Residence hall is dedicated, honors alumnus’s memory

Chris Yee/Senior Staff
On Saturday, a dedication ceremony was held at Martinez Commons in remembrance of the building's namesake, Maximino Martinez.

Long before Maximino Martinez’s name hung above the entryway to the campus’s newest residence hall, it was associated with helping underrepresented high school students gain access to the university and thrive once there.

More than nine years after Martinez’s untimely death, friends, family and former colleagues gathered Friday to remember Martinez at the residence hall’s official dedication, where they shared stories about the alumnus who returned to campus and spent almost 20 years working to help improve the lives of students.

Martinez started working in the UC Berkeley Financial Aid and Scholarships Office in 1984 and eventually transitioned to the campus Division of Student Affairs. He worked with the Incentive Awards Program — which provides academic and financial support to low-income, first-generation college students — from 1998 until his death.

Martinez’s heart failed during a lunchtime basketball game at the campus Recreational Sports Facility on May 2, 2003. He was 56 years old. Genaro Padilla, former vice chancellor of student affairs and now a professor of English, had worked closely with Martinez and said staff members first suggested naming a building after their friend while at an on-campus memorial for him.

“Max’s world is symbolized in this new building, which represents not only the lives of Berkeley students but the kind of work that Max did,” Padilla said at the ceremony. “He was committed to the hope that students in schools across California, especially from low-income, underserved schools, would one day find the measure of their intelligence in places like Berkeley.”

Martinez’s widow, Charlotte, chose not to speak at the dedication, but her smiling presence was highlighted the whole time as every speaker directed at least one fond memory of Maximino toward her.

The two met while Martinez was attending Contra Costa Community College, and before he transferred to UC Berkeley, the two were married.

“I think the real reason they’re naming this building after him is because of his values,” she said after the ceremony. “He had such a heart. This sounds so corny, but he was a loving man. He loved students. (Campus officials) told me they’re naming it after him because of the impact he had on students, so it’s not just about being a donor or a famous alumni.”

According to Marty Takimoto, director of communications and marketing for the campus Residential and Student Services Program, selecting names for university buildings is a long process that goes through several committees and ultimately is decided upon by the UC Office of the President and the UC Board of Regents.

Takimoto, who had worked with Martinez through the Cal Alumni Association, said several staff members, including him, suggested that the new residence hall be named after Martinez.

“My fondest memories were that he was always a happy and cheerful person and always saw the good in people,” Takimoto said. “It made him a good recruiter. He’d meet with students who would not have even considered going to college and talk about college in a way that got them excited and built up their confidence.”

Charlotte Martinez said she ultimately hopes the students who live in Martinez Commons know that her husband cared deeply about giving people from all backgrounds an opportunity to go to college.

“He helped them get in, he stood alongside them, they succeeded and they’ve had astonishing careers, hundreds and hundreds of them,” she said before entering the building named after her late husband.

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