If ever there was a man to inspire you to get involved, it’s Bill O’Neill, Jr.,’51. The member of Gilmour’s second graduating class has spent the decades since graduation enriching his life in countless ways. He’s built businesses, launched a foundation, served in the U.S. Air Force, sat on the board of many non-profits and contributed in one way or another to dozens of organizations.
For the most part, O’Neill is retired now, working on various charitable causes from his home office, Dungannon, LLC, in Hunting Valley, Ohio. But he’s worn many hats throughout his illustrious career and still is involved as a trustee and director with CM Wealth Advisors, a wealth management company he founded in 1983.
The Georgetown University and Harvard Law School graduate also co-founded the William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation with his mother in the late 1980s. Named for O’Neill’s parents, the foundation gives about $3 million in grants annually to organizations around the country that support families.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of things, but what drives me is caring about the result,” O’Neill says. “The caring creates the desire. The desire creates the drive. The drive creates the effort that gets the result.”
O’Neill has produced results consistently throughout his career. He was the first in-house legal counsel at Leaseway Transportation Corp., a transportation and vehicle leasing company he worked at for 25 years. After rising through the company’s ranks to become its president and COO in 1974, he led it to become a $1 billion enterprise.
In the three years he served in the U.S. Air Force – fresh out of law school – he rose from second lieutenant to captain, and represented the Air Force in multimillion-dollar lawsuits when he was just in his 20s.
O’Neill says each of his professions took him in vastly different directions. “I came to the conclusion that I have to be a student my whole life,” he says. “As part of lifelong learning, you’re being exposed to many new people and ideas. That exposure broadens your mind and is very useful in all the decisions you’re called upon to make.”
O’Neill learned much about business and life from his many mentors, going back to his very first one, his grandfather. “My grandfather would talk to us about horses. I learned from him that you always feed your horse before you feed yourself,” O’Neill says. “The lesson clearly was, before you take care of yourself you take care of the people and organizations that you’re responsible for. It’s a very, very basic lesson that applies to all of life.”
At Gilmour, Brother Ivo was a mentor to O’Neill, challenging him to be the best he could be. “The challenge was sort of indirect, but I wanted to live up to his expectations,” O’Neill says. “So I would push myself a little harder. He inspired us all to think outside the box. That stayed with me.”
As a member of Gilmour’s second graduating class, Gilmour impacted O’Neill in other ways as well. “We were privileged in that we started many of its traditions,” O’Neill recalls. “It was a formative time for us and for Gilmour.”
Today, other than working from his home office, O’Neill passes the time with his wife of 26 years, Kathy. He also rides his horse, drives a tractor – and writes a blog and series of letters to each of his grandchildren, which they’ll receive when they turn 18.
“My Gilmour education got me started, and 62 years later I am still going pretty strong,” he says. “I try to do as much as I can, for as many as I can, for as long as I can – but still leave a little time to enjoy just how good life is.”