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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Suffolk celebrates retirement of Dean William O’Neil

William J. O’Neil Jr. JD ‘74 and wife Ann raising a glass to his fellows
Kailey Bibber
William J. O’Neil Jr. JD ‘74 and wife Ann raising a glass to his fellows

Suffolk University celebrated the retirement of Sawyer Business School Dean William O’Neil Jr., JD ‘74., over a Zoom party on Oct. 21. O’Neil stepped down last June and is going to begin teaching in the next academic year to continue his 28 years of work with Suffolk.

Dean O’Neil has headed the Sawyer Business School (SBS) since 2001 and plans to return to teaching after a one year sabbatical. Prior to his time as Dean, O’Neil served as chair of the Board of Trustees for four years, totaling eight years on the board.

The virtual event was hosted by Provost Julie Sandell, who outlined the event as well as introduced speakers live and in video, including President Marissa Kelly, many members of the Board of Trustees, SBS students and staff, his brother Brian O’Neil, and  O’Neils successor Amy Zeng.

O’Neil has been credited by his peers for helping bring SBS to a global platform.

“One of your crowning achievements was bringing the school into the AACSB, that was really a major accomplishment for the school.” said Bob Johnson, trustee emeritus and Sawyer Business School double-ram, as he has earned two degrees from the university.

The AACSB is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a very competitive group of internationally recognized quality schools of business.

College of Arts and Science Dean Maria Toyoda congratulated O’Neil on his accomplishments during his time at Suffolk, citing a quote from Maya Angelou.

“Where she says that, ‘People may forget what you’ve said, people may forget  what you’ve done, but they’ll never forget  how you’ve made them feel.’ There are so many memorable things you’ve said and there are definitely accomplishments and things you’ve done we’ll never forget,” Toyoda said. “But the part of that of course I do agree with is the way you’ve made us feel.”

Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Robert A. DeLeo also reflected on the impact O’Neil has had during his career through a video message.

“You have left an indelible mark on the region as well as on Suffolk University, under your leadership the Sawyer school has truly become a global institute,” DeLeo said.

The position of dean has been taken over by Amy Z. Zeng. Zeng is a long time scholar and educator with over 20 years of experience in higher education. In a brief video, Zeng gave thanks to her predecessor.

“It is absolutely an honor for me to take over and lead this incredible school. I feel like I am standing on the giants shoulders, having a great foundation as well as a striding force to move the school forward,” Zeng said.

Someone who’s not so sure about the transition is William’s brother, Brian O’Neil.

“I don’t know that he’s going to enjoy what he’s doing but I wish him the very best at it.” Brian recalled, “I was the one who said to Bill, ‘don’t retire, I’m telling you stay there,’ He’s a nervous nidge, he’s always gotta be busy, he’s gotta be doing something,”

In her concluding remarks, President Kelly presented O’Neil with a citation, which will later be mailed to him, reflecting his many accomplishments.

“On behalf of the entire Suffolk community, please accept our gratitude for all you have done for Suffolk and our heartfelt best wishes for your future endeavors. We look forward to your continued service as a member of the faculty of the Sawyer Business School for many years to come,” Kelly said.

Provost Sandell also presented O’Neil with a wall hanging that depicts Boston’s skyline embodied with words describing O’Neil and his time as dean of SBS.

O’Neil concluded the night by thanking everyone for their kind words.

“This was one of the blessings of my life, sharing with my friends saying if you ever get a chance to go and spend time in education with students, don’t pass it by,” O’Neil said. “It’s wonderful, you get more from the students than what you give them… (Suffolk’s) mission is one of the best missions of something I’ve been associated with.”

A video recording of the event, produced by Brian McDermott and university media services, can be found here.

Follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBibbz

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Suffolk celebrates retirement of Dean William O’Neil