amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Visionaries

Name: R. Martin Chavez, Ph.D.

R. Martin Chavez

"By being successful, out, Hispanic, and committed to ending the HIV/AIDS crisis, I can lead by example," said R. Martin Chavez, a partner at Goldman Sachs and a member of amfAR’s board of trustees.

"I’m a finance professional, and I’m passionate about good governance as well as setting the right tone at the top. For all those reasons, serving on the amfAR board makes eminent good sense to me," said Chavez. Although he earned a Ph.D. in medical information sciences from Stanford, his professional direction has taken a different course. "I don’t practice medicine or basic science," he noted, "so the next best thing is sponsoring basic research as an amfAR board member and philanthropist."

The importance of giving back to your community is an idea instilled in Chavez by his parents, Rose and Raymond Chavez, children of Spanish and Mexican immigrants. "They said, ‘If you don’t have money, you give your time.’ So we always contributed to our community, particularly our local parish church," he remembered. "Then, as we came to have money, the message became, ‘Give money in addition to your time.’ I’ve been exceedingly fortunate, and keeping my peace of mind requires that I share that good fortune widely." 

"My parents are the ultimate entrepreneurs," said Chavez. "Without resources or any reasonable chance of succeeding, they set an impossible goal and then broke that goal down into milestones." By living on a shoestring, the Chavez family managed to send Marty and his four siblings first to Harvard and then to Stanford. Chavez described the family having to skimp on new clothes, vacations, Christmas presents, and dinners out, but he recalled, "All the while, we were conscious of being incredibly lucky compared to the vast majority of the human race."

Chavez FamilyAll five Chavez siblings attended Harvard, then Stanford.

At Goldman Sachs, Chavez is a leader of the Hispanic/Latin Network and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Network. Chavez never hid his sexual orientation from his coworkers, so when his CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, asked him to help organize the group, he agreed. "As one of two openly gay partners in the firm, leadership of the LGBT Network happened naturally," he remarked. 

As a Hispanic gay man, Chavez is also acutely aware of how the work he does helps his community as a whole. According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics accounted for 18 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in 2006. "We’re underrepresented in the upper echelons of Wall Street, and we’re overrepresented in new HIV/AIDS diagnoses," he said. "And subjectively, I’d say that the Hispanic community attaches greater stigma to being gay than does the community at large."

"I’m working to change those statistics, one day at a time," said Chavez. "There aren’t any magic bullets or prescriptions. We get to our goal by taking a step in the right direction, every single day."