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Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. and Boston College

virtual exhibit spring 2002 - burns library

Introduction | Background | Student | Speaker | Alumnus | Honors | Conclusion

Throughout the years, Boston College has recognized the achievements of Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. The university bestowed upon O'Neill numerous awards and honors. His legacy lives on to this day. A library, an endowed position in the Political Science Department, a scholarship and an award for distinguished citizenship all bear his name. This section highlights several of these honors.

O'Neill receiving William V. McKenna Medal On May 13, 1964, O'Neill was honored as the year's outstanding alumnus by the Boston College Alumni Club of Washington, D.C. President Reverend Michael P. Walsh, S.J. is shown here presenting the award to O'Neill. The congressman had also received the Alumni Association's William V. McKenna Medal earlier that year.

Photo Credit: University Archives, Burns Library, Boston College

O'Neil receiving honorary law degree At the 1973 University Commencement, O'Neill received an honorary law degree. He is shown here at the ceremonies standing next to Father Monan. In the late 1930s, while a state representative, O'Neill had enrolled in the Boston College Law School. However, the pressures of simultaneously going to school and being an elected official left very little time for serious study. According to O'Neill biographer Farrell, he and follow state legislator Edward Boland were both "booted out" of the Law School when the Dean decided to raise the academic standards. The incident bothered O'Neill for years to come. Receiving an honorary law degree must have given him a sense of vindication.

Photo Credit: University Archives, Burns Library, Boston College

O'Neill with President Jimmy Carter On December 9, 1979, Boston College held a birthday dinner fundraiser to raise 1.2 million dollars for the Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Endowed Chair in Political Science. It was O'Neill's sixty-seventh birthday. Besides O'Neill, the main guest of honor was President Jimmy Carter. As evident in the photograph to the left, the Speaker had a friendly relationship with the President. After all, Carter was the only Democratic Party President that he ever worked with while serving in the House leadership (Majority Whip, Majority Leader, Speaker). Carter's presence gave quite a boost to this fundraising event. President Carter, J. Peter Grace, Edward Kennedy, and J. Donald Monan, S.J. gave tributes to the Speaker. O'Neill always held educators in high regard. He once remarked that "Educators have a premier responsibility to help our young people ponder whether their individual actions will benefit their family and friends, and urge them to be concerned about improving their neighborhood, their community, their nation, and their world." An endowed chair named in his honor is a fitting living monument to a man who held education in such high regard.


Photo Credit: Thomas P. O'Neill Papers, Burns Library, Boston College

O'Neill receiving the Ignatius MedalO'Neill was the keynote speaker for the 1981 Commencement. He also received the Ignatius Medal as part of the ceremonies. The Speaker is shown here receiving the medal from President Father Monan. The award recognizes individuals whose lives reflect the contributions made by St. Ignatius Loyola to Catholic spirituality and education and who apply these values to modern professional life. In his commencement address, O'Neill was well aware of the significance of this award and remarked: "I am truly honored to receive this medal from my alma mater because I genuinely appreciate what Jesuit expectations are in the religious as well as the secular life. This is a very special honor." The Undergraduate Government of Boston College also presented O'Neill with a reward recognizing "his consistent and effective efforts to open roads for government to play a part in assisting students to carry out their aspirations for higher education."

Photo Credit: Jet Photography, University Archives, Burns Library, Boston College

O'Neill Library dedication, October 14, 1984

Groundbreaking and construction work began on the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Library on October 18 1981. On October 14, 1984, the library was dedicated with O'Neill in attendance. The photograph here shows O'Neill and the other dignitaries present at the dedication. O'Neill commented that he had "declined many offers to name buildings after me...But this time I made an exception because this college has meant so much to me, to my family, to my community. I am proud of its past and I am proud to pay a part in its future." Most students, staff and faculty will use the Library at some point in their careers at Boston College and, by doing so, they will encounter the legacy of Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr.

Photo Credit: Office of Communications, University Archives, Burns Library, Boston College

Thomas P. O'Neill Room From 1987 to1996, Boston College recreated the Speaker's Office in the Bapst Library. The original exhibit is pictured here. The room had originally housed the Library Director's Office (and presently houses the University Chancellor's Office). On loan from the government was a desk used by President Grover Cleveland (used by O'Neill in his Washington Office), a grandfather clock, curtains, two chandeliers, a sofa, a love seat, chairs, tables, lamps and a porcelain horse sculpture given to the Speaker by the premier of China. In 1999, the exhibit was refashioned and permanently installed on the second floor of the O'Neill Library.

Photo Credit: Office of Communications, University Archives, Burns Library, Boston College

Thomas P. O'Neill Scholarship Recipients Thomas P' O'Neill, Jr. is pictured here with the O'Neill Scholarship Recipients in May 1990. It is a fitting legacy to have this scholarship named after him. In 1986, O'Neill remarked that "Yet even today there is a need to ensure that Boston College remains true to its long tradition of educating the sons and daughters of the working class...Pursuing a degree at Boston College takes more than time and talent, it takes a lot of money...Even with federal and state assistance many young people cannot afford the cost of four years of study. At Boston College, the Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Scholarship Fund will solve that problem for some deserving but financially disadvantaged youths. Hopefully, it will also help guarantee that a proud tradition of Boston College's past will be a continuing part of Boston College's future." To this day, students from O'Neill's congressional district receive this scholarship and are able to attend Boston College.

Photo Credit: Gary Gilbert, Thomas P. O'Neill Papers, Burns Library, Boston College

Introduction | Background | Student | Speaker | Alumnus | Honors | Conclusion