Former Navy SEAL Luke Fenner, a graduate of the UI Tippie College of Business MBA program, uses his degree to help wounded warriors.
Amanda May
Noah Willman and courtesy of Luke Fenner

On a hot September night in Iraq, Luke Fenner and his fellow Navy SEALs were ambushed.

After another member of SEAL Team 10 took machine gun fire, they fell back, gaining cover from behind a large tractor tire and a strike from an AC-130 aircraft above. Some say it was the closest fire cover in the Iraq war, as Fenner and some of his fellow SEALs lay injured only 45 feet from the enemy target. The men on the ground knew it was a risk calling in the airstrike, but they needed to get their injured commander a medevac chopper ASAP.

That’s what SEALs do: band together and help, even in the face of death.

For Fenner, who attended high school in Webster City, Iowa, the goodwill and selflessness didn’t stop after his 12 years as a SEAL ended.

Luke Fenner on duty in Afghanistan

Luke Fenner while on active duty.

Thanks to the GI Bill, he immediately started the MBA program at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and used knowledge from Associate Professor Joe Sulentic’s Social Entrepreneurship course to once again help a fellow SEAL.

Lt. Jason Redman was Fenner’s assault force commander that fateful night in 2007; Redman sustained critical injuries to the arm and the face. When Redman got back stateside, people asked him if he had been in a motorcycle accident.

“The general public is very insulated from what war has done to some people—both the visible and invisible scars,” says Fenner, who joined the Navy after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

To raise awareness about wounded military personnel, Redman created the advocacy venture/clothing company Wounded Wear.

Luke Fenner with fellow Navy SEALs

Luke Fenner with fellow Navy SEALs.

Meanwhile, Fenner took entrepreneurship classes as MBA electives through the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the Tippie College of Business. As part of the curriculum, he learned how to jump between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds, how to set up his own social enterprise (a hipper term for nonprofit), and to understand all the elements needed for success.

Fenner applied that knowledge to host a fundraiser for Wounded Wear at a Ferrari dealership in Lake Forest, Illinois, raising nearly half a million dollars for his friend’s cause.

Fenner is now a division manager for Rosendin, a $4 billion electrical contracting company in the Washington, D.C., area that also has a charitable foundation. He still goes on an annual vacation with the SEALs he was deployed with.


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Tippie Magazine.