When he reflects on his life, Jim Manley is proud – of his family; of his prowess at football; of his service to Corps and country. His family is a constant. His abilities on the gridiron, when he starred for both St. John's High School in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and the University of Pennsylvania, is a fond memory. His service to the Corps, like family, is a lifelong proposition.
Jim spent 30 years in the Reserves, and three on active duty, before retiring as a colonel in 1985.
He is hardly an ‘ex-Marine'; rather, he is an active alumnus who gives back to the organization that helped shape his values by involving himself in the work of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. This entity – this cause – helps ease the financial burden of higher education for the sons and daughters of current and former members of the Corps.
Jim Manley knows of burdens. He grew up poor in Pittston, in the heart of anthracite coal mining in northeastern Pennsylvania. His father was a miner; he was killed when Jim was 10. In a time when working in the mines was the most viable option for many of the sons of the coal country, only Jim's grit and his consummate skills with the pigskin earned him options that most of his contemporaries did not have.
He was given a full scholarship to play football at the University of Pennsylvania, starring as a blocking back in the old single wing offense and playing some baseball as well. In 1952, during the height of the fighting in Korea, he joined the Marine PLC Program, which trained platoon leaders. His father had served as an infantryman during the War to End All Wars. An uncle, who also fought in The Great War, was a Marine. Jim was determined to follow in their footsteps.
After he graduated three years later, he began a three-year tour of active duty. Assigned to the 8th Marines, he was deployed to Lebanon during one of that beleaguered country's many crises, this one in 1958. A broken arm in a football game conceived to boost morale ended his "season" in the Middle East – and did little for the state of his morale.
Taking a Stand
Twenty-five years later, he was appalled when the Marines were again sent to Lebanon – and 283 died in an attack on the building that served both as barracks and headquarters for that expeditionary force.
"In your life there comes a moment when you have to take a stand," he reflected in a telephone conversation from his office in Cranbury, New Jersey, where he is principal of a firm that serves the investment needs of employee benefit plans. "The Marine general in charge then should have taken that stand. He didn't."
Jim Manley did – with the Scholarship Foundation. Because you shouldn't forget or forsake those individuals or institutions that have done you well. He tells this story:
At an event at the Union League, the guest of honor was General Anthony Zinni, most recently President Bush's envoy to the Mideast. In his speech, the general recounted having been asked by one of his daughters what he would die for.
"My faith," he told her. "And my family. My friends. And freedom. And for the flag."
The room erupted with applause.
For Jim Manley, commitment and an abiding loyalty to the Corps are his legacy, and his pleasure. The Scholarship Foundation became the vehicle for Jim's altruism. He has been an active player in raising millions of dollars – and awarding millions of dollars – to the daughters and sons of Marines who need financial aid for their college education. The grants they receive, which average $5-$7,000, go a long way toward paying the bills and meeting the fees which are part and parcel of the college experience.
After working for much of his professional life at some of the largest brokerage houses and financial institutions on Wall Street, including Lehman Brothers, AG Becker, and Morgan Stanley, Jim opened his own marketing and consulting concern three years ago. Jim Manley Associates specializes in serving the investment needs of unions in general and of teacher retirement systems in particular.
The ethos that governs his business endeavors is basic: Work hard for your clients, so that they are able to keep their pension promises and meet their obligations to their membership.
It is an ethos, of loyalty to an organization and commitment to a cause, that was shaped, at least in part, by years of selfless service in uniform.