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From mastering a mental edge on the wrestling mat to traveling around the world on combat tours, Arizona State University alumnus Martin Sepulveda has discovered an unrelenting desire to conquer obstacles and make the world a better place.
“I don’t know what failure is,” said Sepulveda, a communication major. “When things don’t work out is that a failure? I think it’s only a failure if you don’t try.”
After attending Phoenix College, Sepulveda transferred to the university to join the Sun Devil Wrestling team. He started as a business major but switched his focus after realizing communication was a better fit for his professional goals.
“Communication was the right choice,” he said. “I liked the lateral mobility it gave me. It widened the aperture so I had a bigger choice of targets to go after.”
In 1983, Sepulveda earned a Bachelor of Science in communication from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU. Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and subsequently earned a commission to fly in the U.S. Navy.
“I like to say I didn’t fly well so I didn’t fly long,” joked Sepulveda. “But it was fun while it lasted.”
Sepulveda left active duty in 1988, but continued to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He completed seven combat tours in Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, with his last tour at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Commander Sepulveda retired from Naval Special Warfare SEAL Team 17 in May 2015.
“In my military life, I was blowing things up,” said Sepulveda. “So when you’re back in the civilian sector, it’s kind of cool not to blow things up, but to build — being part of something bigger than yourself.”
In 2000, Sepulveda founded Sepulveda Group, Inc., an Arizona-based, veteran-owned small business that specializes in commercial development, project management and renewable energy. His clients range from individual investors to Fortune 500 companies.
“When there are opportunities to participate in a development that’s going to be around for a while, it’s kind of a point of pride,” said Sepulveda, a seventh-generation Arizonan. “I want to make the place I live a better place … something that has a lot of inherent good for everybody.”
Sepulveda has also been an active member in the community. He is a former city councilman, elected twice to the Chandler City Council; president of the Chandler Historical Society; and a life member of the ASU Alumni Association and the Sun Devil Club Wrestling Inner-Circle. Most recently, he joined the Board of Directors at the Center for Political Thought and Leadership, which promotes a greater understanding of the fundamentals of freedom and liberty, the foundations of democracy, American political history and the current problems facing America.
“I didn’t limit myself,” he said. “When the opportunity comes, you have to take it. Position yourself with whatever background and resources you can and do something that really matters.”
Sepulveda has been a guest lecturer on subjects ranging from business development to leadership at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and Center for the Advancement of Small Business at the W. P. Carey School of Business. He said he credits his success to the knowledge gained from his unique experiences, including wrestling at ASU.
“Wrestling isn’t an easy sport, but it teaches you about people,” said Sepulveda. “Never underestimate an opponent or overestimate your skills. You have to figure out a plan and be ready to adjust. Never say die.”