Gen. Robert Neller, com­mandant of the United States Marine Corps, will address the Class of 2019 as this year’s com­mencement speaker. Wiki­media Commons

Gen. Robert Neller, com­mandant of the United State Marine Corps, will be the com­mencement speaker for the Class of 2019’s grad­u­ation in May, the Provost’s Office announced on Monday.

“It’s pretty clear Gen. Neller, while innocent of any kind of self pro­motion or self regard, is clearly a man of great accom­plishment, of serious under­standing, and of enormous — almost immea­surable — service to the country,” said Provost David Whalen. “A lot of people are very ready to takes things easy as they approach their senior years. Being com­mandant of the Marine Corps has to be the def­i­n­ition of the opposite of taking things easy.”

Senior class pres­ident Ryan Kelly Murphy said Neller, whose son Brett grad­uated from Hillsdale in 2006, had the char­ac­ter­istics and values the senior class officers were looking for in a com­mencement speaker.

“Gen. Neller has had a long and admirable career, and his con­tri­bu­tions in the defense of our country have been tremendous,” said Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn in a statement to the Col­legian. “He is known for his courage in combat and his pru­dence in the highest levels of command — a man worthy of great honor.

Murphy and the other senior class officers were part of the decision process with the President’s and Provost’s offices for this year’s speaker, and they [helped] choose Neller for his admirable qual­ities of service and the fact that he has expe­rience with Hillsdale College through his son who went here, according to Murphy. Stu­dents, regardless of whether they plan to join the armed forces, will benefit from Neller’s per­spec­tives on life, she said.

“He has ded­i­cated his life to ultimate service. To have that example for the seniors as we’re preparing to go out into the world will be a remarkable reminder about how we are called to ded­icate our lives to service,” Murphy said. “It will be a mean­ingful cap­stone lesson to our expe­rience at Hillsdale.”

Michael Murray, legal counsel and admin­is­trative director of gift and estate at Hillsdale College, served under Neller when they were both deployed in Iraq in 2006 and later intro­duced the general to Pres­ident Larry Arnn in 2016. Neller is the perfect choice for com­mencement speaker, Murray said in an email.

“The Marine Corps and Hillsdale College are both mission-focused orga­ni­za­tions that appre­ciate and honor our nation’s founding prin­ciples,” he said. “To hear from the leader of the Marine Corps seems very fitting.”

Seniors Joshua Bailey and Dan McAlary are both planning to serve in the Marine Corps after grad­u­ation and said they are thrilled to have the oppor­tunity to hear from Neller.

“Some Marines go their whole careers without coming near the com­mandant of the Marine Corps,” McAlary said. “Somebody’s who’s spent their life in service to their country is an example to give back.”

Bailey said high-ranking officers in the armed forces are often well-edu­cated and worthy of looking to as a model.

“Men who end up in posi­tions that high up have come up with a life in lead­ership phi­losophy that’s worth knowing,” Bailey said. “Being that com­mitted for so many years to his pro­fession and doing it well — that kind of char­acter is some­thing you want a little bit of, whether you’re headed into the Marine Corps or some other position. That’s the kind of person you want to take cues from.”

The fact that Neller’s son went to Hillsdale means he already has a knowledge of the college’s values, Murphy said.

“He under­stands Hillsdale through the expe­rience of his son, and that is one of the many won­derful per­spec­tives Gen. Neller can provide to the grad­u­ating seniors,” she said.

Whalen said in choosing the speaker, college admin­is­trators and senior class officers have to find someone who can speak to the grad­uates in par­ticular but also more gen­erally to the college’s wider audience. The speaker, he said, has to address the pur­poses of a life well-lived.

“You want somebody who under­stands what a good, proper liberal edu­cation is for, why it’s important, and how that trans­lates into a kind of high calling on the part of the grad­uates,” he said. “You have to have a speaker people hope­fully will rec­ognize as accom­plished, as someone admirable and someone whose work and place in the world has somehow been a model.”