Sashimi with a side of warm sake, good conversation, and a belly full of laughs — that was the life anthem of Dr. Jose Martinez-Diaz. Jose was no stranger to enjoying the company of family and colleagues while eating “family style” and discussing the world and his two deep interests: behavior analysis and music. On Sept. 21, 2020, Jose gave his final sign-off on a beautiful life that was filled with a passion for improving the quality of people’s lives.
Dr. Martinez-Diaz, born Sept. 7, 1950, spent his formative years in Cienfuegos, Cuba, witnessing the societal devastation of Castro’s revolution that would cause family hardships. He and his sister immigrated to Miami in 1961 and were later joined by their parents. Jose studied psychology at the University of Miami and went on to pursue an MA and PhD in clinical psychology (behavior analysis and therapy) at West Virginia University.
Jose founded ABA Technologies in 1992 (incorporated in 1997) to provide clinical services for people with disabilities. Later, he focused the company’s efforts on training new behavior analysts. He was instrumental in the founding of the School of Behavior Analysis (SoBA) at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla., in 2013. For two decades, he taught at FIT and chaired the Melbourne-campus program. He left his post in December 2018, but continued to teach until May 2020. The Florida Tech program has grown in size and degree offerings over the last two decades and has become internationally recognized as a center for excellence in behavior analytic training. In 2013, Jose was named Associate Dean at the College of Psychology and Liberal Arts, and in 2019 he was given the title of distinguished professor. Beyond the on-campus program, Jose’s dissemination efforts reached an international audience through his partnership with the Florida Tech ABA Online program. Tens of thousands of behavior analysts have been trained through the online program.
Jose paved the path toward professional credentialing. He served as president of the Florida Association of Behavior Analysis from 2002-2003. He also helped advance behavior analysis as a member of the Behavior Analysis Peer Review Committee and Behavior Analysis Certification Committee in Florida. Jose served on the board of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (2011-2015), the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2004-2011) and the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. The Charles H. Cox Award for Outstanding Service and Advancement of Behavior Analysis in Florida (2005), Provost’s Academic Leadership Award (2005), the Jerry Shook Award (2018), and the Best Faculty Member from Florida Tech’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services (2019) were awarded him. In 2019, WVU honored his remarkable achievements as recipient of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Alumni Award.
Jose leaves behind his wife, Danette Onstott, and three sons and two daughters-in-law: Brandon (Chanáe), of Greenville, S.C., Joshua (Bria), of Melbourne, Fla., and John Michael, of Melbourne, Fla.. He is also survived by his sister, Grace Padron; nephews, Leonard Padron and Jim Padron; and nieces, Anne Elson and Cristina Padron Toffoli. People around the world have honored Jose by wearing tropical shirts, eating sashimi, enjoying music, and reconnecting with what they do and why it matters so much. If you met Jose — either in person or online — then you probably have a Jose story. Please feel free to share your story with his family at firstname.lastname@example.org. Virtual memorial services are being planned, as are in-person celebrations at a later date.