Ricardo Player ’89


Colonel Ricardo Player became the first public affairs officer to achieve colonel command in the Marine Corps. Today, this Ithaca College Park School grad is in charge of the headquarters and service teams supporting the Marine training depot at Parris Island, S.C. He likens his job to that of a city manager, “making sure the trains run on time.” Accomplishing this has been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Col. Player has responded by using four different sites to quarantine training-ready recruits prior to boot camp, safeguarding the training cohort against Covid spreads. As a result, Parris Island operations have stayed on track, training about 20,000 recruits since the pandemic struck.

When Col. Player began his career in the Marines, tensions were growing in the Middle East and in 1990 he was deployed in the first Gulf War’s Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. At the end of his deployment, his commander recognized his leadership potential and recommended him for officer training. His superiors steered him to public affairs, to take advantage of his Ithaca College education.

Col. Player not only got the promotions expected of most high-achieving public affairs officers, he took on some exceptional tasks as well. Among those he was the public affairs officer for international travel for Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld after 9/11, and was a Congressional Fellow at the Chicago Tribune.

Throughout his career, he also has consistently championed diversity and in his current role, he is his command’s Lead Diversity Officer.

“Diversity is everyone's job, but I take a vested interest in it because some of the diversity numbers for the Marine Corps aren't where they need to be yet,” he said. “And as a commander, I think I set the tone.”

Col. Player strives to be a role model. “I'm a walking advertisement for diversity anywhere I go,” he said. “Whenever I get a sideways look, I don't take it personally, because it's rare for someone to see someone like me in my position, unfortunately, but I use that as an opportunity to address any concerns, answer any questions or curiosity, and to enlarge the dialogue. So hopefully, anyone different than the majority will see me and say, ‘Hey, perhaps I can take those steps as well.’”

It’s not the first time Col. Player has risen to the occasion. While working in the Department of Defense Public Affairs in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, he set up a fully operational press center at an alternate site within hours of the attack on the Pentagon.