From Marine to Minister

As the sun began to set on a balmy summer day in Southern California, an Electra cruise ship motored past luxury yachts, sailboats, and multimillion-dollar homes in Newport Harbor. On deck, a wedding ceremony was in progress. Philip Bradley BS ’59 pronounced the happy couple husband and wife, smiling as they sealed their union with a kiss.

Philip Bradley BS ’59

“I perform about 100 ceremonies a year,” says Bradley, who’s worked for Electra since 2000. “My goal is to marry the son or daughter of at least one of the couples I’ve wed. I’ll be satisfied then, happy to retire—and maybe write a book.”

Bradley has always been enthusiastic and eager for new experiences. Transferring to Lewis & Clark College as a junior, he majored in business administration and joined the Yell/Rally Squad as a senior, leading cheers for the football team. After graduation, he went to Officer Candidates School in the U.S. Marine Corps, located in Quantico, Virginia.

“I’d never been east of Idaho,” says Bradley, a history buff. “It was thrilling to walk Virginia’s battlefields while in training. I felt like I was back in the Civil War era.”

Bradley served as a Marine officer for nearly 21 years “almost by accident.” Fresh out of Officer Candidates School, he headed to Okinawa, Japan. He returned to California and was stationed at Camp Pendleton. Simultaneously, he attended graduate school in San Diego and earned his M.BA with a concentration in economics.

“I wanted to be a stockbroker,” he says. “I was preparing to give up my commission when word came down from Marine Corps headquarters that all regular officers were compelled to remain in service for at least one year because the war in Vietnam was heating up.”

Eventually, Bradley decided that he’d invested too much time as a marine to leave early. He worked as a motor transport/maintenance officer, serving several tours in Vietnam, as well as time in Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Twentynine Palms, California, before retiring in 1980 with the rank of major.

He held a number of jobs after leaving the military, including working in maintenance for a U.S. shipping line. While working for Sprint, he earned a master’s degree in telecommunications. Later, a chance meeting with a woman at a restaurant in Lido Village in Newport Beach led him to Electra Cruises. She was one of the company’s owners. Since Bradley is the only military minister working for Electra, he has conducted several military weddings for all braches of the service, especially the Marines. In total, he has performed more than 1,600 weddings.

Always on a quest for new experiences, Bradley is working on his doctorate in psychology. “I’d love to counsel military families prior to deployment as well as on their return,” he says.

Bradley is also a proponent of volunteering— and of having fun while doing it. He performed as an Elvis impersonator at last year’s Children’s Hospital of Orange County Follies, an annual fundraiser now in its 17th year. “I was so impressed with a group of tap dancers who performed that I started taking lessons three times a week,” he says. “I’m going to audition for the tap number in next year’s follies. Oh, but you don’t need to worry, Fred Astaire!”

—by Pattie Pace