In Remembrance...

This past week, the UNI campus is mourning the loss of a Student Affairs colleague. My mentor, Drake Martin, served as the Assistant Director of Residence Education through the Department of Residence. He passed away suddenly during a hiking accident this weekend. Drake left a huge impact on the UNI community by his efforts to create more inclusive communities in and outside the residence halls. Teaching about acceptance was a way of life for him.

I met Drake in 2007 when I was a Resident Assistant (RA) as an undergraduate student at UNI. He developed and assisted in the training process of RAs. During summer training, I remembered him as the guy who told the dry jokes. Drake was really funny (if you embrace that type of sense of humor). Later in life I learned he had a degree in Advertising, so the delivery and execution skills he learned in college really served him well with the jokes. He was the King of Puns.

During my job search after receiving my Master’s degree in Student Affairs, I was fortunate to get an interview at UNI for a position in the Center for Multicultural Education (my current job). While I was nervous going into the search committee interview, my nerves went away when I saw some familiar faces in the room. One of them was Drake. He made me feel at ease when I asked about campus climate concerns, which at the time were not good. Multicultural students were experiencing a difficult time with discrimination on and off campus. Drake talked about the CME and what programming they had established, his role in Residence Life, and mainly with the Student Affairs Diversity Committee, which he was the chair for. The committee was in charge of hosting 1-2 programs every semester for all staff members to learn more about a specific area of diversity, so that in turn they could serve UNI students better. Little did I know then I would be on that committee a few months later.

Working with Drake on the Student Affairs Diversity Committee was a great experience. In the past two years we have hosted programs on religion, mental health issues, and cultural practices. When anyone discusses inclusive communities at UNI, Drake always comes to mind. For over 30 years, Drake was at the forefront of educating student leaders and his colleagues about diversity and multicultural competence.

During my first year as a professional staff member at UNI (2010-2011), Drake was awarded the Diversity Matters Award, a prestigious recognition to faculty, staff, and students who have contributed to UNI’s diversity goals and initiatives. When he was being recognized for his contributions (RA training, the Student Affairs Diversity Committee, his work with the Safe Zone Ally program, etc), I thought “I want to be like him”. He was a great human being, and I can only hope to be half the person he was.

I guess what really hurts me is that I saw him the day before he died. I went by his office to visit with another staff member who recently had surgery. He waved at me from afar as he walked by the break room. I think he wanted to come in, but saw me in deep conversation with my friend. Before I left, I stopped by his door to say hello. He was on the phone and looked busy, so I went on my way thinking “I’ll talk to him next week”. But now, I won’t get that chance. He helped me get through a lot this past academic year with personal and professional issues. He was an amazing mentor.

As I have been mourning this week, my boyfriend had a hard time understanding why I was so upset (it’s not like Drake was a family member or anything). He looked at me yesterday and said “For you, this is like when Yoda dies in Return of the Jedi, isn’t it?” I nodded, and he hugged me as I welled up in tears because I lost my mentor, but he was right. In his last conversation with Luke, Yoda says “Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned”. That’s what we are at UNI…we’re family, and I hope to keep Drake’s legacy alive through the many things he taught me not just about Student Affairs, but about life. 

Tabatha Cruz


Student Affairs - the First Years

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1 comment :

  1. Tabatha, this was just wonderful. Thanks for so eloquently saying what everyone in the UNI community is feeling. We've lost a giant, and it's up to us to carry his torch forward now. Thank you!


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