Once homeless, Vietnam veteran turns to UCLA for a fresh start

Last week, Vietnam veteran Rick Martinez joined a group of younger veterans with disabilities at the UCLA Anderson School to develop entrepreneurial skills. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)

As a homeless Vietnam veteran in the 1980s, Rick Martinez had to seek shelter nightly — sometimes at UCLA or the grounds of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus. At one point, to get out of bad weather, he stayed warm and comfortable in the staircase at the top floor of a Holiday Inn alongside the 405 freeway.

“If anyone came, I was just going to say I was looking for the bathroom,” he recalled. “That turned out to be my home for about two months.”

The unpredictable symmetry of life was not lost on Martinez when he found himself decades later back at UCLA, this time as a participant of the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities that ran July 9-17. And the hotel the program put him up in during the course? The Hotel Angeleno — formerly the Holiday Inn.

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UCLA Advocate In Action: County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl Takes Action As a True Bruin

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has plenty of awards and memorabilia in her office, including a piece from UCLA. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)

When Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl left Hollywood behind and moved forward toward a new life of public service, she only had one institution in mind for a reboot: UCLA.

No matter what has happened in her life since being accepted to the university in the late 1950s, she has never strayed too far from connecting to the Bruins.

“I only wanted to go to UCLA,” she said. “When I was a child actor, nobody in my family had gone to college. I actually only applied to UCLA, I didn’t apply anywhere else. I was accepted with honors. And for $58 a semester, I got a full four-year, or actually as it turned out, five-year education.”

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