Xavier University to rename student center after 'father' of Navy SEALs

Phil Bucklew.jpg
Phil Bucklew at Xavier
Posted at 7:25 PM, May 24, 2021

CINCINNATI — Xavier University and the state of Ohio have a connection to the birth of the elite Navy SEALs by way of Xavier alum Captain Phil Bucklew.

“He is considered to be the father of the Navy SEALs,” said Glenn Welling, senior advisor for strategic initiatives at the Xavier student veterans center. "So much so that the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, California, is named after him.

Welling and his team want to honor Captain Bucklew by renaming the student veteran center in his honor.

“Our goal would be that they would emulate the characteristics that he demonstrated each and every day through his entire career, that tenacity, the ability to innovate,” he said.” There was no script when he was part of the beach jumpers and scouts and raisers. Those are the two organizations that ultimately became the Navy SEALs.

Bucklew was from Columbus and attended Xavier University from 1932-36. Prior to joining the Navy, he played football for Xavier and went on to play professionally for the Cleveland Rams in 1937 and 1938. World War II would end his playing years as he was off to the Navy to serve his country.

He was a natural leader and several successful missions leading up to the Normandy invasion ensured the allied success. He conducted covert Omaha Beach reconnaissance in February 1944, which provided key information that helped create the allied plan of attack. As a result of his actions, he was awarded two Navy Crosses for beach reconnaissance prior to D-Day in Normandy, France, and Operation Husky, in Sicily. Bucklew was also awarded a Silver Star and Bronze Star.

Welling has been traveling across the country tracking down men who served with Bucklew. Two men he recently spoke with recall Bucklew’s character and impact.

“I would say that during my formative years, as a young man right out of college, in the Navy, I can’t think of anyone who would have been a better role model as a leader,” said William Wallace III. “He really influenced work ethic, enjoying life as well as working hard, being dedicated, being loyal. He was a great influence at an important time in my life.”

“Well, when I think back, there are two great men that influenced me and had a lot to do with me being me, okay. One was Lou Little and the other was Phil Bucklew,” said Howie Hansen

Welling said he also discovered that part of what made Bucklew a great leader was the very human side he and his wife would share with the sailors.

“So, Phil Bucklew and his wife, Helen, never had any children,” he said. “So these much younger men, and back then it was all men, special warfare community were kind of like family or they were like a real family. And that’s how they felt.”

Welling recently took a trip out to the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado to speak with the commander and see operations firsthand. He says the legacy Captain Phil Bucklew leaves behind is still influencing the SEAL community.

“It’s all of the reasons why they chose to name their training center after Captain Bucklew, because he emulated every one of those core values that they find that they know are critical to the success of their mission and in developing these elite warriors,” he said. “As a Jesuit institution and those core values of cura personalis, all for one, he emulated that. I know, in my heart, at least part of what he emulated in life came from his experience at Xavier.”

Bucklew also served as Xavier’s Athletic Director and head football coach in 1946 while he served in the Navy reserves, before going back on active duty in 1948.

You can read more about Bucklew’s accomplishments and find out details regarding the campaign to rename the student veteran center by going to

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