Former NCAC board member Robert M. O’Neil passed away on Sunday, September 30, 2018, at the age of 83. Bob was one of the most respected First Amendment attorneys in the country, as well as a leading educator who served as president of both the University of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia. A founder of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, he taught for many years at the University of Virginia Law School. He was an expert on academic freedom and served as general counsel of the American Association of University Professors.
“Free speech advocates across the country are mourning the death of Bob O’Neil,” NCAC Executive Director, Christopher Finan, said. “He was a man of great humility as well as great learning. He was as interested in your opinions as he was in his own.”
Born in Boston, Bob earned degrees in American history and law from Harvard University. He clerked for US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr and dedicated himself to equal rights and inclusion.
As the first non-Southerner to head the University of Virginia, Bob led the effort to admit more black students and others from underrepresented groups. “To be candid, this was not always easy,” his son Benjamin said. “But….many of dad’s diversity initiatives have been embraced and borne fruit over the last two decades.”
Bob will be honored at a memorial service on November 18 at the Cosmos Club in Washington.
Memorial contributions can be made to the American Association of University Professors or the American Civil Liberties Union.