The good work of Dr. José Martinez-Diaz.

By Dr. Rick Kubina, BCBA-D | Director of Research

Friday, October 16, 2020

On September 21, 2020, the field of behavior analysis lost a tremendous member – Dr. José Martinez-Diaz. Influential organizations quickly recognized his passing and wrote about the influence José had on them during his life. The BACB thanked him for his service and commented on his “big heart.” The company José founded, ABA Technologies, Inc. shared all of his wonderful accomplishments across a long and productive career. Across social media, tributes poured out by people directly or indirectly touched by a lecture, course, presentation, or interaction with José.

Like so many others, I have the great fortune to tell others about my history with José. I first came to Penn State in 2000. Back then, Penn State had one of the few online programs delivering distance education. As part of the course sequence, students had to visit campus in the summer for a residency. The residence lasted for a week, and we brought in luminaries of the field — such as José. 

When I first met José all those years ago, along with his son Brandon, I immediately had a new ally. José had such vast knowledge of the field, and when he learned of my Precision Teaching specialization, we started swapping stories. Every summer, José would come to Penn State, and I would have the opportunity to listen to his lectures and just hang out. And what amazing stories he had! Some readers will know a few of his well-known tales. The emotion he displayed had a profound effect on those listening to his stories. José cared about behavior analysis, and most importantly, the people served by the science of behavior.

When news of José’s death became public, everyone took notice and started a period of mourning and reflection. I had an opportunity to talk to one of my good CentralReach colleagues, Todd Strong. Todd also had the good fortune of working with José at the very beginning of his time at the Florida Institute of Technology, and his story reveals even more about José’s character and work ethic. 

Back in 1998, Todd moved from the engineering program to psychology — a seemingly drastic change. It was because of a presentation on data by a charismatic speaker named Dr. Martinez-Diaz. Todd began auditing courses, and soon thereafter, José offered him an internship. As Todd noted, the rest was history. José saw in Todd what makes for a good behavior analyst: problem solving, appreciation of data, strong data analytical skills, and a concern for fellow humans. Todd spoke warmly about how José would take him and other grad students out for dinner to socialize and, of course, talk shop. And José knew behavioral talk so well because he lived his life as a behavior analyst — he truly practiced what he preached.

Losing a good friend and colleague like José leads to grief, sorrow, and longing. But loss also involves fond remembrances of good times, self-appraisal of how we have changed due to the fortune of having had a meaningful relationship, and gratitude for the wonderful person who enriched our life.

About the Author

Dr. Rick Kubina, BCBA-D
CentralReach Director of Research

Richard M. Kubina Jr., Ph.D., BCBA-D is a Professor of Special Education at The Pennsylvania State University and teaches courses on methods for teaching reading, behavior analysis, and experimental design. Rick graduated from Youngstown State University where he had Steve Graf as an advisor and then received a Masters and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University under John Cooper.

Rick conducts wide-ranging research in the area of Applied Behavior Analysis and Precision Teaching. He also served as the editor of the Journal of Precision Teaching and Celeration. He has dedicated his professional career to helping behavior change agents such as teachers, behavior analysts, and other helping professionals efficiently change behavior through effective teaching and measurement such as Precision Teaching. Rick co-founded a software called Chartlytics. Chartlytics merged with CentralReach where Rick has assumed the role of Director of Research.

At CentralReach, Rick explores how technology can accelerate superior outcomes for all those seeking to engender professional and personal success.

Read more of Dr. Kubina’s publications.