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Dynamics beyond the sidelines

More Than a Game
Monday, April 11, 2005
By Ron Cherubini


Tolleys ensure that Martinez' impact will endure


Former East Carolina educator and national champion swimming coach Dr. Ray H. Martinez, flanked by former Pirate football star Jerry Tolley and wife Joanie Tolley, who have underwritten an annual teaching award in Martinez' name. (Photo: Contributed by East Carolina University College of Health & Human Performance)

When you talk to former athletes from East Carolina University, sooner or later the name of Dr. Ray H. Martinez will come up.

An educator and a coach at East Carolina for years, Martinez had the ability to connect with student-athletes and they loved him for it.

One of those student-athletes, outstanding Stasavich-era wingback Jerry Tolley, wanted to ensure that Dr. Martinez understood the impact he had on not only his life, but on all the lives that the now-retired educator touched through East Carolina athletics.

Tolley and his wife Joanie recently funded a mechanism that will provide for an annual Teaching Excellence Award for the College of Health and Human Performance. The award will be made in the name of Dr. Ray H. Martinez.

“What Jerry and Joanie did was to set up an endowment over a five-year period,” said Department Director of Development Greg Abeyounis . “It will be used to fund the Dr. Ray H. Martinez College of Health and Human Performance Teaching Excellence Award.

"The faculty at the college are extremely excited about the award and are very thrilled that the Tolleys have that type of generosity. Of course, they are both educators, which makes it that much more meaningful that they wanted to help other educators.”

The award will be given annually at the Spring Faculty Assembly in the form of a $500 professional development stipend to an outstanding faculty member who displays excellence in academics and teaching as chosen by the Dr. Ray H. Martinez Awards Selection Committee.

A plaque has been purchased and hung within the college to recognize the annual winners of this prestigious new award.

Martinez, who has retired and lives in Greenville, was renowned for his love of and dedication to the sport of swimming and for his teaching prowess, particularly in the area of Kinesiology.

As East Carolina’s swim coach, he coached the Pirates to the NAIA National Championship in 1957, the school's first national team title in any sport.

Martinez was also actively involved in the community, starting up The Greenville Swim Club with the help of the swim coach from Rose High School in 1961.

“Dr. Martinez was very excited, shocked and flattered about this award,” Abeyounis said. “He was very humbled and he has told his colleagues that he hopes to be here every year when the award is given out.”

The College of Health and Human Performance consists of three academic units: Recreation & Leisure, Health Education & Promotion and Exercise & Sports Science. The College has a faculty of approximately 100 whose focus is to advance and disseminate knowledge concerning maintenance and enhancement of health, physical performance and quality of life.

Tolley and his wife were looking for a different way to give back to the school and he felt that this route would be perfect, given his affection for Martinez.

“Dr. Martinez was really a favorite (educator) of Pirate athletes,” Tolley said. “We’re very excited about this.”

Abeyounis said that the establishment of an endowment for a teaching excellence award is a creative way to honor faculty members and the profession of teaching.

“Jerry and Jonie had been thinking of a way to honor Dr. Martinez and the college in general,” Abeyounis said. “They put a lot of thought into this and we are thrilled about it.”

Anyone interested in contributing to this endowment or starting a similar endowment should contact Greg Abeyounis, Director of Development for the College of Health and Human Performance, at 252-328-4662 or email at

Moreover, anyone interested in contributing to a number of ongoing, less-publicized endowments — like the Clarence Stasavich or John Welborn endowments — should call Dennis Young, Pirate Club Director, at 252-328-4540 or email him at

Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.

Click here to dig into Ron Cherubini's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 02:05:41 PM

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