Pioneering Naval Officer Named to USAO Alumni Hall of Fame
A visionary in religious reconciliation, an architect of the modern model for military chaplains and a chaplain to President Bill Clinton, U.S. Navy Captain Bradford Edward Ableson has influenced people and countries around the globe. Along with countless other tributes, Ableson will be honored for his work and life as an inductee to the USAO Alumni Hall of Fame during Alumni Homecoming at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Nov. 7-9.
Ableson will be honored along with three other inductees during the Nov. 8 ceremony. Registrations still are being accepted for all USAO alumni at the USAO Alumni Development office, (405) 574-1290. Registration packages for the entire weekend begin at $40 per person with an all-inclusive package for $50 per person, which includes all meals.
“Brad is a living legend in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps,” said Navy Commander Lawrence M. Benzel of Tulsa in his nomination of Ableson. “Commissioned in 1984, he rose through the Navy ranks from ensign to captain in one of the most remarkable Navy chaplain careers of the century. He has single-handedly expanded the vision of American military chaplaincy from the simple provision of services for uniformed personnel to include the task of religious engagement and reconciliation at the strategic level.
“Only a person with brains and passion could move a massive bureaucratic institution the way he has. Only a person with tremendous compassion for suffering humanity would use his abilities to pursue the issues he chose. Brad has done what no person could reasonably expect to accomplish in one lifetime – he has brought the compassion of Christ to the battlefield and the combat fleet. He has preached the Gospel to thousands of fine Americans who did not know if they would see another sunrise.”
Ableson has dedicated his adult life to the service of God and his country. As a captain in the Navy and an Episcopal Priest, he has traveled the globe many times caring for the needs of those who serve with him.
He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 1980. He later earned a master of theology degree from Boston University School of Theology, a master of divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School, a doctor of ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary and a master with distinction from the United States Naval College.
“Brad Ableson is the quintessential USAO alumus,” said USAO President John Feaver. “His lifelong pursuit of excellence in his field, coupled with his global view of inquiry and service reflect the USAO ideals as a liberal arts institution. Brad has distinguished himself and this college throughout his life, in private as well as public ways. He has well earned this honor, along with acclaimed authors Bill and Carol Wallace and computer science pioneer Nan Reynolds, our 2008 inductees.”
This year Ableson received the Lux et Veritas distinguished alum award from Yale. The award is given to those who have demonstrated excellence and distinction in applying the compassion of Christ to the diverse needs of the human condition through the wider church, institutional ministries, ecumenical organizations, not-for-profit organizations, government and industry.
Ableson also has received numerous military decorations and other recognitions that include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
In the Navy, Ableson served in U.S. Marine Corps units, surface ships, in the Navy’s largest submarine squadron and as command chaplain of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. He has qualified for the Veterans of Foreign Wars five times with service in Operation Ernest Will, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Southwest Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Additionally, ashore, Ableson served as President Bill Clinton’s chaplain at Camp David. He subsequently served as an executive assistant to the Navy Chief of Chaplains and as a global directorate of the U.S. Strategic Command. In the Strategic Command, Ableson pioneered global religious reconciliation initiatives that continue to sow seeds of peace in war-torn areas.
Also in the Strategic Command, Ableson was one of only four U.S. multi-service military commands with global responsibilities. Prior to his arrival, the role of command chaplain had been exclusively local with focus on ministry to headquarter personnel.
Ableson also has worked toward equality issues in the military. He was the primary mover behind a series of Navy-wide heritage celebrations that continue to be observed throughout the fleet. He was the primary architect behind the transformation of the chaplaincy from an institution focused almost wholly on the pastoral needs of personnel to one that embraces senior chaplains as agents of reconciliation with religious leaders around the globe.
“Cancer has cut his remarkable military career short and he must retire from the Navy in 2008. He continues to embody the most dynamic and attractive type of Christianity. USAO has every reason to be proud of Brad. He has reflected great credit on the University of Science and Arts in a remarkable life of service,” Benzel said.