Distinguished Alumni: Major Dan Rooney gives back to veterans’ families with Folds of Honor

Major Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, was on a commercial flight in 2006 that would end up changing his life and guiding his future.

Major Dan Rooney and Jacob, scholarship recipient and inspiration for Major Rooney’s non-profit Folds of Honor

The flight was carrying the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin, an American hero killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Major Rooney watched as Corporal Bucklin’s flag-covered casket was unloaded to his grieving family. Among them was the Corporal’s young son, Jacob. Major Rooney thought of his own wife and daughters. He’d seen combat but witnessing the other, more intimate side of war through Jacob’s eyes was life-altering.

Major Rooney decided he had to do something. He called his wife and told her his mission was to help the family he had seen that night on the tarmac. To achieve this goal, Major Rooney turned to his other passion – golf. In 2007, he gathered golfers and asked them to donate an extra dollar in greens fees to help fund scholarships for the families of killed or disabled veterans. Today his non-profit, Folds of Honor, has raised more than $5.4 million for scholarships including one that went to Brock Bucklin’s 6-year-old son, Jacob. 

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is proud to recognize Major Dan Rooney with its most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. We caught up with Major Rooney to learn a little more about the man behind the vision.

Hometown: Stillwater, Oklahoma

Major: Bachelor’s in geography, master’s in psychology

Tell us more about the Folds of Honor:  FoH was formed in 2007 when I decided to commit my life changing the future of America’s grieving spouses and dependents.  FoH is dedicated to providing educational opportunities to the families of veterans that are either killed or wounded while protecting the United States.

Finish this sentence: “My favorite KU memory is…”meeting my wife Jacqy.

“I became a Jayhawk because…” I wanted to play golf at KU.

“I’m most proud of…” using my talents to have a positive impact on families of our fallen and disabled soldiers

The best advice I ever got: Volition = the power of choice.

My guilty pleasure: getting my shoes shined in airports

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? Making it thru pilot training in the USAF and flying the F-16 in combat.

What one goal would you like to achieve in your life (personally or professionally)? Have a generational impact on my family and the country.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? A PGA professional and F-16 pilot.