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Citadel News Service
2 Apr 2014

The Citadel names three finalists for commandant of cadets

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Three finalists will be considered for the position of commandant of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets at The Citadel. The commandant of cadets is a vice presidential position responsible for the command and oversight of the 2,300-member Corps of Cadets. The finalists are: Col. John (Jay) C. Kennedy, USMC (Retired); Col. Stephen P. Luxion, USAF; and Capt. Eugene F. Paluso, USN. The new commandant will replace Col. Leo A. Mercado, USMC, (pictured right) who is a member of The Citadel Class of 1979. Mercado, who joined The Citadel as commandant in 2009, is retiring. His tenure is marked by continually working to implement a single standard for all cadets while stressing honor, leadership and positive reinforcement. 

Kennedy is currently the commandant of midshipmen for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. There he directs a staff of 50 in providing student and college-wide services, and ensuring the professional development of 1,000 students. Kennedy also worked at the U.S. Naval Academy as director of humanities and social sciences and was a Marine Corps Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as chief of staff for the 3rd Marine Corps Aircraft Wing in Iraq and held other positions of leadership within the U.S. Marine Corps overseas and in the U.S. and flew numerous combat missions in rotary wing aircraft. Kennedy holds a master's degree in national security affairs from the National War College and in systems management from the University of Denver. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in physical science from the U.S. Naval Academy. His military awards include the Legion of Merit (3), Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (2), and the Air Medal.

Luxion has served in the U.S. Air Force for more than 30 years. He is currently a senior U.S. Air Force officer, who for more than 15 years in CEO-level positions, has commanded teams of up to 400 professionals responsible for innovation, strategic planning and worldwide operations. Luxion is the commander of the Air Force ROTC program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. In other positions, he served overseas several times, including as the director of the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, leading more than 100 military, government and contract personnel in conducting worldwide Global War On Terror combat operations with armed unmanned aerial vehicle. Luxion holds four master's degrees, including an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; one in national security strategy from the National War College's National Defense University; a master's of airpower arts and science from the School of Advanced Air and Space Power Studies and a master's of aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He also earned a bachelor's degree in computer science systems from the U.S. Air Force Academy. His service awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross (with Valor), and the Meritorious Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters).

Paluso graduated from The Citadel in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He is currently a U.S. Navy SEAL officer on active duty as the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Group Three at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a group of 700 specialized SEAL and fleet personnel. Paluso has served in the Navy for approximately 25 years and has held leadership roles commanding special operations forces in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. During his career, Paluso has led men and women in combat at all levels. His service awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze star, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Joint Commendation Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal (5), Joint Achievement Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Finalists have been invited to campus for interviews after which Citadel President Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa will make a recommendation to the college's Board of Visitors.

Finalists for commandant of cadets were selected by a five-person search committee including:

• Col. Ralph Tice, USMC (Retired), Chair

• Col. Katherine Grenier, Professor and Head, Dept. of History

• Brig. Gen. Samuel M. Hines, Provost and Dean of The Citadel

• Col. Tony Lackey, USA (Retired), Former Asst. Commandant

• Col. Gregory Lapointe, Member of the Board of Visitors

• Lt. Col. Robert Pickering, Dir., Multicultural Affairs

The Citadel is expected to announce the new commandant in the next few months. The position of commandant reports directly to Rosa.

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