Tillman Scholars must be full-time students,” Martinez Jr. says, “and are selected based on four qualities: Service, Scholarship, Humble Leadership, and Impact. After submitting my application, I received a notification that I had advanced in the selection process from a pool of nearly 1,700 applicants. I was then notified that I had advanced to a video interview, and then that I was selected to the 2020 class of Tillman Scholars. Initially, I was shocked and in disbelief.”

And as if that weren’t enough, Martinez Jr. was selected for a National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, a program designed to increase the number of U.S. citizens and nationals trained in science and engineering disciplines of military importance by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

“My NDSEG research proposal is Subterranean Mapping of Unknown Environments in Support of Military Operations: Geospatial Intelligence Derived in GPS Denied Environments,” Martinez Jr. says. “The aim of my research is to provide the warfighter with the ability to accurately map subterranean environments within a GPS-denied environment. I’m supported for 36 months including tuition, a monthly stipend, and travel for conferences. Upon graduation I intend to work for the DoD and continue to teach at the university level to prepare the future workforce of GEOINT [geospatial intelligence].”

Martinez Jr. has worked as a geography instructor for Blinn College in Texas and as an adjunct professor for Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi. And he’s managing to squeeze one more important role into his schedule: He and his wife are the proud parents of a new baby girl. He’s quick to credit Kappa Alpha Order as having played a major role in his development as what many in society might call an “overachiever.” But his work is a continuing process he is modest about.

Luis Martinez and his wife, Karina Riches, at a Marine Corps Ball.

“My wife gives me a hard time about ‘slowing down’ or ‘taking it easy,’” he says, “but I feel it’s important to continue the pursuit of excellence and aim for the next goal. And if you had told me the connections and life lessons I gained during my time as an undergraduate and KA would lead me to where I am in life, I would not have believed it. As a young man, 18-21 years old, I had no idea the path my life would take and how KA would influence it. KA has definitely served a role in helping make me the man I am today. KA took the values I arrived on campus with at FGCU and oriented me in development of my future self. Between the values of Kappa Alpha Order, academic support, and philanthropy and service, KA has influenced my journey in life.”

“I was initiated into KA in fall of 2009,” he says, “and continue to keep in contact with KA brothers from my time at FGCU and meet new brothers through events. I was the one who left the local area after graduation due to joining the Marine Corps, but we continue to remain in contact and be there for one another during the successes and trying times.”

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