Honors for ‘Momma Lori’


Dedication to family and community brought Lori Johnson-Vegas recognition as the 2023 National Mother of the Year from American Mothers Inc., a national nonprofit that honors the positive impact of mothers across the country. Since Johnson-Vegas ’83 Com, ’22 PhD Edu and her husband, Kevin Vegas, joined the Home Away From Home program as a host family after his retirement from active-duty military service in 2014, the couple have welcomed dozens of servicemen and -women into their home. Home Away From Home connects local families with new service members stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma; over the years, Johnson-Vegas —aka “Momma Lori”—and her husband have hosted many airmen and sailors eager for a home-cooked meal and a place to play games or watch television, or simply relax.

“These young adults decide to defend our country at 18 or 19 years old,” says Johnson-Vegas. “Once being away from home becomes a reality, it can be a struggle. We want to make sure they know they are not alone.”

Her personal experience of military life, she says, inspired the decision to become a host family. Johnson-Vegas moved around the world for decades, first as a military child—her father was in the Air Force and relocated every two years—and then as a military spouse. In between, she served in the Air Force Reserve, and she is a certified Master Resilience Trainer for the Air Force. She also mentors military spouses, serves on the boards of several military, national, and local organizations and as a youth pastor, and mentors Penn State students.

Her connection to her alma mater runs deep: As an undergraduate, she became a founding member of the Alumni Association’s Lion Ambassadors program. In 2005, established in a career in human resources, Johnson-Vegas accepted a staff position at University Park and decided to enroll in a doctoral program in workforce education and development at the university. Soon after, her husband received orders for a new assignment in Okinawa, Japan, and she put her graduate work on hold. More than a decade later, she reenrolled in the program and completed her doctorate. —Lauren Ingeno ’13 Com, ’13 Lib