Inspired by a learning challenge

Posted on Monday, December 9, 2013

Commencement speaker turned adversity into prosperity

In his youth, Charles Martin Wender struggled in school. He did not read well and felt the pain of low self esteem. His mother, however, taught him how to compensate for a learning difference educators did not understand in the 1950s and 60s.

With his mother’s help, Wender – “Marty” to his friends – not only learned to cope with what became known as “dyslexia” – but to excel in the classroom. He graduated from the business honors program at the University of Texas and became one of the nation’s most accomplished developers.

“I think I’m a stronger and better person,” Wender says, “because of dyslexia.”

A well-known philanthropist with an inspiring life story, Wender served as commencement speaker when Our Lady of the Lake University confered degrees for more than 300 graduate and undergraduate students on Dec. 14 at Freeman Coliseum.

Marty and his wife, Rene, an alumna (BA Sociology 1970), have a special affinity for OLLU and its service to students on the West Side.

“My wife’s grandfather had a business on the corner of El Paso and South Zarzamora Street for many years,” Marty says. “I understand the neighborhood. We’ve watched what Our Lady of the Lake has done and how it has given students an opportunity for a college education, many of them for the first time in their family. It’s not a location where everyone in San Antonio drives by. But we’ve always seen what good it’s done for San Antonio and it’s has always held a very special place in our family’s heart.”

Marty and Rene Wender have donated generously to OLLU since 1969. After graduating from the University of Texas, Marty worked for his father-in-law’s business, Federal Lumber Co., not far from OLLU, and served as vice president. He later achieved considerable success on his own. The Real Estate Times named Marty one of the nation’s “Top 100 Developers.”

One of his best-known projects is Westover Hills, an award-winning 3,500 acre master-planned, mixed use development. Westover Hills is home to Sea World of Texas, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort Hotel, the Arthur Hill Championship Golf Course, QVC Network, Inc., and dozens of other businesses.

Over the years, Marty has used his wealth and time to serve numerous civic and charitable organizations. He is the former chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and past chairman of the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council. He is a member of the University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Texas Health Science Center Development Boards and has served on the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research.

“I’m a believer that you get out of life what you put into it,” he says. “I’ve always believed in giving -- not just money but time. Because giving money is easy. But giving time and sharing it is the real gift.”