Throughout her career as an LUPD officer, Lora Martin has remained an active member of the Lehigh community and received the John W. and Barbara R. Woltjen Award for her effort and dedication as an officer.
According to Lehigh’s awards page, the honor is “presented annually to a member of the nonexempt staff in the Finance and Administration area who showed commitment and dedication to Lehigh and demonstrated exceptional service to the campus community.”
Martin, who is currently also a first-generation student at DeSales University, said the values her family instilled in her while growing up helped her accomplish many of the things she has achieved in her career thus far.
“I learned a lot when I was growing up by just watching my parents,” Martin said. “I remember my dad getting ready, going to work. He sometimes even did double shifts. And he was always exhausted. My mom would take care of us. My sister is 10 years older than me so she had to grow up fast. She was taking care of me and my twin brother, and my older brother at the age of 12.”
Martin said the work ethic she learned from that environment has helped her plan to overcome otherwise complicated situations.
LUPD Detective Lieutenant David Kokinda praised officer Martin and her work ethic.
“She is a very self-motivated person and a very hard worker,” Kokinda said. “Honestly, she is the definition of what a police officer should be today. It is about educational efforts and what I can do for others. I don’t even have to say anything to her and she speaks with students and groups in the community.”
Before becoming an officer at Lehigh, Martin was unsure of her career path. Growing up, Martin wanted to serve in the military.
“I (did) things backwards,” Martin said. “My family is very old fashioned. I got married at 19 and my husband was a marine. At the time, he didn’t want me to go into the Marine Corps.”
Even after Martin divorced her husband, joining the military still seemed out of the cards. At the time, the military observed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with regards to homosexuality. Martin, who had come out following her divorce, felt deterred by the practice.
The military did eventually remove the policy, but Martin said of her decision not to enlist that she did not want to stop being who she was.
Martin struggled to figure out what she wanted to do in life and at the age of 35 decided to go to the police academy. Soon after graduating, Martin took a job at Lehigh.
When she first began her career as a Lehigh police officer, Martin was figuring out how she would implement Lehigh’s policies while staying true to herself.
“When I first got onto campus, I thought that once I put the uniform on, I had to change who I am. Then I realized, I don’t have to change anything about myself because they hired me for me,” Martin said.
After three years on the force, Martin said she began to get more comfortable and started paving her own way as an officer.
She landed a job as a crime prevention officer within the department, focusing on engaging and educating the community on crime prevention initiatives.
In 2020, Martin was awarded the John W. and Barbara R. Woltjen Award for her commitment to Lehigh and exceptional service to the campus community. She was nominated for this award by Mary Ellen Kitchen, coordinator of the Pride Center.
“I nominated Lora (Martin) because she has gone out of her way to attend Pride Center lunch and learns about different programs,” Kitchen said. “When you see a police officer do that, I think it helps break down the barriers of the ‘us and them’ and shows their humanity. I appreciate Lora coming into these spaces wanting to learn and wanting to share her vulnerability. Lora is one of the most honest people I have ever met in my life. She says what she feels in her heart. It is rare to find people like that who are willing to open up.”
As her career as an officer continues, Martin wants to become even more involved in the community and student body, especially with regards to Lehigh’s anti-racism efforts.
Martin now worries less about planning and is focused on taking things as they come.
“I take one day at a time right now,” Martin said. “Before, I used to write down all my goals, and this year one of my goals is to graduate from DeSales University.”