Kyle Martz '07 was a study in contrasts.
Funny and macabre. Grumpy and delightful. Cheerful and positive and cynical. Straightforward, but never needlessly harsh. Unapologetically inappropriate at times in his humor, but never vulgar or cruel.
In other words, he was authentically Kyle.
He was nobody other than himself, so comfortable in his own skin that he made you comfortable in yours.
The Whitman College community mourns the loss of Martz, the victim of a homicide on July 8, 2019. Since 2015, Martz had served as the college's international student and scholar advisor. In this role, Martz assisted current and prospective international students and alumni with the logistics of attending college in the United States — everything from giving guidance on visa paperwork to assisting with tax returns post-graduation.
"There aren't words to express the sadness everyone in the Whitman community feels about losing Kyle," said President Kathleen M. Murray. "He was loved and trusted by students, faculty and staff alike. He worked selflessly to make our international students feel welcomed and at a home in Walla Walla. His dedication and commitment to others, his kindness and humor only serve to highlight the depth of this tragedy."
Originally from Newport, Oregon, Martz graduated from Whitman in 2007 with degrees in German Studies and Gender Studies. In high school, he traveled to Germany in 2002 as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student. As a senior at Whitman, he was awarded a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant scholarship from the Fulbright Commission to teach English as a second language in Germany. In his application, Martz said his plan was to use "cultural 'points of orientation,' such as classic and contemporary literature, film and music to compare and contrast cultures" and help German students better understand U.S. culture. He also was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
As a student Martz received the David Nord award, which supports projects that address critical issues facing queer communities. In fall 2006, he was awarded a Sally Ann Abshire Research Scholar Award to work with Gender Studies Professor Robert Tobin.
As a student, he was a member of the Coalition Against Homophobia. While studying abroad in Germany, Martz interned at Schwulen Beratung Berlin, a counseling and human services center for gay men. At the center, Martz spent four months interning in the geriatrics and HIV/AIDS prevention departments.
In Walla Walla, he worked with the Walla Walla Diversity Coalition to support programming and events to support multiculturalism. He served as secretary of Community Pride Walla Walla. He also was a member of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition.
After returning from Germany in 2011, Martz worked as an international admissions assistant for Oregon State University in Corvallis and a preschool teacher in Newport, Oregon, before returning to Whitman as the supervisor and program assistant for the Glover Alston Center in 2012.
As a mentor, advocate and friend for international students and LGBTQIA+ students, Martz touched countless lives.
Martz is survived by his mother, Lesley Greiner; stepfather Mark Greiner; a sister, McKenzie Hall and her husband Caleb Hall; and a brother, Kenneth Martz, and his fiancee Joanna Finley. He was preceded in death by his father, Kenneth Martz.
The college held a candlelight vigil to remember Martz on July 9, 2019. A campuswide memorial service will be organized at the beginning of the fall semester.
Students, faculty, staff and alumni who would like to share memories of Martz can send them to Jennifer Casper in the Office of the President, where they will be collected and shared with his family. Memories can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Jennifer Casper, Office of the President, 345 Boyer Ave., Walla Walla, WA 99362.
Whitman College is establishing a scholarship fund for international students in Martz's name. Those interested in making a memorial donation can do so online, or call the Office of Annual Giving at 509-527-5189.