John Martin - Access students have 'grit and determination'

John Martin graduated from DCU in 1986 with a B.Eng. in Electronic Engineering. A native of Co. Cavan, he emigrated to the United States after graduation and settled in the Boston area where today he is the founder and President of The Cavan Group, a boutique IT consulting firm. John is also a member of the DCU Educational Trust Council of Trustees. In this piece, he explains what led him to support DCU’s Access Programme and the DCU Covid-19 Student Emergency Fund.

As a DCU graduate, what does DCU mean to you today? And how did a DCU education contribute to your own success?

I view DCU as a world-class university offering a broad spectrum of diverse educational opportunities. DCU has grown tremendously under Prof Brian MacCraith’s leadership and has established relationships and programmes with leading institutions worldwide. On a personal level, DCU (or NIHE as it was known) provided me with a globally recognised degree in Engineering and the determination to succeed under the most challenging circumstances.

What first inspired you to support DCU’s Access Programme? And what has inspired you to continue your support for it to this day?

Around 2008/2009, I was approached by Patrick McDermott, the then CEO of the DCU Educational Trust, to re-introduce me to DCU. Up to that point, I had limited contact with the college since graduating in 1986. Shortly after Brian MacCraith was appointed President, I attended a Leadership Circle Dinner and Awards Gala at the Helix.

Several Access students shared their stories and talked about the programme’s impact on their academic and social success. The whole experience was uplifting and filled with hope and enthusiasm; I was hooked!

You recently made a donation to the DCU Covid-19 Student Emergency Fund. Why did you feel that it was important to support students at this difficult time?

My son started attending DCU in 2019 as an undergraduate and has shared stories with me of the financial hardship some of his classmates face daily. Luxuries we take for granted, like a stable home, food, and transportation are just not a reality for many students. When Covid-19 hit and the University issued a plea for the Covid-19 Student Emergency Fund, I knew the need was real and immediate, so I decided to participate.

DCU’s Access Programme enables young people, irrespective of their background or economic circumstances, to fulfil their potential in life. What advice would you give to our current Access students about planning for the future when faced with economic uncertainty such as that created by the Covid-19 pandemic?

The Access students have a unique gift, one that they may not even realise yet; they have grit and determination, which their peers from more affluent backgrounds often lack. I suggest reading “South: The Story of Ernest Shackleton’s Last Expedition”. In addition to being an Irishman, born in Kildare, Shackleton and his crew overcame insurmountable odds of survival on an Antarctic expedition in 1914-1917. That is what survival is all about, and it will give them perspective on what it takes to succeed even when the situation appears to be hopeless.