Martha is currently the president of Medtronic, a global health care solutions company, and this month will become its chief executive officer, as longtime colleague Omar Ishrak is retiring. The former finance student credits his time at Penn State with feeding his own desire to continuously learn.
“I was already pretty motivated to get good grades, but at the end of the day, if that is your motivation – ‘I want to get an ‘A’, I want to get promoted or paid more’ – those type of goals don’t last,” Martha said. “You have to be really interested in something. The Scholars Program helped pique my curiosity in things and helped me become an active learner.”
Martha’s path to Penn State was largely influenced by hockey. He spent his final two years of high school at Culver Military Academy, where he played alongside future NHL and Olympic athletes and prepared for a rigorous academic slate in college. He spent one semester at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. But it didn’t take. Joe Battista, who was the coach of the Penn State Icers at the time and had been a counselor at Culver, encouraged him to consider Penn State, and Martha transferred midway through his first year.
The University Scholars Program – which would become the Schreyer Honors College – played a key role in Martha’s decision to transfer. He credits his advisers in the Scholars Program and his advisers in Smeal – which included one of his assistant coaches, economics professor Ray Lombra – with helping him to map out his academic goals, explore scholarship options, and push himself in and out of the classroom.
After going through GE’s Financial Management Program, Martha worked in various roles with GE Capital for 15 years, then as the managing director for business development for GE Healthcare for nearly five years. He enjoyed the switch to health care and moved to Medtronic in 2011. Martha likes that the company seeks solutions to unmet clinical needs, such as a catheter that removes blood clots from the brain and a new therapy that treats uncontrolled hypertension.
“I’m not the one inventing these therapies, but I’m in a role to help facilitate that process -- make the right investments, allocate capital to clear the way and enable our engineers and clinical scientists to invent these things -- and help our sales force globalize them into new standards of care,” he said. “That type of work is so fulfilling. I’m pinching myself that this is what I do for a living.”
Martha said he and Ishrak and the rest of Medtronic’s leadership team have been working on the transition plan since November. His initial priorities as CEO, he said, will be keeping his team and Medtronic’s stakeholders informed of any changes.
“This is a good time to take a step back. What part of the strategy needs to evolve? What needs to change?” he said. “The good news is it’s more of an evolution of the strategy, taking it to the next level, versus a complete change of strategy. I just want to make sure that we keep doing what’s working and don’t fix what’s not broken.”
Martha, who was a team captain and defenseman for the Icers, received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the program in 2016. He was recently in town for the men’s hockey team’s alumni weekend and has formed bonds with the current players and coaches. His daughter, Emily, is a Penn State student in the College of the Liberal Arts, and he is pleased to see the honors program continue to grow.
“Everybody in Medtronic and a lot of people outside of Medtronic know that I’m an ardent Penn State fan and proud alum,” Martha said. “It’s a great source of pride.”
About the Schreyer Honors College
The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total approximately 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses and represent 38 states and 28 countries. More than 14,000 scholars have graduated with honors from Penn State since 1980.