John & Mia Martin Athletic Scholarship

In April 2015, the Martin family established The John and Mia Martin Athletic Scholarship as an annual/endowed fund in the Winona State University Foundation. The purpose of the fund is to encourage and support student athletes at WSU.


1. Each recipient must be enrolled full-time and in good standing at Winona State University.
2. Each recipient must be a student entering their Junior or Senior year at WSU.
3. Each recipient must have a GPA of 2.75 or higher (4.0 = A).
4. Each recipient must be a student athlete on the Warrior football team.
5. Each recipient must demonstrate financial need; however, financial need will not be based solely on FAFSA.
6. Each recipient should demonstrate Warrior Values through leadership and strong character.


John L. Martin was head men’s swimming coach 1963-70 and 1973-74, womens swimming coach 1974-75, head football coach 1986, assistant football coach for 28 years. He also served as chair of the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Department. Author of the greatest era in Winona State University swimming history, John L. Martin coached his swimming teams to three conference championships and six top ten finishes in the NAIA national championships. His teams never suffered a losing season in dual-meet competition and two of his swimmers earned first team All-American honors. In 1977, Martin was inducted into the NAIA Swimming Hall of Fame. He also served as a member of the United States Olympic Committee, AAU Swimming Committee, Board of Directors of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and assistant U.S. team coach during the 1973 World University Games held in Moscow. Martin earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. He began his career at Winona State in 1963 and retired in 1993. Born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, John often recalled fondly delivering coal or bakery goods to earn money as a youth. Following his enlistment in the U.S. Army in 1953 where he played in the Army’s European Football League, he enrolled at Wisconsin State College in La Crosse, WI where he played center and linebacker on the football team and earned a bachelor’s degree.

In La Crosse, John met his college sweetheart and love of his life, Mia Skaar. Together they raised three daughters in Winona and recently celebrated 57 years of marriage. They enjoyed living in Salt Lake City, Utah and skiing the mountains while he earned his PhD in Health from the University of Utah.
John’s career at Winona State University began in 1963 and he retired in 1993. Known mostly as “Coach,” John loved and respected his many swimmers and football players as sons of his own, who appreciated his humor and life lessons he taught. At WSU, he served as Professor, Health Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) Department Chair, Head Swimming Coach and Assistant Football Coach.

A highlight of his coaching career was his appointment to the U.S.A. Olympic Committee for two Olympiads and was selected U.S.A. assistant coach during the 1973 World Student Games held in Moscow. John is a WSU, NAIA, NSIC and Minnesota Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame Inductee. His legacy lives on with the many former athletes honored for their Hall of Fame inductions and their success in life.

John served on the design team for Winonas Bob Welch Aquatic Center and was instrumental in ensuring the Winona facility could host competitive swim meets. John also represented WSU on the City Athletic Board where he served as President. John was honored for his service on the Westfield Golf Club Board.

John and Mia are WSU’s great football and basketball team fans. John’s favorite place was at his northern Wisconsin cabin where he could swim, boat and golf.

For many, John Martin was a mentor, father figure, motivator, a man who earned respect. For others, he was a coach, teacher, colleague and friend. One former player said, John helped us grow in ways we didnt realize we were capable of. He was a leader who treated players like sons and brought out our best. John was so proud of his former athletes and took pride in their success.

In an excerpt from Coach Martins acceptance speech at the 2014 Minnesota State Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame induction, John said In closing, I must add a quote from Vince Lombardi as it expresses how I feel tonight. You athletes made me who I am. You share this award, you share this joy in my life. For me and my family, I thank you. Johns memories were one of his most prized possessions, second only to his family, Mia, Siri, Jeni and Kristi.

You rarely think of John without Mia, his partner and true love; a team, always together, always supporting each another. The Martin family created this scholarship to honor Johns memory and lifelong legacy of supporting student athletes. John and Mias personal and professional lives were rich, filled with meaningful relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Both dedicated their careers to educating, coaching and mentoring students.

This scholarship continues John and Mias commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of students.

John & Mia Martin Athletic Scholarship
Athletics Department
Supplemental Questions
  1. Are you a student athlete on the Warriors football team?
  2. Please submit an essay describing your "Warrior Values" through leadership and strong character.