Grand Island Senior High graduates Lanny Martin and Sarah Kuta have similar stories.
Martin was in a senior English class when his counselor pulled him out to talk.
"In the hallway he encouraged me to meet with the admission director at Northwestern University who was visiting GISH that day," Martin recalls. "I explained that my family could not afford a private school and that I wanted to go to college near home."
The counselor urged Martin to apply anyway, letting him know of financial aid programs Northwestern had in place.
Martin applied, was accepted and graduated from Northwestern.
"My GISH and Northwestern education enabled me to have a career in law and later in business," Martin said.
Kuta also applied to Northwestern and understood the financial hurdle it presented.
"My parents made many sacrifices to help me pay for school and I also received a financial aid package from Northwestern," Kuta said.
She also received a substantial amount of aid from the GIPS Foundation when she graduated from GISH in 2008.
"There's no question the scholarship allowed me to attend Northwestern," Kuta said. "I was able to graduate with no student loan debt, which is amazing considering the high cost of attendance at Northwestern. For reference, the average student loan debt total for the class of 2012 was roughly $30,000."
The scholarship Kuta received was the Jack Martin Scholarship, named after Lanny Martin's father, one of many funded by the Martin family during the past twenty years.
The counselor who pulled Lanny Martin out of class in the fall of 1963 was Robert "Bob" Hamblet. Martin now awards a full-ride scholarship to Northwestern for a GISH graduate each year with the Bob Hamblet Northwestern University Scholarship.
"Mr. Hamblet was a wonderful teacher and counselor," Martin said. "He influenced a number of other GISH graduates the same way as he did me."
And now, thanks to Martin and his family, a number GISH graduates are able to continue their education.
The scholarships are life-changing events for the students.
"These are lump in the throat, goose-bump moments" said Traci Skalberg, GIPS Foundation executive director. "What a joy it is to tell a student he or she has been selected as a recipient of a Martin Family Scholarship. At first the student is in shock ... smiles and tears follow. Proud parents also shed tears of joy. The moments are just indescribable and powerful. I feel extraordinarily blessed to be a part of the equation."
'Pay it forward'
This year, 2017, is the twentieth year of Martin family scholarships. Since 1998 these scholarships have awarded $2,130,000 to GISH grads.
"The Martin family was investing in students with the GIPS Foundation before many even knew we existed," Skalberg said. "They believed in our ability to carry out these programs for students and really set the stage so other donors could see and use our growing capacity to serve them."
The Martin family scholarships now include:
- Jack and Lucile Martin Scholarship: $5,000 per year for four years ($20,000 total); two students per year.
- Bob Hamblet Northwestern University Scholarship: Tuition, room, board, books paid after all other scholarships are applied; one per year typically, but have given two in one year in the past.
- Lucile C. Martin Dream Scholarship: 90% tuition up to a $5,000 total value for students pursuing a trade; up to 10 students per year.
"The Martin family has a 'pay it forward' value system that has been a blessing to be a part of," Skalberg said. "They have strong ties to Grand Island and Grand Island Public Schools and are grateful for the remarkable education they received here."
The Martin Legacy
The Martin story begins not in Grand Island, but in Waverly, Nebraska. Jack and Lucile were raised on farms outside Waverly, graduated from high school there in the late 1920s and attended the University of Nebraska.
"They moved to Grand Island in 1945 when my father took a vocational agriculture teaching position at Grand Island Senior High," Martin said.
All six of the Martin children graduated from GISH and went on to attend college in Nebraska and Illinois; Les Martin in 1949, Carol (Martin) Noah in 1955, Dianne (Martin) Barker in 1961, Lanny Martin in 1964, Tom Martin in 1969 and Janet (Martin) Benson in 1970.
"GISH was a central part of our lives growing up in Grand Island," Lanny Martin said. Because his father taught at the school, his parents became friends with many other teachers.
"Frequent guests for Thursday night coffee and community events included the Gaines, Tofts, Kuesters, Pinkstons, Sells, Feasters and others," he recalled.
After he ended his teaching career, Jack Martin led the Hall County Production Credit Association. Both he and Lucile were active volunteers in the community. Jack was a co-founder of Cornhusker Harvest Days; Lucile was the first woman trustee and first woman deacon at First Presbyterian Church.
Jack was also Grand Island's mayor in 1955-56, and presented a key to the city to Vice President Richard Nixon.
"As a favor to his friends, my father volunteered as a timekeeper for all GISH football and basketball home games for over a decade," Martin said. "As a result, my siblings and I have fond memories of Memorial Stadium and the GISH gymnasium."
He said his siblings spent time helping his dad with keeping time and "during our years attending GISH all of us participated in activities in Memorial Stadium."
"Whether it was marching band, pep club, football, track or graduation ceremonies, it was an important center of activity for the whole family," Martin said.
An important project
This is why it is important to his family to invest in the Memorial Stadium project. Martin is providing the lead donation of $5 million to the project.
"The renovated stadium will continue to serve GISH's athletic program and to serve as an important memorial to those that gave their lives for our great country," Martin said. "I attended a game at Memorial Stadium a few years ago, sitting in the east stands. It was clear the stadium could use a touch up. I was also reminded of the beauty of the east Memorial Stadium entrance."
The project will also be funded by a $2 million GIPS Foundation public campaign, as well as $2 million from the district for projects and upkeep already scheduled.
Fittingly, Memorial Stadium will then feature Jack Martin Field. The project is just one more way the Martin family is making an impact on Grand Island and Senior High students.
"They are kind and generous people with Nebraska values and work ethic," Skalberg said.
It certainly has made a difference in the lives of students like Kuta, now a reporter for the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado.
"I believe I was able to attend one of the best journalism schools in the country thanks to the support of Lanny and the Martin family," she said. "As part of my degree requirements at Northwestern University, I spent a semester as a full-time intern at the Daily Camera. The experience I received during the internship, as well as the relationships I formed with editors and staffers here, helped me get the job I have now."
Kuta counts herself one of many who have been "blessed" by the impact the Martin family has made.
"I've always found it remarkable that Lanny and his family continue to prioritize supporting Grand Island," she said. "Their support has had - and will continue to have - a profoundly positive effect on GIPS and individual students. I imagine the scholarships provided by the Martin family are life-changing for many families."