International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Refugee Journeys: Roman Martinez IV - Cuba, 1960

"The United States provides opportunity like no other country. The IRC is the mechanism that allows people who are homeless -— people who’ve lost their home for one reason or another -- to have a second chance at a new life. I’m very proud to be an American by choice. And when I see other refugees that have taken advantage of what this country offers, I feel a sense of pride."

–Roman Martinez IV

Roman and Roberto Martinez were born in Santiago, Cuba. During their childhood, Cuba’s authoritarian government was challenged by the violent revolutionary movement led by Fidel Castro. In 1959, Castro finally seized power and began executing opponents by the hundreds. When the regime started indoctrinating schoolchildren, the brothers’ parents decided it was time to flee. Leaving behind their home in Santiago and the family insurance business, they stuffed all they could fit into the family car and traveled to florida via the Key West–Havana car ferry, which Castro soon shut down. In July 1960, Roman and Roberto moved with their parents into a small apartment in Miami Beach. Roman was twelve years old; Roberto was seven.

Their father was able to continue serving his international insurance clients, and the family prospered in their new surroundings. Roman was sent to a Jesuit boarding school in Massachusetts. In 1969, he graduated magna cum laude from Boston college, where he played varsity soccer and baseball. He later earned an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Martinez joined Kuhn Loeb & co. and became a partner of Lehman Brothers in 1978, the year after Kuhn Loeb and Lehman merged. He enjoyed a 31-year investment banking career, retiring from Lehman in may 2003. He was involved in a broad spectrum of U.S. and international investment banking activities covering financial, mergers and acquisitions, and restructuring advisory assignments as well as financing transactions for governments and corporations. In addition to client responsibilities, during the late 1980s and early 1990s he held senior investment banking management positions at Lehman.

Currently an International Rescue Committee overseer, Roman joined the IRC’s Board of Directors in 1996 and is a past chair of both the audit and finance committees. He has been actively involved with the Investment committee, which he assisted in forming. He serves on the boards of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Now a private investor, Martinez serves on the board of directors of Alliant Techsystems Inc., Bacardi limited, and Cigna corporation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Roman Martinez is one of 10 distinguished refugees who were honored by the International Rescue Committee at our 2010 Freedom Award Dinner in New York City.  Check back each Monday for a new story of a refugee who has fled tyranny and persecution and who has made the most of the opportunity to begin again and thrive in the U.S.   You can see all of the stories posted so far here.

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