$2M planned gift to boost scholarship support for WVU students from W.Va.

A West Virginia University alumnus and his wife are honoring his Mountain State roots with a planned gift to provide scholarships for West Virginia students in need.

With his late wife’s support, Fred Martin, of Mission Viejo, Calif., pledged at least $2 million to WVU upon his passing. His planned gift will establish the Fred and Donna Martin Scholarship Endowment, which benefits full-time undergraduate students majoring in any program. Recipients must be West Virginia residents with demonstrated financial need, as determined by the WVU Office of Financial Aid.

“Planned gifts like this from the Martins have the power to make a difference in many students’ lives,” Maryanne Reed, provost and vice president for academic affairs at WVU, said. “Scholarship support often serves as a foundation for student success, as it alleviates financial barriers and creates a path to affordable education. We are so grateful for this new scholarship endowment and look forward to the impact it will have on future generations.”

Martin said he and his wife of 34 years, Donna, agreed to establish the scholarship before she passed away in fall 2023.

“Being a graduate of West Virginia University and a West Virginia-born native, I felt that I would like to donate some of our estate to support tuition scholarships for West Virginia residents from impoverished families who could not otherwise afford a college education,” Martin said.

Martin was born in Beckley and grew up in Lewisburg before his family moved to Pittsburgh when he was in high school. He followed in his mother’s footsteps by attending WVU, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English in the 1930s.

Martin described himself as a “well-rounded student” who lettered for two years as a starting halfback for the WVU soccer team. He was also an active Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity member, serving as vice president during his senior year.

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in business in 1963, Martin worked as a buyer for JCPenney Co. before moving into sales with Continental Can Co. He said his experience at WVU helped him realize he was better suited for sales.

“I’m an extrovert,” Martin said. “Being a part of the fraternity system at West Virginia University, I developed a lot of good personal relationships that promoted my extrovert personality, which led me away from a buying career. I realized that sales more met my personality, and I had a successful sales career for about 45 years.”

Martin later worked for James River Corp., a worldwide paper manufacturer, as a national account manager and completed his sales career as vice president of sales. He then served as a consultant for a regional western U.S. food packaging company located in Los Angeles.

Donna Martin graduated from Kent State University and worked in higher education administration — first at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and later at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.

Martin said he hopes their scholarship gift leaves a lasting legacy by helping Mountain State students achieve their dream of earning a college degree.

“I’m a proud West Virginian,” Martin said. “I’m proud to have gone to West Virginia University. And I still have very good relationships with a lot of my fraternity brothers. I’m happy that I’m in a position now to give something back to my state and my college.”

The Martin gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the university.