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Why I VMI: Pablo Martinez ’90

Why I VMI: Pablo Martinez ’90

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He’s now a proud alumnus, scholarship provider, and member of the Keydet Club Board of Governors, but in fall 1986, Pablo Martinez ’90 was just a rat—and a tired and homesick one, at that. A first-generation Cuban American, Martinez described himself as “a fish out of water” when he arrived on post, recruited to VMI to play Division I football.

As Thanksgiving furlough approached, Martinez prepared for departure by giving away all his gear. He’d decided he wasn’t returning to VMI, so why not help his roommates by giving them what he wouldn’t need anymore?

Upon arrival at his Miami, Florida, home, Martinez began to tell his mother, a single parent, that he wouldn’t be returning to the Institute. It was a conversation that didn’t go well—or rather, it didn’t go anywhere at all.

“She didn’t even let me finish the sentence,” recalled Martinez, now head of the fraud investigation division for Fidelity Investments. “My mom says, ‘Your flight leaves tomorrow at 2 in the afternoon. I expect you to be on that plane. If you’re not on that plane, you’re not coming back to this house.’”

Back in Lexington, Martinez collected the gear he’d given away just the week before and buckled down to try again. Three-and-a-half years later, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and business and went to work for the U.S. Secret Service.

Today, Martinez is thankful for his mother’s tough love stance.

“[My mother] knew VMI was the right place for me,” he commented. “She knew it was something that would really benefit me in the long run, and it really has.”

It’s an approach that Martinez has adopted now that he’s a parent himself. “To this day, you know, one of the things I always say to my son is, ‘You don’t have to; you can choose to do things. But whatever you start, I do want you to finish. And so, you might not have to do it again. But you need to finish whatever you start,’” he stated.

During his 1st Class year at VMI, Martinez attended a minority career fair at the University of Virginia, and the decision to attend changed his life. The Secret Service was hiring, and because Martinez had always had an interest in law enforcement, he jumped at the chance.

“Because I spoke Spanish, they were looking for diverse agents in major metropolitan cities, Miami, New York, and [Los Angeles],” he explained.

When he was hired, Martinez was one of the service’s youngest agents, but age was never an issue because VMI had prepared him so well.

“I was assigned to work cases down in Latin America by myself with no adult supervision,” Martinez related. “So, a lot of the discipline, a lot of the tenacity, that I learned when I was here at VMI paid off for me when I was working complex investigations, or I was helping set up security plans for presidents and former presidents and other heads of state that we were responsible for.”

Martinez had also learned to be a team player in all situations. “We were a small federal agency,” he noted. “We were very dependent and reliant on other law enforcement agencies to accomplish our mission. … So, we had to rely on others to be successful. You learn a lot about that when you come to VMI because you can’t do it on your own. You need the help of your brother rats. And so, it was a direct correlation. I could apply a lot of the things, the lessons I had learned at VMI, in my career.”

Martinez spent 22 years with the Secret Service before moving on to the banking giant Citigroup, where he was head of investigations for the newly formed cybercrime division. His role at Fidelity is similar, but in addition to fraud investigation, Martinez runs the enterprise business resiliency portfolio, which has to do with business continuity and disaster recovery.

“Had I not come back to VMI, I don’t know what I’d be doing today,” Martinez stated. “I don’t think I would have had the success that I’ve had in my career without getting on that plane.”

Now that he’s in a position to give back, Martinez seeks to encourage others to get on that plane—or in the car—to return to VMI and finish what they’ve started.

“Stay the course. Battle through it,” Martinez counseled. “It’s an experience you’ll never forget once you get through it.”

Cadet Eric Weaver ’22, a defensive lineman, is this year’s beneficiary of the Keydet Club scholarship that Martinez established. During the fall 2021 season, Weaver wore the No. 0 on his jersey—an honor assigned to a player who achieves on the field, in the classroom, and as an all-around leader. Martinez and Weaver have met, and it’s a memory that Martinez cherishes.

“That was a big honor for me to be able to know that I had a little piece to play in giving someone an opportunity, the same opportunity the school gave me 30 years before,” said Martinez. “It’s awesome.”

  • Christian Heilman

    Christian Heilman Digital Content Manager

    The digital content manager is responsible for creating original video and multimedia materials, as well as developing and editing web and digital content. The manager is responsible for platform coordination and troubleshooting, to include the VMI Alumni Agencies’ primary websites, digital newsletter and other digital platforms.

    Mary Price

    Mary Price Associate Editor/Writer

    The associate editor/writer assists the editor-in-chief in various tasks relating to the production of quarterly and monthly publications, as well as prepares written materials for publication. The associate editor serves as liaison between class agents and chapter presidents and the Agencies’ publications, as well as provides backup photography for events.

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