Diana Martinez, biology major at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), received the Peter Small Memorial Scholarship Award during university convocation. The award is given annually to an NJIT student who exemplifies the life of Peter S. Small, a late NJIT student who was known for hard work, academic excellence and a generous spirit.
The scholarship provides Martinez, of Dover, with one year’s paid tuition.
In awarding the scholarship to Martinez, Joel Bloom, vice president for academic and student services, gave a brief biography of Small. He was one of nine children who enrolled at NJIT in 1975, Bloom said. Prior to NJIT, Small had finished a home-study computer programming course, and he worked briefly as a programmer in his hometown, Kingston, Jamaica, saving enough to pay for university.
At NJIT, Small’s maturity and academic ability, along with his quiet yet friendly manner, made him a valued tutor for NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program, which helps minority and disadvantaged students earn college degrees, Bloom said. Small worked two jobs to pay for his NJIT tuition.
“But in May of 1979, while playing soccer with fellow students on the campus green,” Small died,” said Bloom. “His death came at the end of a semester during which he was trying to complete seven courses so that he could graduate that year. It is Small’s commitment to excellence and service that we honor through this named scholarship.”
Martinez, who personifies the essence of Small’s life, transferred to NJIT from the County College of Morris, said Bloom. She made an immediate impression on NJIT faculty and staff. She was one of six students accepted into the Undergraduate Biology Training Program, where students spend the summer doing full-time research. She spent long hours in the lab, excelled academically and more recently has begun taking graduate courses, he said. She also tutors fellow students and participates in student government.
“Diana’s mother, who died recently, taught her to put your heart and soul into what you do,” said Bloom. “Diana has struggled to put herself through school to make a better life for herself and her family. And she is exceptional in that she also acts as primary caregiver for her seriously ill father. She is accepting the award in memory of her mother, so it’s a special honor to award Diana with the Peter Small Memorial Scholarship Award.”