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When Your Country Calls

Jay Bynum, Bruce MacDonald, and Niels Schaumann


That was how Rear Admiral Jay Bynum described California Western's Vice President of Institutional Advancement Bruce MacDonald's '87, Vice Admiral, JAGC, USN, Ret., “wise counsel” in a recent presentation held at California Western.

The ceremony was in honor of MacDonald's service in support of the recently published Comprehensive Review of the Department of the Navy's Uniformed Legal Communities.

Presenting MacDonald with the Navy’s Superior Civilian Service Award, Bynum read aloud a citation signed by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly.

The citation paid tribute to MacDonald's “extensive experience and outstanding leadership that lent indispensable gravitas to a highly complex review of the Department of the Navy's two distinct legal communities.”

In early August 2019, former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson ordered a wholesale review of the Navy’s JAG Corps after several high-profile legal and ethical lapses. Later, the Secretary of the Navy expanded the review to include the Marine Corps Judge Advocate community.

MacDonald was one of 13 people selected by the Secretary of the Navy to conduct the largest and most comprehensive review of the Navy’s legal system, which also included a mix of 25 additional active-duty Navy and Marine Corps officers, and enlisted personnel.

Giving context to his decision to participate in the review, MacDonald said, “I am exceptionally proud of California Western; the faculty and staff always took care of me when I was a student at the law school, and it’s the reason why I came out of retirement when the Dean asked me to return to the law school to assist with the launch of our Centennial Fundraising Campaign. So, to be able to combine my love and passion for my law school with the same love and passion I have for the Navy was an exceptional experience.”

Bynum thanked California Western President and Dean Niels Schaumann for enabling MacDonald to serve on the Review Panel.

“When the call came, and Bruce told me about it, I knew this was his country calling,” recalled Schaumann. “He was not going to say no as long as it was OK with me, which was an easy decision for me to make.”

Bynum said the review was vital to enabling the Navy to identify areas for improvement in the organization, operations, training, funding, and delivery of legal services throughout the Department of the Navy.

“What Vice Admiral MacDonald brought to the Comprehensive Review Panel was so rich for us,” said Bynum. “The Review Panel was able to thoroughly examine and understand many of the plans and policies he put into place during his tenure as the Judge Advocate General of the Navy from 2006-2009, which greatly assisted the Panel in developing its recommendations for improving the delivery of legal services to Sailors, Marines, and their families in the future.”

“Frankly, just his personable nature and ability to provide measured and balanced recommendations, while still adhering to very solid fundamental principles, helped us wrestle through some very challenging and competing perspectives,” added Bynum.

Summing up his feelings on receiving the award, the highest award the Secretary of the Navy may bestow upon a civilian employee, MacDonald reiterated his gratitude to both California Western and the Navy.

“My thanks go out to the Navy and to the law school for making this possible,” said MacDonald. “To be able to serve both institutions at the same time was an honor and absolute joy for me.”