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Oral History

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Born to a storekeeper’s family in the early 1950s, Maria Martinez had a typical middle-class childhood in Cuba until Fidel Castro’s revolution swept over the island. In 1962, sponsored by the Catholic Welfare Bureau of Miami and the US Department of the State, Maria and her two sisters were able to leave Cuba as a part of Operation Pedro Pan that helped more than 14,000 Cuban children relocate to the United States. Her parents jointed them five years later.

After graduating from the Notre Dame High School in PA, Maria attended the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales, where she earned her BA in 1974. She first worked as an undercover Code Enforcement Officer and Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and then a Personnel Associate at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. She rose to become the Employment Service Manager while earning her Master from Lehigh. After ten years of service, Maria was named Rollins’ Director of Personnel Services in 1988.

At Rollins, Maria was primarily responsible for managing and coordinating non-academic recruitment and employment, wage and salary administration, employee benefits, personnel policies and procedures, equal employment, employee relations, staff training and development and grievance process. Under her leadership, the Human Resource at Rollins College has been transformed to better serve the need of the academic community. Years later, Maria has added duties of risk management, property and liability insurances, and legal matters when she became the College’s Associate Vice President for HR and Risk Management.

Maria has been a trailblazer all her life. She was among the first group of minority code enforcement officers in Pennsylvania, and the first female senior administrator of Hispanic heritage at Rollins. She was recently named among Top 25 Influential Hispanics in Central Florida by Vision Magazine in 2015, and one of 33 Inspiring Women of Rollins by readers of Rollins360 in 2016.