Hurricanes, Lost Transcripts, and Turning Setbacks into Success

Luis Ortiz (’09).

Growing up, Luis Ortiz (‘09) had always been interested in attending Southern Virginia University. But, he was hesitant to leave his hometown of New Orleans. It took a hurricane, lost high school transcripts, and a spiritual prompting to take the leap to Buena Vista and start building a foundation for his future.

“I had heard about Southern Virginia before my mission and always liked the idea of a church-aligned school on the East Coast, but I just couldn’t get myself to pull the trigger on attending,” said Ortiz. “But then Hurricane Katrina came through, and that really got things moving for me to attend.”

In 2005, while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico City, Ortiz learned of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in his hometown. Though his family was safe, the resulting damage prevented Ortiz from attending the University of New Orleans as he had planned. Unsure of what to do, family friends recommended that Ortiz look into Southern Virginia University again.

“Southern Virginia was extremely helpful in getting me to go out there,” Oritz said. “I couldn’t locate any of my transcripts because my high school was damaged. I couldn’t even get my ACT scores. But the people at Southern Virginia told me it wouldn’t be an issue and that they would figure it out. 

“During this process, I was still debating whether I should go,” continued Ortiz. “Then I felt the Spirit prompt me just to go and attend, and everything worked out.”

After returning home to work the summer after his freshman year, Ortiz’s desire to remain at Southern Virginia University solidified, and he chose to live in Buena Vista year-round, attending school and working. It was during one of those summers that he met his wife, Sarah Gerlach (‘09). 

“We were in the same ward and family home evening group,” Ortiz said. “Within two or three weeks after meeting, we started dating on and off, and I proposed to her two weeks after our graduation. Once again, everything worked out. I fell in love with the town, fell in love with the university professors, and fell in love with my wife. And the rest is history.”

Sarah & Luis Ortiz.

As a student, Ortiz served as an elders quorum president and ward mission leader, and worked in the university’s former travel study office with Professor Carrie Brotherson. 

“Those experiences were incredible and taught me a ton about logistics and organization,” said Ortiz. “I really think that every student should have a work opportunity at the university and serve in the church. It taught me leadership, service, and to lift where I stood, and was a big part of my education.”

After graduation, Ortiz moved back to New Orleans to pursue working at a bank. He decided to reread the textbooks from his business classes as he looked for a job, which led to him being hired as a financial services representative at Regions Financial Corporation.

“I was reading ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance’ by Louis V. Gerstner and had it with me when I was interviewing at Regions for a teller position,” said Ortis. “It didn’t work out, and I was in the elevator leaving with the vice president of business—though I didn’t know it was him—and we got to talking about the book. I got a phone call from the interviewer later that day saying that the VP highly recommended me for a financial services representative position. I started a few weeks later.”

Ortiz has since worked as a private client banker, financial service and senior client solutions specialist, and banker associate at ASI Federal Credit Union, Chase, Hancock Whitney, and J.P. Morgan, and now serves as the investment advisor representative for Benefit Planning Group.

“Throughout my career, there have been times where I chased money and chased fulfillment, and I’ve always been happier when I’ve sought fulfillment,” said Ortiz. “For me, it was about ‘am I making a difference, and am I helping others? Can I add value and be a blessing to them in their lives, either through work or in my church service?’ And that’s what really matters in life.”

Oritz graduated from Southern Virginia University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management. He lives in the French Quarter, New Orleans, with his family, where he has served as his ward’s bishop for the past seven years.

Luis and Sarah Ortiz with their four children.
Luis and Sarah Ortiz with their children.