Financial literacy starts with a Georgia State donor who likes to bake

For 40 years, David Martin has practiced the art of unrestricted giving while helping Georgia students learn how money works. His calling card: banana bread.

For four decades, the Georgia Council for Economic Education – based at Georgia State University – has helped students across the state learn how money works.

Over that span, executive director David V. Martin has strengthened his personal belief that dollars and cents are currency for building relationships and reflecting values.

Just like the students across the state who strategically invest imaginary dollars to win the council’s popular Stock Market Game, Martin (Ph.D., 1981) is mindful when sharing his real money.

At GSU, also the alma mater of his wife, Lynn Dee Martin (B.M., 1978), and son Seth (J.D., 2006), Martin gives to the GSU Fund – money that the university may use for students with financial need.

“Unrestricted giving says, ‘I have complete faith that you will use this in the best way that you see fit,’” he said. “I know as a fundraiser, we are reporting more funding for specific purposes. Donors want to control what happens. When we receive a check for unrestricted funding, that’s a message of trust in our stewardship.”

In charge of raising and managing the council’s $1.1 million annual budget, Martin first learned about the council as a shy high school teacher attending a workshop at GSU in 1976. He became its first full-time director in 1982.

His job made him an apprentice of sorts to people who shaped Atlanta, such as bankers Bennett Brown and Mills B. Lane Jr. From them, he learned how to network among GSU alumni and friends, as well as Georgia’s business and banking elite who both donate and help solicit donors. The 1982 budget of $100,000 has multiplied tenfold.

“So much of fund-raising is about relationship-giving,” Martin said. He makes a point of attending events that are significant to his donors, even if the events have no link to economics.

Martin knows that money is only one resource for supporting what he believes is important. His time and talents are assets he also taps, especially on Friday nights. That’s when he bakes batches of banana bread as gifts to people, including strangers, who he sees as needing a sweet sign that someone cares.

The banana bread tradition rose from the same value of generosity and belief in the multiplier effect, which is an economic principle taught through the council’s curricula. It states that the more money a bank lends the more profit it can make. For Martin, that means that the more banana bread he can give away, the more others will feel connected and give to others.

“If I leave banana bread, they know Dr. Dave was here,” he said.

In his Park Place quarters on the GSU campus, Martin’s office is filled with references to the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which a banker discovers the rich rewards of sacrifices he took for granted. A coworker even had an apron embroidered with those four words, for Martin to wear when he makes banana bread.

The council reaches out from GSU into almost every public school system, offering Georgia teachers free  workshops and curricula – even paying for the substitute teachers.

Over the decades, that investment in each teacher has rippled into their students. The impact is measurable: a recent study of 180,000 scores of the state-mandated high school economics End of Course Test found that students of GCEE-supported teachers tested higher than those without that opportunity.

“A typical economics teacher has 200 students a year, so over five years, that’s 1,000 students,” Martin said. “It compounds over time. That’s the multiplier effect.”

More than a million Georgia schoolchildren have taken part in the Stock Market Game since 1980. Earlier this month, the council awarded prizes to the top teams for the most recent academic year, including a tall winner’s trophy crowned with a bull and bear. The competition exposed them to potential jobs in the financial sector.

“I will give the bank a heads-up that talented kids are coming their way,” Cecelie Goodman (M.A., 2000), community relations manager at Bank of America, told the teams. “We believe in the good things that the Georgia Council is doing, which is why we support them. It makes sense for us to do that.”

The main theme for the event was furthering education by learning and respecting how cash works.

“A lot of my money the next few years is going to my education,” said Stephanie Parris of Parkview High School in Gwinnett County, one of the state winners. “I want to make it last as long as I can.”

Her team’s advisor, Mark Leviton (M. Ed., 1985; Ed.S., 1988), has used the Stock Market Game since the 1980s, when participants used computer punch cards to play. His teams have won six state titles.

“One mission of my economics class is to be an educated consumer – to be financially literate – and this is excellent for them to see that by investing, they can provide for themselves in the future,” Leviton said.

The team advisor from New Manchester High School in Douglas County had a unique view into the multiplier effect, both personally and as a teacher.

Josh Martin, who teaches Advanced Placement Economics, is the son of David Martin. His economics education, naturally, began at home by example and practice.

“From the time we were small children, our father instilled in us the value of money; not just as a tool to buy but as a gift we should use to help others,” Josh Martin said. “Dad always made sure we had some money to tithe to our Sunday school class, even if it meant giving just a few cents from our piggy bank.”

Now, with the council curricula, Josh Martin’s education spreads to his classroom.

“I try to pass on to my students the value of money and the power it has to help people,” Josh Martin said. “When teaching fiscal responsibility and how to make a budget, we include a percentage of income that goes towards giving, whether it be to a church, charity, or community.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors (404) 413-3424


David Martin’s Special Recipe Banana Bread

1 cup canola oil

2 cups sugar

6 bananas, mashed

4 eggs

4 cups flour

1 cup milk

2 tbsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. vanilla

pinch of salt

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oil and sugar. Blend in remaining ingredients. Divide into three regular loaf pans that have been sprayed with cooking oil. Bake 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.