EVANSVILLE – An Evansville woman who created a mobile aid organization to help children in disaster zones and successfully lobbied the state legislature to improve the safety of mobile home residents during dangerous weather has been named the Ivy Tech Community College statewide Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.
Kathryn Martin has received extensive national acclaim for CJ’s Bus (www.cjsbus.org), A Safe Haven for Children in Disaster – named in honor of the two-year-old son she lost in the tornado that struck southwest Indiana in November, 2005. Two other members of her family were also among the 25 killed in the storm.
Ivy Tech’s highest honor for a graduate was presented to Martin by the College’s Board of Trustees and Evansville Chancellor Dan Schenk at the Terre Haute campus Thursday (Oct. 15).
Martin, who holds an Associate of Science degree in Human Services from Ivy Tech, is executive director of CJ’s Bus national foundation. CJ’s Bus is a rapid-response, self-contained mobile recreation unit designed for deployment to disaster sites nationwide. It provides a safe and enjoyable environment for children in the immediate aftermath of disasters, while their families deal with recovery needs.
What began as an old school bus Martin refurbished with the help of community volunteers is now an organization that has raised almost $300,000 for the retrofitted unit, travel costs, and toys, games and supplies for children displaced by disasters.
As citizen advocate for CJ’s Home Protection Act, Martin also pushed the Indiana General Assembly to require installation of official emergency weather radios in all new mobile and manufactured housing in Indiana. She was present for the ceremonial signing of the bill into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2007. A similar measure is under federal consideration.
Martin was awarded the Above and Beyond Congressional Medal of Honor last year and in 2007 was given the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award, considered the highest community service honor in the nation.
Recognition for CJ’s Bus and Martin also includes Oprah’s Big Gift Award, the Montel Williams Show VOICES Award, the National Weather Service’s prestigious Mark Trail Award, the Lampion Center Volunteer of the Year Award, the Jefferson Award for Public Service and the Optimist of the Year Award.
Martin has been featured in Reader’s Digest, was a People magazine “Heroes” profile subject and has appeared in USA Today and on The Early Show, the Montel Williams Show and numerous other news and interview outlets.
Since its founding, CJ’s Bus has been deployed to Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas and other sites to assist children in disaster-stricken communities.
“Kathryn is an amazing individual and we are proud to call her an Ivy Tech graduate,” said Schenk. “She has overcome many obstacles and shown true courage and dedication in both her personal and professional life. That fact that Kathryn chose to continue her education at Ivy Tech after the tragedy she faced, and now uses that knowledge to help others who are facing the same kind of crisis, is a true testament to her outstanding character.”
A panel of judges selected Martin from candidates nominated by Ivy Tech campuses around the state. Qualifications include outstanding professional achievement and a solid record of volunteer leadership and efforts. Competitors this year included government, civic and business leaders, outstanding professionals in public safety, law and education and other graduates whose success and contributions to their community attest to the quality of Ivy Tech and its alumni.
About Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech is the state’s largest public post-secondary institution and the nation’s largest singly-accredited statewide community college system with more than 130,000 students enrolled annually. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.