Gift of Property Establishes Retreat Center

Fall Winter 2021 Issue

Thanks to a donation of property from alumna and trustee the Rev. Dr. Lois D. ’90 and her husband, Dr. Thomas J. Martin, M.D., Susquehanna University created a retreat center named in their honor, expanding SU’s campus footprint.

“We are deeply grateful for the Martins’ generous gift to the university and are honored to recognize them for all they have done for Susquehanna and its students,” says University President Jonathan Green. “Philanthropy like this enables us to realize one of our most important aspirations, which is to make the transformative Susquehanna education attainable for students. This retreat center will serve as an inspirational place for students and faculty of varying fields to study and draw inspiration from the natural world.”

The Rev. Dr. Lois D. Martin ’90 and Dr. Thomas J. Martin, M.D., Retreat Center, a 55-plus acre property in Cooper Township, Montour County, will be used as retreat space for the university’s academic and extracurricular programs, including for religious and spiritual life student clubs such as Susquehanna’s preministry club, which offers mentorship and community to students who are considering a call to ordained ministry.

Rev. Dr. Lois D. '90 and Dr. Thomas J. Martin, M.D. Rev. Dr. Lois D. ’90 and Dr. Thomas J. Martin, M.D.

“The creation of a Retreat Center for Susquehanna is an honor for us and something that we are pleased to see come to fruition,” the Martins say. “We hope the property’s natural beauty, with its pond and surrounding woodlands, will encourage the students, faculty and staff who visit there to reflect on and consider life’s questions and challenges for many years to come.”

Susquehanna’s creative writing program will make use of the property for student readings, rehearsals for choreopoem performances and for faculty members for their own writing. The pond and the ecological diversity of the property appeal to students and faculty within the biology and environmental studies departments.

“The property, with its natural attributes, gives our students a unique opportunity to conduct field research in a variety of ecological settings,” says Jack Holt, professor of biology at Susquehanna. “We look forward to discovering all it has to offer.”


Lois has said that she feels “a sense of gratitude” to Susquehanna. She was a nontraditional student and a mother of four children, one daughter still at home, when she began her college education in the 1980s. During her time as a student, her mother died and other family challenges made her education complex. During these challenges, Lois said the faculty and staff at Susquehanna supported her.

“Whenever I thought I was coming to a dead end, a way forward was made possible,” she says.

A church organist, Lois graduated Susquehanna Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Music, concentration in Organ, in 1990. She continued her education at the Colgate Rochester Divinity School and The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, receiving a Master’s Degree in Church Music, and a Master’s Degree in Divinity. She later was Ordained into the Ministry of Word and Sacrament by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She earned her Doctor of Ministry Degree at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, now United Lutheran Seminary. She serves the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America as a specially trained, Intentional Interim Minister, and has qualifications as a Spiritual Director from Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation.

During this time, Tom, a board-certified physician in Pediatrics and Sports Medicine, founded the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic, and started a Neonatal Retrieval Program at Geisinger Medical Center. As Chairman of pediatrics at Geisinger for 20 years, he was key in developing the department from five pediatricians to 80, which included the addition of many new subspecialists. He also developed the hospital’s Pediatrics and Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Programs. He was the visionary and developer behind the establishment of the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger, which was the first Children’s Hospital to be established in a rural area in the United States. He was Team Physician for Penn State football and wrestling teams for several years. He was a member of the American Board of Pediatrics and helped write the Primary Care Sports Medicine and General Pediatric Board Examinations. He was the Founding Educational Director and Assistant Chair of Pediatrics at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

Tom earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Franklin & Marshall College in 1956 and went on to earn his Medical Degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Married for nearly 30 years, the Martins are parents to a blended family of eight children, 20 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The Martins previously endowed two professorships at Susquehanna, one in Music and one in Religion. The property they gifted to Susquehanna and how it will be used reflects their lives of service and sense of giving back to others.

“The retreat center gives us enhanced space for small religious services, while the outdoor area is perfect for meaningful meditation,” says University Chaplain Scott Kershner. “We are grateful to the Martins for this gift and are humbled by the trust they have placed in us as stewards of their beautiful land.”

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