Born in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Seipel joined the U.S. Air Force shortly after high school. His parents could not afford to send him to college. While stationed for three years in Ohio, Seipel took night classes at Wittenberg University, but it wasn’t till he joined students at New Mexico State University’s Alamogordo campus, that his future began to take shape.
“I came in with way too many interests and I wasn’t focused on any single one,” Seipel said. “Thanks to NMSU, before long I had a purpose to try to qualify to go to school full time with the Air Force Institute of Technology scholarship where I would get a degree and come out an Air Force Officer.”
Seipel’s transfer to Holloman Air Force Base changed his life in other ways. He fell in love – with New Mexico and his wife Sue. The couple has been married for 53 years.
“By going to New Mexico, it was like going to a candy store for a kid that has never been out of the Midwest,” he said. “It was great food, I loved the people, I loved the pace of life, I loved that I didn’t have to shovel 18 inches of snow off my driveway.”
With the support of NMSU professors and staff, Seipel completed his preliminary subjects and raised his GPA to receive the Air Force Institute Technology scholarship. With his scholarship, Seipel went on to pursue his bachelor’s degree in geodesy at The Ohio State University and later received his master of science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California.
Seipel retired after 20 years of holding various positions in the U.S. Air Force, including weapons maintenance, weapons development and geodetic science. For the next 24 years, Seipel joined TRW & Northrop Grumman as an engineer and manager inside the intercontinental ballistic missile test and defense department. While there, Seipel lead development teams for the ICBM hardware and software, upgrades and satellite systems testing.
Recently, Seipel joined the Apogean Group, LLC, as the subject matter expert supporting systems engineering design for a new solid booster launch vehicle while mentoring young engineers via tutorials and task peer reviews. All the while, giving back to NMSU in any way possible.
Although Seipel didn’t graduate from NMSU, he still considers himself an Aggie at heart. He has supported students and programs in the Department of Mathematics and engineering as well as the Tortugas Mountain Observatory renovation fund. In addition, he established the Gary Seipel current use fund in 2017 to support and enable the Department of Astronomy’s efforts to expose students to astronomy techniques and research.
“Even though I'm not an alumnus, NMSU solidified my life's compass because of the foundation they laid for me,” Seipel said. “I'm happy to give back to them.”
Seipel also supports the Aggie Jump Start program, a summer program to help students polish their skills in preliminary subject and get a head start on college life. In addition to his financial support, Seipel has visited the campus numerous times to share with students his path to a successful career.
“There’s no reason I should have this information in my head and not share it with other people so they can live a better life,” he said. “By mentoring students and going to the university, you get what you learn and you pass it on. You hope it is of a sufficient amount of detail to at least help someone figure out what is the new direction that the little pointer on my compass is going to point to for my future.”
Seipel said he “failed at retiring” three times so far and despite having open heart surgery recently, he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. “I have a year and half rehab and prepare to compete at the Huntsman World Senior Games again, climb three mountains that are over 14,000 ft., race my bicycle again, get back to playing tennis and finish handwriting a book for my sons about our family history.”
Seipel also plans to take some astronomy classes at NMSU and continue mentoring NMSU students.
“I felt an obligation. NMSU helped prepare me mentally and goal wise,” Seipel said. “I asked myself where I would be if not for NMSU. NMSU put me in the position to be where I am today.”