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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.

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