Martin Salinas,’94 credits his family for his personal success. “My parents were first-generation U.S. citizens,” said Salinas, who grew up near Harlingen, Texas. “Their parents encouraged them to go to school and get an education. They instituted the ethics and values that my parents instilled in me.”
Uprooting their families from Mexico, his grandfathers moved to South Texas to do what was best for the family. “They were our pillars,” he said. “They worked through their 60s and never once complained.”
In honor of his grandfathers, he and his wife, Rebecca, ’00, MA ’11 established the Jesus Rodriguez and Lorenzo Salinas Endowed Fellowship in 2010. The scholarship provides need-based support for students pursuing the master of accountancy degree. Last year the Salinas’ endowed the scholarship with a $250,000 gift, which was matched to create a $500,000 endowment. The scholarship will now support four to six students in perpetuity.
“This was personal to me,” said Salinas, who majored in accounting. “I wanted to share our good fortune with others and give them an opportunity. I view it as an investment.”
Salinas definitely knows a good investment when he sees it. As the chief financial officer (CFO) of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), Salinas has seen ETP’s assets grow by 400% to over $40 billion since he was named CFO in 2008.
ETP owns and operates one of the largest and most diversified portfolios of energy assets in the United States with approximately 56,000 miles of natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products and crude oil pipelines.
Salinas joined ETP in 2004 as controller after a 10-year career in public accounting with KPMG. But, when the CFO position became open, he saw an opportunity and went for it.
“It was like drinking out of a fire hose,” said Salinas, who supports an internship program at ETP for UTSA accounting students. “There was a steep learning curve, but the leadership was supportive, and they helped me with the transition.”
As controller, his focus was on closing the books and ensuring that the firm’s records were complete and accurate. As CFO, Salinas’ days and nights are focused on entrepreneurial financial issues such as ensuring access to capital and credit lines and reviewing merger and acquisition targets.
“I’m fortunate to be in a company that is very acquisitive and willing to take calculated risks,” said Salinas, who is a member of the college’s Advisory Council. “We’ve done five to six acquisitions at almost $20 billion in worth since 2010.”
Shuttling back and forth between ETP’s Dallas headquarters and their San Antonio office, Salinas still makes family a priority. “Every week I review my schedule with my family so I can plan around personal commitments.”
Reflecting on the excitement of the job, Salinas notes that he enjoys not knowing what the day might hold for him. And, as a self-proclaimed people person, he likes to wander around the office and make sure his staff are having fun.
“I don’t wear my title on my sleeve,” he said. “I have a great team here, and I treat everyone with respect.”
Salinas didn’t always dream of being an accountant. Before transferring to UTSA, he played point guard at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene for one year before realizing that basketball wasn’t going to pay the bills. He came to UTSA because of its strong accounting program.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Salinas decided to be an accountant. “My dad has always been my role model.
“By being an accountant it afforded him the opportunity to provide for his family and the flexibility to have a true work/life balance,” said Salinas.
Attending UTSA in the ’90s, Salinas remembers classes with accounting faculty members Ted Skekel, Sandy Welch and Cheryl Linthicum. One class he will never forget was an income tax class with Lou Curry.
“I got an F on the first test and was devastated,” he said. “I went to talk to her and told her that this was not me. She instructed me to work hard, and I did.” Salinas prevailed and finished the semester with an A.
“I shared that story with my daughter, Maira,” he said. “It is not how you start, but how you finish.”
Finishing strongly, Salinas was named the 2014 Outstanding UTSA Accounting Alumnus. He was honored for his professional accomplishments in the field of accounting, his continued support of the college’s Department of Accounting and his service to the community.
“My experience at UTSA was great,” he said. “Professors took an interest in my work and in me personally. The fact that I still maintain contact with them is a testament.”
Salinas’ family are loyal Roadrunners as well. His wife received her degrees in education, and his daughter, Maira, ’12, received her degree in accounting. She is following family tradition as an auditor at KPMG.
This fall Salinas can be found in Lot C of the Alamodome parking lot tailgating before the UTSA football games. An avid fan, he tailgates with his former professor Ted Skekel.
“The great thing is that it is a family event,” said Salinas, who has a UTSA football schedule proudly displayed in his office. “We all get excited. My daughter and I are already making plans for the weeknight games this year.”
When asked to provide advice for students today, Salinas encourages students to have the willingness to get out of their comfort zones and try new things. “When the CFO opportunity came up, I went in and asked for it,” he said.
He also notes the importance of learning new skills. Early in his career at KPMG he was asked to attend meetings when they needed someone to speak Spanish. Although he spoke fluent Spanish, he had never learned proper business terminology. “I quickly taught myself business Spanish, and that skill set gave me an edge,” said Salinas.
Salinas relishes his work and plans to remain with ETP until he retires. He jokes that he does not plan on leaving until he becomes a grandfather.
“I would love to come back and teach at UTSA someday,” he said. “In the classroom I can give back to UTSA by helping educate future business leaders.”
Proud of his family and Roadrunner heritage, Salinas considers himself blessed. “I give thanks to UTSA for giving me the foundation to succeed. I’m honored to give back in time, effort and financing to keep bettering the school.”