Face of Defense: Former Marine Corps Chief Lives Father’s Values
By Marine Corps Sgt. Jon Holmes
6th Marine Corps District
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 9, 2014 As a young man, Charles C. Krulak, now age 72, respected his father’s values: selflessness, moral courage and integrity.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. Charles C. Krulak, who’d served as the 31st commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995-1999 and is now president of Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, proudly displays mementos of his service as a Marine Corps officer in his office. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jon Holmes
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Krulak’s father, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Victor H. Krulak, who passed away in 2008, imparted in his son the same values introduced to him as a Marine.
Following in his father’s footsteps and making the transformation to become a United States Marine, the younger Krulak, who went on to become a four-star general and the Marine Corps’ 31st commandant, embodied those values. They are still a part of who he is today.
“My father instilled in his three boys a solid foundation of trying to be men of character -- being selfless, having great moral courage and having integrity. [And] at the same time, taking those values and seeking to do the most good for the most people,” Krulak said.
After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1999 after 35 years of military service, Krulak worked in the business world. In March 2011, he was selected to become president of Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama -- a position he says is one of the most challenging of his life.
Mismanagement and a growing debt foreshadowed the college’s future. Budget cuts cost students their educational programs and professors their jobs. Dropping enrollment, a demoralized faculty and a community that lost confidence in the school posed additional problems making Birmingham-Southern College’s future uncertain.
One of Krulak’s first decisions as the college’s new president was to refuse a salary.
“They were pretty surprised when I did that,” he said.
He also turned down the university vehicle and even lived in a dorm instead of the Birmingham-Southern College President’s house.
“Why turn down the salary?” Krulak asked. “Because of the sacrifice everyone else had gone through. If all of the sudden I came in and had this salary and drove around in a college car and lived in the house of the president, I wouldn’t be doing what all Marines do -- setting the example.”
Krulak continued that example by visiting every classroom on campus and meeting with the faculty, staff and students. He spent time in the cafeteria serving food to the students -- something he did for his Marines as an officer.
Former students who have returned to serve as staff to the college notice Krulak’s actions.
“I was most impressed with his relationship with his students,” said Katie Glenn, the executive assistant to Krulak and a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College. “He knows them all and genuinely cares. He even delivered cookies to the students, just as he did for his Marines. He really cared about his Marines, and here, he cares about his employees and students.”
For Krulak, his actions are not unusual. They are the actions of a man of character. They are from the values of his father and the Marines’ past, present and future that are bound together by their core values and ethos.
“You hear time and time again the Marine Corps made you the individual you are,” Krulak explained. “That transformation is forever. That ethos is in all of us for life.”