Carrying on a Father's legacy

Growing up in Cedar Falls, Dylan and Riley Martin had the opportunity to take advantage of a number of community resources. In addition to taking dance and art classes at the Hearst Center for the Arts, from a very young age, the sisters spent a lot of time on campus. They both learned to ride bikes in front of Maucker Union. When she was in the fifth grade, Riley played Scout in a Theatre UNI production of "To Kill a Mockingbird," and in high school, she practiced the violin in Russell Hall.

Martin Scholarship
Dylan and her father Drake. 

Both sisters were influenced by that early exposure to art. Today, Riley is a senior drawing major with a psychology minor, and Dylan is a sophomore theatre: drama and theatre for youth major. Being exposed to UNI was also influential.

"A college campus was not foreign to us by the time we got to that age where we actually had to find a college," said Riley. "That was definitely a benefit of being so close to the university."

However, their biggest influence on their college choice was their father, the late Drake Martin, who began working at UNI in 1981. "He would tote us along to every RA lunch there was," Dylan said. But the impact he made on Dylan and Riley was about more than UNI.

Though his official title was assistant director of the Department of Residence (DOR), Dylan said that title "in no way encompasses what he did." Martin was an advocate for student needs. He helped bring the MAP-Works (Making Achievement Possible) survey to campus and founded UNI's Safe Space Ally training program. "He believed in affecting your community positively and making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable," said Dylan.

Seeing their father take such an active role has impacted the work Dylan and Riley do today. Dylan is involved with a number of organizations, including Spectrum Theatre, a program of UNI's Sturgis Youth Theatre that's devoted to helping students on the autism spectrum develop new skills, and honor fraternities, through which she participates in a number of philanthropy projects.

Riley worked as a Resident Assistant (RA) for two years and served on the DOR's Inclusive Communities Team alongside her father. "He was a big believer in taking the opportunity for residence life to be not just about a comfortable room, but about education and awareness," she said. Riley carried this perspective over to her own work as an RA. Additionally, she hopes to use her art major and psychology minor to do art therapy some day, her own way of carrying on her father's legacy. "He wanted his legacy to be caring for others," said Riley.

Another way this legacy will live on is through the Dylan and Riley Martin Social Justice Scholarship, which promotes activism and social justice work. Two $1,000 scholarships will be offered this year and next. 

For Riley, serving as a face of the scholarship is bittersweet. "I'm extremely proud and honored to be in that position, but I wish he could be here to be the face of it," she said. "It's extremely tragic that he's gone, but if that's what he's leaving behind, that's fantastic."