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Martin urges fellow science alumni to get involved at UTA

Dr. Dale Martin
Dr. Dale Martin graduated from UT Arlington in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry and four minors.

Dale Martin is proud to be an alumnus of UT Arlington, and he’s serious about giving back to his alma mater. He wants more Mavericks to feel that way, too.

Dr. E. Dale Martin, a pediatric dentist and attorney, never misses a chance to tell others about the good things happening at UT Arlington and in the College of Science. And, as one of the University’s most active supporters, he has plenty of chances.

As a member of the College of Science’s Advisory Council, Dr. Martin is the college’s representative on the UT Arlington Alumni Association Board. He speaks often with students, and serves as an “unofficial” advocate for the College and University before the state Legislature in Austin.

“Dale has been a great supporter of the college for many years,” said Paul Paulus, psychology professor and former College of Science dean. “He has always had a strong interest in the welfare of the College and University and has been active in talking to legislators about relevant issues.”

Dr. Martin talks often about the value of a UT Arlington education and of how College of Science students get hands-on training to prepare them for careers in research and education.

“That’s the beauty of a UTA education; you get more bang for your buck here,” he said. “There are good things going on in this place. The research being done by faculty and students is just phenomenal.”

UT Arlington is in his family’s blood as well. His son, Robert, is a biology major who plans to graduate in May 2012 and go on to become an oral surgeon.

“My dad, for as long as I can remember, has always spoken highly about the University and his time here,” Robert Martin said. “Through him, I was able to attend many events at UTA and by the time I started shopping for colleges, I already knew UTA well. The choice to come to UTA was simple. It already felt like home to me. It is rather humorous that even though I go to UTA, my dad still seems to know more about what goes on around campus than I do!”

Dr. Martin certainly knows of what he speaks when he talks about how his UT Arlington education has benefitted him greatly. An outstanding student, he skipped kindergarten and graduated from Burleson High School a year early, entering UT Arlington at the age of 16. While an undergraduate at the University from 1974-78, he earned a B.S in Chemistry and also graduated with four minors - Biology, German, Mathematics and Physics.

In 1975, he got a chance to be a part of a team, led by chemistry professor emeritus Dr. Don Martin (no relation), that conducted research on the compound sodium cyanoborohydride and which resulted in the publication of two articles.

“The great thing about this place is, we give our undergraduate students a chance to be actively involved in research,” he said. “Our kids are out there actually doing the research; you don’t get that at the really small schools or the really big schools.”

That same year, Dr. Martin was also witness to the power of chemistry when a fire broke out in a second-floor lab in Science Hall. A glass jar of highly volatile lithium aluminum hydride burst after building up pressure. It was lunch time, and he and fellow student Miguel Chiusano were the only ones around. They tried to carefully scoop up the hydride and move it from the wood cabinet it was in, but it began to emit a noxious cloud, sending the pair in search of respirators.

The hydride cloud ignited from moisture in the air and filled the lab with flames and the corridor with toxic fumes. Dr. Martin grabbed a CO2 extinguisher and sprayed the hydride, but the CO2 reacted with it to create methane fireballs. Continuing to use the extinguisher, the cold eventually froze the reaction, quenching the flames, but the fumes and smoke caused a temporary shutdown of Science Hall.

After graduation, Dr. Martin entered dental school at the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston, where he received a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1982. He went on to earn a master’s degree in pediatric dentistry from Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas in 1987.

It was in graduate school that he met his future wife, Julia, on a blind date arranged by her sister, who was also a student at Baylor College of Dentistry.

After grad school, Dr. Martin opened a highly successful pediatric dentistry practice in Hurst. When he became frustrated by federal requirements and their financial effects on small dental offices, he didn’t wait for others to do something about it - he earned a law degree from Southern Methodist University and advocated for change himself, all while maintaining his dental practice part-time.

Within a few years, many of the changes in federal law that Dr. Martin had advocated came to pass, and he returned to dentistry full-time in 1999.

