By Joanna Meza
After more than a decade of serving as Santa Ana College’s president, Dr. Erlinda Martinez is retiring.
Martinez accepted the position 11 years ago, in March 2005. Since then she has worked to improve the overall look of the campus, to offer students a sense of community and to build a mutual trust with her staff.
“You have to be able to have a relationship and have an open door to each other and tell each other the truth and be honest with each other,” Martinez said of interacting with faculty.
In her time at SAC, Martinez has accomplished many things, including being named “Woman of the Year” for the 69th Assembly District, creating a vision for the ongoing revitalization of the campus and even learning to play mariachi-style violin for the celebration of SAC’s 100th anniversary. However she says staff members are the ones making a difference on campus by interacting with students and encouraging them.
“I think my true contribution has been in the faculty that I’ve selected over the past 10 years, because as an academic institution you depend on your academic staff and they are the ones who set the bar in a classroom,” Martinez said.
Before coming to SAC Martinez worked as Cerritos College’s vice president of student services, which she viewed mainly as a support position to the president.
Finding herself in a leadership role upon coming to SAC was something foreign to Martinez. Taking the position as president was a big change from anything she had done before.
“Advancement always takes some skill building and it’s always a little scary and it’s always a challenge,” Martinez said.
Growing up in La Puente, in the San Gabriel Valley, Martinez was familiar with Santa Ana but hadn’t explored the area.
Since getting hired she’s become part of the community by building relationships with city leaders, faculty and students.
As SAC turns 100, Martinez is proud to witness the celebration of the school’s centennial.
“Reminding people what a resource they had here in this community, it’s been really gratifying to see that sense of pride almost blossom in front of my eyes,” Martinez said.
To honor her retirement, The Centennial Garden was recently rededicated in her name. Now known as the Martinez Centennial Garden, it sits at the campus entrance off 17th and Bristol streets.
“I can’t help but think that in the future, symbolically, that I am welcoming students to Santa Ana College,” Martinez said.
Faculty and students joined Martinez May 11 at the garden’s dedication ceremony, which included the unveiling of a plaque commemorating her accomplishments and a new bench featuring tiles designed by SAC art students.
“It’s bittersweet,” Martinez said of the ceremony. “I mean it’s a great celebration but they were talking about hiring faculty, so I’m hiring faculty for next year but I won’t be here to greet them, I won’t be here to welcome them to the campus. It’s my first realization that I’m leaving.”
Five people offered farewell speeches to Martinez at the event, including Chancellor Raul Rodriguez and Academic Senate president Elliott Jones.
“Eleven years is not the norm. As the chancellor said, if you’re here for over a decade, that’s worthy of an honor, that speaks to the quality of leadership,” Jones said.
Many of Martinez’s family members attended, including her mother and sister.
Re-establishing relationships with family and friends is something that Martinez is looks forward to after retirement.
“There’s some relationships and some friendships that I’d like to rekindle,” she said.
After dedicating most of her time during the last 11 years to the college, Martinez will be taking a year off before deciding what she wants to do next
“I will be travelling. The day after I leave I’m going to Peru, to Machu Picchu,” Martinez said. “In the fall my sister and I are going on a river cruise in Germany.”
When asked what she would remember most about SAC, Martinez said; “The spirit. Clearly the spirit.”
Additional reporting by Jose Servin