A gift of pride and potential

With their gift, Marco Martinez ’84 and his husband Tom Styer are paying it forward for the future of LGBTQ students at Brown.

Giving back to Brown University can be deeply personal for many Brunonians. From current students to alumni to parents, each has their own reason for why they give that is uniquely theirs.

But Marco Martinez ’84 didn’t have a reason—he had two. His Brown experience was punctuated with a pair of life-altering moments that he’s unsure would have been possible anywhere else. 

The first set him on the path to a dream career. The other helped him come out himself as a gay man. When he and husband Tom Styer began thinking about their estate, Martinez knew he wanted to create a planned gift to Brown that would honor both moments.

Where he belonged

Martinez had applied to 32 schools, including other Ivy League institutions, but Brown had set itself apart as the perfect option for him. 

“Several deans from Brown called me in Bolivia welcoming me to Brown,” says Martinez. “It was such a personal touch. That really convinced me that Brown was where I belonged.”

College Hill was a long way from home for Martinez, who grew up in the city of La Paz, Bolivia. The first time he set foot on campus was as a first-year student two weeks before the start of classes. To help ease the transition to college life in a new country, Brown had invited him and several other international students to come to campus before the start of the semester.

“Brown will always be close to my heart,” says Martinez. “It was so welcoming to me as a foreigner and as a minority. There weren’t many Latin students back then, and we stood out. Despite that, I always felt part of the community and valued as an individual.”

A tale of two summers

His first year was coming to a close. He was days away from traveling to Greece for an archaeological dig with the Egyptology Department when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called. Before coming to Brown, he had—at the insistence of his parents—submitted an employment application to the IMF. Since he was just about to start his studies at Brown and had no work experience, he figured his chances were slim—even for one of the 12 internships that the IMF offered each year. Now, months later, they wanted to schedule a phone interview. 

Martinez doesn’t remember the exact details of that discussion, but he apparently impressed his interviewer. Minutes later, they called back offering him a paid internship. While a summer in Greece sounded appealing, an internship at the IMF was far more aligned with his studies in applied math.

“That was a turning point for my education, my career, my whole life,” says Martinez. “Brown was one of the key reasons why they took an interest in me and what helped me get my foot in the door.”

That summer internship would grow into a decades-long career in the statistical and economic areas at the international organization. So impressed with his work and performance, the IMF continued to bring Martinez back for contract work during his winter and summer breaks. When he graduated from Brown, he began working full-time at the IMF, where he would stay until his retirement in 2017.

One of the reasons why Brown is so dear to me is because that’s where I came out to myself. It was one of the biggest turning points in my life.

Marco Martinez ’84

A gift for the future

The other major turning point occurred during his junior year when he had one of the biggest revelations of his life.

“One of the reasons why Brown is so dear to me is because that’s where I came out to myself,” he says. “It was one of the biggest turning points in my life. Fortunately for me, my coming out was very smooth. I was able to do it without any major drama.”

Through his years of volunteering at HIV clinics and supporting LGTBQ rights in his community, Martinez knows that many others did not have a positive experience when they came out. 

“It’s still common today that high school students are getting kicked out of their homes when their family finds out that they are LGBTQ,” says Styer. “They lose their family...and with it their financial backing to go to college.”

The couple hopes that their bequest will help students caught in these challenging situations: two-thirds of their gift is earmarked to provide scholarship aid to LGBTQ students. The remainder will support the future growth of Brown’s LGBTQ Center and expanding its ability to provide resources, support, and a safe space for LGBTQ students.

For Martinez the gift is a way for him not only to thank Brown for leading him to his career and providing a safe space for him to come out, but also pay it forward for the next generation of Brunonia. They both hope that their transformational gift will inspire others to also support Brown’s LGBTQ community.

“Tom and I have been very blessed,” he says. “We have everything we need. We have a good life. It would be a wonderful thing to be able to help start someone on that path in the future. I cannot think of a better cause than helping future generations get an education at a fantastic university.”