Distinguished Professor Program Highlights NGU Experts Like Martinez
Over the past year, North Greenville University’s business college has started a complete revamp. Not only has the college branched out to become its own separate entity — now rebranded as the College of Business and Entrepreneurship (COBE) — but its leadership has also added even more seasoned experts to the college’s faculty.
One of those recent additions is Dr. Rick Martinez. And sure, he just joined NGU in 2019. But he’s already made a name for himself, becoming one of the first chosen for the Distinguished Professor Program at NGU.
This new program, designed to support the work of some of the most pioneering professors on campus, brings recognition to those who are at the top of their field — professors just like Martinez.
When Rick Martinez was nine years old, his whole world turned upside down.
After moves typical of military life, his family had settled down in Texas for several years. His father, formerly a member of the U.S. Air Force, was working on the Apollo program at NASA; his mother kept books. But in 1972, just before Martinez entered fourth grade, his parents divorced, and the family split in half. Martinez’s father, sister, and older brother eventually moved to Chandler, AZ.
Meanwhile, Martinez went with his mother and younger brother to live near his grandparents. When they arrived in Santa Rosa, CA, they found Martinez’s grandfather — who had struggled with alcoholism for decades — a new man:
Martinez’s grandfather wanted to tell him, too. One day as they were sitting in the living room together, he explained the gospel to Martinez for the first time.
“Not every 9-year-old can get that, but I understood it,” he remembers. “That’s how I came to know Christ.”
What Martinez remembers about the years in California that followed is “mostly surviving” — that and helping raise his brother.
Martinez says he was a “terrible student.” He even wanted to drop out, which is why his mother sent him to live with his father after his sophomore year of high school.
No one in Martinez’s family had ever attended college. So when he graduated from high school in 1981, Martinez felt his natural next step was to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the military.
He spent two years moving through what would eventually become the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, and then he was stationed for four years on a nuclear-powered surface ship. Martinez says he was “relieved” by the routine of Navy life.
For the first time, he even had Christian friends who motivated him to grow in his faith.
“We all had that little orange Gideons Bible,” he remembers. “So I’d stand — we called it ‘standing watch.’ Five on and ten off. It was two o’clock in the morning, out in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It’s 140 degrees in the nuc plant engine room area, and not much to do. I had my little Bible, and God convicted me, ‘Alright, it’s time to stop playing around.’ And that was when I decided I was only going to live for Christ.”
Martinez excelled at his work. In fact, his Navy supervisors asked him to step up to train his peers for the last year and a half he was on the ship.
“I loved training right away. I mean, it wasn’t —” Martinez pauses. “I was going to say, ‘It wasn’t rocket science.’ But it was nuclear stuff.”
In the meantime, he also started taking a few college courses through a program offered to military members at sea. Then, when he left the Navy in 1987, he decided to work towards a college degree.
Martinez went on to study political science at Arizona State University, with intentions of going to law school. Before even graduating, however, he was offered a position with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He and his contacts at the CIA talked it over and decided it would benefit them both if he continued his education before joining the agency. So Martinez entered the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.
While Martinez was in grad school, his path took yet another unexpected turn:
“The professors in my MBA program sat me down and said, ‘We think that you have a calling to be a teacher.’ My calling didn’t occur to me; it occurred to other people,” Martinez laughs. “God used these wonderful people to change the direction of my ministry into Christ-centered business education.”
Martinez set aside his plans for the CIA and landed a position in the business school at Baylor. After teaching there for two years, he began work on his Doctor of Philosophy in Management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, consistently ranked one of the top business schools in the nation. He completed his degree in 2001.
Since then, Martinez has continued working in Christian higher education, formerly serving at Cedarville University, Charleston Southern University, Houston Baptist University, LeTourneau University, and, most recently, Oklahoma Baptist University.
During his time at Charleston Southern, Martinez served alongside Dr. John Duncan — now the dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship (COBE) at North Greenville University. The two had kept in touch for years.
As Duncan began to revise the COBE at NGU in 2019, he reached out to Martinez with a job offer.
“In my mind, Martinez is the top management professor in Christian higher education. He’s in a class by himself,” Duncan explains. “I can’t say enough about how fortunate we are that he has joined NGU.”
Martinez stepped in as the associate dean of NGU’s COBE because he loves to “build things.” What’s the COBE building at NGU?
“A culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,” he says proudly.
Working together, Duncan and Martinez have already updated the core curriculum for COBE programs and written proposals for both a new degree in management with an entrepreneurial focus and a course on innovation to be required for all business majors at NGU.
“The marketplace is changing so rapidly. There’s a chance that what I teach my students today, by the time they graduate, it will be outdated,” Martinez says. “That’s why I want to teach them how to think, so they can transition through these changes and keep up with the marketplace demands of tomorrow’s world.”
No matter which class he’s teaching — whether Business Ethics or Innovation and Entrepreneurship — Martinez’s main goal remains to help his students understand business from a biblical perspective.
“I want to dispel the notion that the purpose of starting a business is simply to earn money,” he says. “Businesses do have to be profitable to exist, but that’s not our purpose.”
Martinez goes on to explain that Christians are called to add value to others’ lives through the act of creating; this fulfills their ultimate purpose to reflect God. Martinez has been heralding this message for more than two decades, speaking at academic conferences and publishing work on the topic in all sorts of prestigious academic journals.
His work has appeared in publications such as “Business Horizons,” the “Christian Scholars Review,” and the “Journal of Management.” The list goes on. He’s also served on the editorial staff for the “Christian Business Review” and the “Journal of Biblical Integration in Business.”
In fact, Martinez’s notable expertise and extensive publication made him a prime candidate for the inaugural group nominated to the Distinguished Professor Program at NGU, a new program aimed at recognizing professors who are leading in their field.
Martinez will serve as the distinguished professor of management for up to three years, during which time he will receive an additional annual stipend and an annual budget for professional development.
Like his fellow participants in the Distinguished Professor Program, he can choose to spend that timeframe designing a project to promote the integration of faith and learning in his department or producing a work of scholarship that contributes to his discipline.
It’s no surprise what Martinez intends to do while in the Distinguished Professor Program. He’ll continue writing, presenting, and publishing scholarly articles on his favorite topic: how to integrate the Christian faith in the business marketplace.
“The influence I hope I have through my scholarship is helping believers to understand that there’s no separation between their business life and following Christ. Everything we do is an extension of our ministry,” Martinez explains. “And at NGU, I hope to bring that same perspective — so that we can begin thinking about what it means to represent Christ better and better every day in what we do.”
For information about the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, visit NGU.edu/about/our-colleges/business-entrepreneurship.