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Faculty Spotlight: Marvin Karlins Pens Autobiography of Tampa Philanthropist

By Keith Morelli

Paying It Backward Cover

TAMPA (October 11, 2019) -- With dozens of books having passed through his keyboard and into publication, Marvin Karlins, a professor in the Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department at the Muma College of Business, is most jazzed about this one.

“Paying it Backward: How a Childhood of Poverty and Abuse Fueled a Life of Gratitude and Philanthropy” is due out March 10 and chronicles the life of Tony March, who grew up in a poverty stricken part of Daytona Beach and ended up owning nearly two dozen car dealerships across the nation, making hundreds of millions of dollars along the way. Interesting footnote: After finishing his newspaper route as a kid, he would stop into a car dealership in Daytona Beach to sneak a drink of cold water. Often, he would be chased out by a car salesman. Years later, March purchased the dealership.

March has spent the past several years volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries’ kitchen, putting in 20 hours a week, every week, preparing off-site meals, serving the homeless; just being happy to help. And poker, he likes to play poker, took it up a few years ago.

“That’s where I met him,” said Karlins, himself an accomplished poker player, “in the poker room at Derby Lane.” Turns out March is as successful with cards as he was with cars.  He has competed in poker tournaments worldwide and donates all his winnings to charity, $250,000 so far, with more certain to come.

 “This is a story America should be hearing these days,” Karlins said. “At a time when our country is struggling to come together as a nation, Tony’s story reminds us of the timeless values that American stands for.  It is a reminder of the goodness that resides in us and captures the spirit of America as a nation known for its generosity.  Tony’s story cuts across political and social divides and unites people by satisfying their need to hear good news when they wake up in the morning.”

Karlins is no stranger to the world of publishing. His book, "The Like Switch," co-authored with former FBI Special Agent Jack Schafer, is a handbook filled with strategies on how to develop positive interpersonal and business relationships.

Karlins also collaborated with another former FBI agent, Joe Navarro, on two books: "Read 'Em and Reap," a guide on how to pick up poker "tells" at the gaming table and the No. 1 international best-selling book on non-verbal communication, entitled "What Every BODY is Saying." That book has been published in 17 languages and was on the best seller lists for months when first published in 2008.

When he’s not slumped over a keyboard, Karlins teaches behavior-oriented courses in psychology and management, emphasizing personal growth and interpersonal effectiveness.

“Paying It Backward” almost didn’t get written, Karlins said. “Tony is a very private person and didn’t want public recognition for his charitable service.  He was finally convinced to tell his story when several of his friends said it would encourage others to give of their time, talent and money to the less fortunate.”

Working together on the book was a labor of love for both March and Karlins.

“This isn’t really outside my wheelhouse,” said Karlins. “It’s just a great story. There are a lot of rags-to-riches stories out there, but not a lot of rags-to-riches-and-then-return-it-all-to-the-people stories.”

Just how much longer can Karlin’s keyboard keep churning out words?

“This probably will be the last book I publish,” he said. “Well, maybe one more.”