A Gift for All Seasons

John O'Neill

The O’Neill Family. From left: David O’Neill; LT Daniel O’Neill ’07, USN (Ret.); Eric O’Neill, John O’Neill ’68; and Sean O’Neill ’05

John O'Neill '68 grew up the oldest of seven on a farm in rural Harford County, MD. "I had an opportunity to study abroad in Spain in high school and it opened my eyes to the world," said O'Neill. His grandfather suggested the Naval Academy, and at 17, he found plebe year preferable to feeding the cows.

With a strong GPA, O'Neill was recruited to nuclear submarines upon graduation. "Admiral Rickover's nuclear power 'charm school' was the hardest academic challenge ever," O'Neill said. "But what I learned was invaluable." O'Neill very much enjoyed the technological challenges and comradery of SSBNs but did not want to be an absentee father while on submarine patrols. He left active duty after five years to attend Yale Law School and became a lawyer focused on nuclear energy—spending his entire 40-year career with the same firm before retiring in 2016.

"Along the way, I reflected on how I managed to have both the professional and personal life that I found so meaningful and rewarding," he said. "The Naval Academy and Navy experience gave me the tools to succeed professionally." O'Neill also noted that he met his first wife, Vivian, who passed away in 2011, on the Navy Chapel steps, and two of their four sons graduated from the Academy.

So, O'Neill began to give back. First, over time, he made outright cash gifts as a President's Circle donor, a Naval Academy Athletic Blue and Gold supporter and as an Athletic & Scholarship Programs trustee. Then he discovered the tax benefits of donating appreciated stock—the Naval Academy Foundation, which raises private gifts in support of the Academy, realized the full value of his gift while he avoided capital gains tax that would have been due on the sale of stock.

Later, his financial advisor encouraged him to shift some of his portfolio into more conservative investments. O'Neill set up a charitable gift annuity, providing him with immediate tax benefits and an attractive fixed rate for life and the opportunity to support the future of the Brigade.

When he turned 70 ½, he began to donate directly a portion of his annual IRA required minimum distribution to the Foundation, thereby eliminating otherwise taxable income. Most recently, he updated his will to include bequests to the Foundation and several other charities.

"At various stages of my life, there's been an ideal way to help the Academy," O'Neill said. "I am proud to be able to contribute in a small way to the leadership that the Academy is showing in producing world class leaders for the military for the country."

Elevate Excellence

Regardless of your life stage, you have the power to widen the Naval Academy Foundation's margin of excellence. Contact Patti Bender at 410-295-4186 or plannedgiving@usna.com to discuss a gift that's right for you.


© United States Naval Academy Alumni Association & Foundation


A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the United States Naval Academy Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to the United States Naval Academy Foundation, a nonprofit corporation currently located at 274 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402, or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to the Naval Academy Foundation or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the Naval Academy Foundation as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the Naval Academy Foundation as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and the Naval Academy Foundation where you agree to make a gift to the Naval Academy Foundation and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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