Though the new executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation has crisscrossed the country in her career, one focus has remained constant: her passion for education.“I always wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a child,” said Denise Martin, who will start full-time as CEF director on June 3. For the last 25 years, she has been the director of institutional advancement and external affairs for the Center for Early Education, an independent preschool and elementary school in West Hollywood founded in 1939.Born in New York City, Martin moved with her family to Akron, Ohio, where she attended St. Vincent High School, staffed by Dominican Sisters. “It was at St. Vincent that I gained my love of lots of things, certainly of the life of the church and the church community, of writing, literature and all the areas that the Dominicans find important: theology, scripture and philosophy.”She entered the Sisters of St. Dominic in Akron after high school along with several of her classmates. “Those were wonderful years,” said Martin, who taught in parish schools for a year in-between taking college classes. “It was a turbulent time, post Vatican II, and a lot of us ended up moving on, but we’ve stayed in touch with the community and relationships, and commitment to each other and to the community at large has always been a part of my life and my friends lives since then,” said Martin, who left the Dominicans after six years and finished her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and education at Kent State University in 1971.She got a fellowship to paint at the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Museum School, where she painted religious commentary and abstract expressionist art for a year. Hearing from her professor about an opening for a teacher at The Dalton School in New York City, she applied and was hired to teach art classes to grades 4-12, a year later also becoming the chair of the visual arts department. She continued her own education during her six years at The Dalton School, receiving a master’s in education from Columbia University, Teachers College in 1978.“I came out to California to do an MBA, which was my excuse for coming out to the good weather, and stayed ever since,” said Martin, a parishioner at St. Brendan in Los Angeles. She received her MBA in non-profit/arts management and marketing from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 1980.Martin met her husband, Kenneth Campbell, a paleontologist and curator of ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, when she was hired as general manager of the Natural History Museum Foundation in 1981, leaving that position four years later during restructuring of the County and foundation sides of the museum.“My husband and I like to travel; he is an Amazonian expert so he spends a considerable amount of time in South America,” notes Martin, whose interests outside of her own busy work schedule center on her family. The couple has two children, Christina, 21, a junior at the University of Michigan, and Nicholas, 16, a junior at Campbell Hall Episcopal School.“When the CEF job opening came across my email, I thought, ‘Wow, this is like, all financial aid all the time.’ How wonderful is that, to be able to help so many children have access to an education that they otherwise could only dream of?”—Denise Martin, executive director, Catholic Education FoundationIn the late ’80s, while doing full-time consulting work for a firm with educational and non-profit clients, Martin was approached by a local client, The Center for Early Education, to join their staff. She happily gave up work-related travel and settled in as the director of institutional advancement and external affairs for the school, serving 539 students.During her more than two decades there, Martin managed CEE’s development program, which raised more than $80 million for capital, annual and restructure purposes. “It was a wonderful environment for fund-raising,” said Martin. “We were able to raise a lot of scholarship money, some endowment and build a couple of buildings.” She was also active in educational professional organizations, including the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), for which she has served as a trustee-at-large since 2008.According to Martin, independent schools like CEE endeavor to bring in students who need financial aid. “But, you can only do so much in an independent school, because it’s not a school system, it’s just one school,” she noted. “So when the CEF job opening came across my email, I thought, ‘Wow, this is like, all financial aid all the time.’ How wonderful is that, to be able to help so many children have access to an education that they otherwise could only dream of? “That really appealed to me, so I contacted the search firm, and we talked and one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was sitting in the archbishop’s office,” laughed Martin. “In the conversation we had, I had the sense that Archbishop Gomez understands the importance and value of education, both for the church and for our society at large, and for the individuals who are attending our schools and their families.“We talked about the need for more technology in the schools, the need for different approaches to learning, such as perhaps more distance learning in places where it might be appropriate. I was very pleased at his grasp of the educational universe and what’s involved in delivering an education [which] is going to go a long way toward CEF’s ability to deliver on its mission.” She describes her new job as a blessing and an opportunity to help thousands of students. “To be able to have the impact of raising funds and being with an organization that’s serving so many students, that’s really attractive to me,” said Martin. Since CEF was founded as a charitable trust by Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1987, it has provided 132,000 tuition awards to elementary and high school students attending Catholic schools throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with $136 million in funding.“By interacting with the CEF board and staff in the time I’ve had [since being named CEF executive director], I see great opportunities for the foundation to grow” in areas such as an alumni program, noted Martin. “I think there’s great potential and promise there. And that’s going to be the future, not only of fund-raising efforts to support our schools and our students, but also to have an impact on society and to continue the life-long learning that those students started in Catholic schools [as well as] to continue the values approach to their lifestyle that they got from going to Catholic schools.“The CEF staff runs a very efficient and professional operation, and I’m just amazed that they can handle as many applications for scholarships as they do. And it’s only going to go up. The number of applicants and the number of students that need to be served is only going to rise.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0503/cefmartin/{/gallery}