Carrying Legacy

Commencement – a beginning and an ending.

For most students, reaching commencement is among the most joyous moments in both their academic careers and lives in general. The end of years of work and the beginning of the next chapter of their lives. And we would be remiss to forget the families who stood by their students through their academic journeys – watching them achieve their dreams is just as important to families as it is to students.

The University of Central Oklahoma’s spring 2022 commencement saw these moments, but for two Central families, commencement marked something much more personal. For these families, commencement brought forth a complicated set of emotions and the end of what their loved ones started but were not there to see finished.

Gilbert Martinez


In 1995, Ivan Martinez wasn’t thinking about college, but his father, Gilbert Martinez, may have been. Gilbert looked at his newborn son, Ivan, and saw opportunity, promise and dreamed of his future success.

Ten days later, on April 19, 1995, Gilbert, a minister, would assist a church member at the social security office on the first floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and never return home.

Ivan Martinez at his father’s memorial chair. Photo courtesy of Rosie Cheeks Photography.

Twenty-seven years later, Ivan walked across the stage to accept his MBA at Central.

“To me, earning this MBA is a tribute to my father. My dad was always a strong advocate for education in our household. He was a pastor, a teacher, a leader in the OKC Latino community and an army veteran, so he knew the importance and value a degree held,” Ivan said.

Ivan and his four siblings attended college with full scholarships from the Oklahoma City Community Foundation Survivors Education Fund. The fund was established to ensure that children affected by the OKC bombing would have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

“The fund helped us achieve the greatest achievement of being first-generation college graduates in our family. This MBA wouldn’t be possible without the Survivors Fund Scholarship, and the motivation my family gives me to continue my education. This MBA means resiliency, consistency and determination for a brighter future.”

“This one’s for you dad.”


Joe Young, Brandon’s father, receiving his posthumous

Brandon Young was the kind of young man that any parent would be proud of, often described as charming, funny, bright and kind.

He was born in Longview, Texas, in 1985, to parents Joe and Lisa. After graduating high school in 2004, he took a break from academics. Like many students, he decided to continue his education as an adult and enrolled at UCO in 2018 and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in finance. Brandon’s positive experience brought him back to Central to earn his MBA. But Brandon would never get to see his efforts come to fruition. At only 36 years old, he passed away March 19, 2022, just two months shy of commencement.

“Brandon always had clever and insightful words to share in class,” Dini Homsey, Ph.D., UCO MBA program director, said. “We could be having a deep discussion and Brandon would drop a zinger and get the whole class laughing and thinking about topics in a new way. Even in the face of challenges, he was diligent about staying connected with his faculty and making his best efforts to succeed. He will be missed by his classmates, his faculty and our MBA and College of Business team.”

On commencement day, his father, Joe, was there to carry on Brandon’s legacy. He was granted his MBA posthumously. Joe proudly walked across the stage for his son to accept the degree he worked so hard to earn.

In education, the individual effort is often emphasized. The student goes to class. They write their own papers. They take the tests. They put the work in. But anyone who has earned a degree knows that’s not entirely true. The student’s effort is almost always supported and driven by those who love them the most.

They are the ones with their students at the very beginning – and the very end. A legacy that is never forgotten.