New CUH AD Finds Passion in Athletics



Dr. Buning sitting at his desk in his office

Nearly 20 years ago, a lucky chance of a job in athletics opening up at Dr. Tom Buning’s alma mater, the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., has sparked a career long passion for being involved in the energizing environment of college athletics.

Now, with more than two decades of working in NCAA Division I and Division II athletic administrations, serving as senior director of athletics at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and serving as director of athletics at the University of North Dakota, Buning has arrived to Chaminade University with a range of insight to Chaminade’s sports program and student-athlete culture.

“I’ve always loved athletics,” said Buning, who started as the new athletic director on July 13. “I’m a great fan and personally an athlete also.”

In college, Buning studied engineering and competed as a member of the Black Knight’s swim team at West Point, N.Y. Buning mentioned that the beautiful thing about being an engineer is that it is something he can do in the Army but is transferable to the civilian world.

But the engineer got a surprising introduction to the athletic world in 2001 when the senior military colonel in the athletic department was retiring at his alma mater. Buning took the job and was selected to be the Deputy Athletic Director.

“Each and every day I fell in love with being in athletics,” Buning said.

He realized that working in athletics is what he wants to do because it is an opportunity for him to continue to work with young men and women and build teams. He made a commitment to personally and professionally develop in a way so the he could retire from the military and stay in athletics.

As he was working on the final drafts of hisdoctoral dissertation at SMU in Texas, he saw the advertisement for an athletic director at Chaminade, which was lookin g to fill the position after Bill Villa announced his departure from the school. Not only did Bunning know this position would be a great opportunity for him to use his skills and talents to the best end, but it was a bonus to him that Chaminade was a smaller private Catholic university. He felt like would be able to make a large, positive impact.

“I think Dr. Buning is the right person to take us to the next level in Chaminade Athletics,” said Shawn Sueoka, special assistant to the Director of Athletics/Events Manager.

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly complicated things for many universities, including their athletic programs.

“I can’t imagine what he must be feeling, starting a new job, in the middle of a global pandemic, and being bombarded with an enormous amount of information and tasks that need to be done,” Deven Bukoski, a compliance director in the Athletic Department wrote in an email. “Through all of this, he’s managed to lead our department through many Zoom meetings and very important decisions, and he continues to show up every day with a smile on his face.”

When asked about the potential of cutting athletic programs, Buning assured that Chaminade is about as lean as an organization can possibly be. He mentioned that by being a Division II school, Chaminade has to sponsor the sports they currently have. Also, the budget for the year is still in place and is very similar to the budget last year.

“We’re blessed at Chaminade to be operating like we have in the past,” Buning said.