He also became more closely involved with the College of Science in the late 1990s through former Dean Neal Smatresk, whose wife worked with Dr. Martin’s wife, Julia, a registered nurse who worked for 25 years at Arlington Memorial Hospital before retiring in 2009. Julia relayed news from Smatresk’s wife about the things going on in the College of Science, and Dr. Martin became intrigued by the possibilities.

“I decided I wanted to be a part of the good things going on here,” he said.

Dr. Martin served as the college’s representative on the UT Arlington Alumni Association when Smatresk was dean, and was vice president of the college’s Advisory Council when Paulus was dean.

“He tries to keep informed about what is happening in the college and was always very supportive when I was Dean,” Paulus said. “He was also an excellent person to bounce ideas off about possible new initiatives. He served for many years as the alumni speaker at graduation and has done an excellent job in that role.”

Today, he maintains his pediatric dentistry practice in Lake Worth and Burleson - he just bought land to build a new facility in Lake Worth - and never misses a chance to talk to his young patients about their options for the future.

“I talk to my patients all the time about what they want to do and where they want to go to school,” he said. “I talk UTA to them all the time; I especially love to talk with the girls in sixth through eighth grades who love math, because that’s an age where there’s often a disconnect between girls and interest in math and science.”

Dr. Martin brings that same proactive attitude to his work with UT Arlington. He has been extremely generous in giving of his time as well as financial support to the University. He and his family were among the founding members of the Planetarium, one of the campus’ crown jewels, and have funded several chairs at the facility since it opened in 2006.

“Every time he hears of a problem the University - and especially the College of Science - is having, he does his best to help find a solution, many times taking on the problem as though it were his own,” Robert Martin said. “I also hear him say with some frequency that he wishes that there was more he could do for the University.”

“Doc” Martin takes his work with the Advisory Council very seriously because, he says, the council’s mission - helping students - is critical.

“We’re here to promote the College of Science at UTA. We want to produce some of the best scientists in the world,” he said. “We’ve been producing high-quality students for a long time. The Advisory Council is taking stock of what students need and how the College of Science is viewed. We want to build on what we have and make things better and brighter.”

One critical area of the council’s work is in helping UT Arlington’s large number of first-generation college students make the adjustment to college life.

“These kids know where they want to go but need help finding out how to get there,” Dr. Martin said. “We can help them, give them hope, and lay the groundwork for them so they can succeed.”

The Advisory Council can always utilize people who share a desire to help UT Arlington in its quest to become a top-tier institution. Members serve three-year terms and work to raise the profile of the College of Science both on and off campus.

“We’re looking for people who have that fire for the University, and for students,” he said. “These are incredibly bright kids we have here, and we want people who will really take an interest in them and will be there to provide guidance and support for them. We have all these young minds that are getting their start here. We have to protect that, grow with that. We’ve got a lot more growing to do, a lot more dreams to nurture.

“The Advisory Council wants people with a science background who have a love for this place and want to provide increasingly better opportunities for our students. We want people who want to make a difference in the life of students.”

Dr. Martin also volunteers with the Save a Smile Foundation - which is dedicated to helping children with serious dental needs - and serves on the Tarrant County Children’s Oral Health Coalition, which is sponsored by Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth and helps get underprivileged kids access to dental care.

His free time is scarce, but he enjoys working on cars when he can. He has a 1980 Jeep CJ5 that he’s “resurrected”, and he and son Robert have done extensive work on a DeLorean owned by Robert. He also has a 1958 Triumph TR3 in his garage which he plans to devote time to restoring, “whenever I can get to it.”

He is also in his second decade serving as an assistant Scoutmaster and Merit Badge Counselor for Boy Scout Troop 380, an Arlington troop whose motto is “Attitude makes it happen”.

He continues to pour his time and resources into making UT Arlington and the College of Science the best they can be, and into finding ways they can better serve students. Dr. Martin said he gets a great deal of satisfaction from helping to shape the lives of young people and the future of his alma mater. He encouraged other alumni to get involved.

“I cherish the traditions and the history of this place,” he said. “This is not the commuter school of old. The UTA heartbeat is vibrant and alive.”

For more information about the College of Science Advisory Council and how you can help, contact Shelly Frank at 817-272-1497.