2002 Distinguished Alumni Recipient

Dr. Joe Martin is a 1988 graduate of Okaloosa-Walton Community College. In the 14 years since his graduation, Joe Martin has accomplished more than many individuals do in an entire career. He earned his BA, MA and Ed.D. degrees, became the youngest professor ever hired to teach at an accredited university in Florida at age 24 and founded RealWorld University – the largest success resource center on the Internet for college students — a site that has garnered numerous educational awards. He has also been recognized as one of America’s top motivational professors, has authored numerous articles and books, and currently maintains a rigorous speaking schedule that takes him to more than 40 college and university campuses annually. Dr. Joe Martin’s road to college and OWCC was somewhat unique. The child of a single teenage mother, he grew up in one of Miami’s most notorious public housing projects. By age 16, he had witnessed six of his acquaintances die. Joining the military seemed his only route out of poverty, so he enlisted in the Navy. A Navy recruiter told Joe that he was “definitely not college material” so he suppressed a desire to go to college. After he enlisted, but had not yet reported, Joe’s birth father contacted him for the first time in more than 16 years. His estranged father encouraged Joe’s dream of college and made arrangements for Joe to be released from his military obligation. Since his father was in the Air Force and stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida, he also arranged for Joe to attend the local community college — OWCC.

Dr. Joe Martin recognizes the value of education and the good start he received at OWCC. “The most important thing I received from attending OWCC was self confidence. OWCC looked beyond my past performance in high school and focused on my potential. I will never forget my community college experience at OWCC, because they believed in me even before I believed in myself.”

The desire to help students of all ages achieve more through their college experiences was one driving factor that led Martin to establish the RealWorld University web site which seeks to help students in college and in life by helping them identify and pursue their purpose, strengthen their character, overcome life’s obstacles, and maximize their potential. The site addresses some of the toughest challenges facing college students today — such as money management, thinking skills, time management, and nurturing the inner spirit — by sharing proven strategies, solutions and advice from some of the country’s leading educators, authors, speakers and college graduates. The site has been recognized with more than 20 awards for its educational content including USA Today’s “Best Bet” educational web site and Education World’s “Graded A” hot web sites.

Martin is a former professor of Communications at the University of West Florida in Pensacola and currently teach at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU). Martin is also an extremely popular motivational speaker who gives of his time to inspire young students at schools and programs across the nation, as well as speaking at university campuses, businesses and organizations nationwide. One of his most popular topics for inspiring high school, minority and college student audiences is “Get a Grip” – designed for the student who has a difficult time accepting responsibility — which inspires students to stop making excuses and start taking control of their mental and emotional attitudes. Also a prolific author, Martin has penned books such as “Tricks of the Grade: Street Smart Strategies for Acing College” and “Let Your Leadership Speak”, has published five inspirational poems in the book “When Black Folks Was Colored”, and has written more than 100 articles for more than 20 publications including newspapers, organizational newsletters and Internet web sites.

Prior to his appointment as a professor at UWF, Martin was also an outstanding young professional who owned and operated a successful special events/public relations agency at age 26, worked as a Communications Director for Florida’s Governor’s Commission on Community Service, owned and operated a successful retail clothing store at age 22 and was selected for Who’s Who Among Business Professionals. He is also the previous award recipient of the UWF’s Outstanding Alumni for achievement in business for 1994. Martin has also been nominated twice for the Distinguished Teacher’s Award at UWF.

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