Daniel Hennelly, right, with a member of the Chilean marines in Valparaiso, Chile, in 2014, served eight years in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in Oregon in 2007. Courtesy of Daniel Hennelly

Daniel Hennelly is like most sophomores at Bowdoin College.

He’s preparing to declare a major, developing connections with his professors and exploring activities outside his classes, including a stint as a kicker on the school’s football team last year. When that didn’t stick, he started writing for The Bowdoin Harpoon, a satirical, student-led publication. His article in The Harpoon’s most recent edition: “What Crimes Your Favorite Professors Would Commit if They Weren’t Nerds.”

“I think they’ve published everything I’ve sent them,” Hennelly said.

Where he differs from most of his peers is that the path he traveled to get to Bowdoin started with the U.S. Marines.

Hennelly, 34, grew up in Oregon and enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in 2007. For the entirety of his active service, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, working for the Logistics Command. Eventually, he began serving as a liaison between his battalion, the Japanese Ministry of Defense, local defense bureaus and logistics companies that had contracts with the Marine Corps.

“I got to travel all over Japan, and go places and experience the country, which is, unfortunately, not an experience a lot of service members in Japan get to have,” Hennelly said. “I’m super lucky.”


After four years of service in Japan, Hennelly was leaning toward reenlisting when a near-fatal car accident forced him to put his plans on hold. After spending time in Japan teaching English, he resumed his service in Houston in 2012, remaining on non-active duty for another four years. His role was primarily one of community outreach; he helped organize funeral honors for local veterans, assisted with death notifications and directed the local chapter of Toys for Tots.

“I got to do so much work for the greater Houston community,” he said. “It was really cool.”

Marine Corps veteran Daniel Hennelly, with his dog, Jade, is leaning toward majoring in history and education at Bowdoin, and his love of research and learning has led him to look at Ph.D. programs, but he’s also considering a return to consulting. Courtesy of Daniel Hennelly

After his service ended in 2016, he tried on a few different hats. He worked as a production assistant for a reality TV show, as a biking tour guide and as a headhunter before landing a role as a consultant at Mercer, the financial services company behind Workday, which provides business services software.

After three years at Mercer, Hennelly was feeling restless. He decided to enter a space he hadn’t yet explored: higher education.

He immediately began training for the rigors of academia. In 2021, Hennelly was accepted to participate in Harvard’s Warrior-Scholar Project, a grueling, one-week academic intensive for veterans hoping to pursue degrees.

“That was the worst vacation I have ever taken,” Hennelly joked.


Soon after, he began his college search. He considered numerous elite liberal arts colleges, as well as Ivies, but it was only after meeting with Bowdoin’s admissions staff that he felt his passion, curiosity and sense of humor had truly been recognized.

“I felt, through the entire process, that they wanted me because of me, not because I’m a veteran,” Hennelly said.

He was admitted early and matriculated in the fall of 2022. Since then, he’s been embracing everything the Bowdoin community has to offer.

He’s taking classes he adores – “Education and Community Organizing” and “Cold War Espionage” are his favorites. He was named an Irma Cheatham Fellow in Africana Studies and is pursuing a research project on how racism inhibits access to GI benefits for veterans of color.

He’s also making friends. He’s the sound manager for an ’80s cover band of Bowdoin professors, and on weekends, they go to O’Donoghue’s Pub on Pleasant Street in Brunswick to sing karaoke.

However, like many students adjusting to college life in a new place, Hennelly continues to be challenged by his separation from his support network, particularly in Houston.


“Everybody here – staff, faculty, students – is super welcoming,” he said. “It’s great, but it’s just such a vast change.”

As for what life after Bowdoin might look like, Hennelly is unsure. He’s leaning toward majoring in history and education, and his love of research and learning has led him to look at Ph.D. programs, but he’s also considering a return to consulting.

Hennelly is not, however, particularly concerned about the future. He trusts that the work he’s doing now – and the work he’s done his whole life – will take him where he needs to go.

“I had to learn how to navigate life in this country without a college education, and it’s not an easy thing to do,” he said. “Whether I stop at a bachelor’s or I get a Ph.D., or a master’s … I’m gonna be fine.”

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