After 40 years as a successful barber in Santa Ana, California Ruebén Martinez, moved by a passion for reading and a concern for the lack of readers in the United States, founded a small business, Martinez Books and Art Gallery, out of his barbershop. Although his bookstore was also very successful, Martinez was motivated by something much more meaningful than his own success: the power of the book. His bookstore became a place where students and non-students could be encouraged and empowered to read and pursue higher education. It also became a nucleus for cultural community. His sphere of influence and activity has grown immensely, and continues to expand nationally. Martinez co-founded the Latino Book and Family Festival, which travels to several American cities each year, motivating Spanish-speaking people to read. He has been featured on PBS, and was awarded the prestigious MacAurthur Fellowship in 2004 for his support of underserved populations.
Ruebén Martinez has been designated a Presidential Fellow of Chapman University, and resides in the College of Educational Studies. As a Chapman-designated spokesperson for encouraging Latinos to pursue higher education, particularly in the areas of math and science, Martinez is a wonderful ambassador for encouraging students to pursue teaching credentials in these high-demand areas.