Richard O'Neill, class '48
News of the death of Dick O'Neill in Kentucky following an automobile accident last year, came as a deep shock to all of us who knew him in the College, whether as a fellow pupil or as a parent who dropped in from time to time when his boys were in 'Knock during the 1970's. Dick was a member of the famous O'Neill family of Mount Merrion Ave., Dublin. At one stage there were no less than five O'Neill brothers who were pupils in the College at the same time.
We remember Dick in his school days as a boy with great drive and determination. Like all his brothers he was a keen rugby player, playing on the Junior Cup Team and in his final two years on the Senior Cup Team. In 1947 he gained a cup medal when the Senior Cup came to 'Knock for the sixth time. Dick was also a very good boxer and won many trophies during these years. The drive which served Dick so well in his sporting activities also served him well in the Classroom. It could be said of Dick that he used all the helps available to him to the full - a good family background, an innate capacity for hard work to achieve whatever object he had in mind, and a strong personality.
On leaving 'Knock Dick decided to follow a career in medicine, and on qualifying he spent some time in Jervis St. Hospital as House Physician. He then went to the General Hospital West Hartlepool Yorkshire. Afterwards he was Medical Registrar at Lewis Hospital Stornoway. In 1958 he came to Boston on a Fulbright Scholarship and was awarded a fellowship at the Lahey Clinic. In 1964 he joined the University of Kentucky Medical Faculty, and served as Director of the Division of Pulmonary Medicine. In 1971 he was awarded, in national competition, the Pulmonary Academic Award of the National Heart and Lung Council of the National Institutes for Health. The award brought the university almost half a million dollars for teaching and research. While in Kentucky he also became involved in occupational lung diseases, particularly black lung disease which effects coal miners. Dick left the university in 1980 to go into private practice.
It could truly be said of Dick that he really reached the top of the tree in his chosen profession. One of his former pupils wrote “Dick O'Neill was a very vigorous and energetic man and for that reason a great teacher - he was always honest, called a spade a spade, and had a lot of interest in his students." To quote another writer - "Dr. O'Neill had a vital force that was stronger than the rest of us have. He had energy, vitality love of life. scorn for injustice.” There was another side to Dick exemplified in the following quote - "I have never known a doctor that did more free work for people - he was giving at least half his practice away."
At Dick's funeral Mass the Gospel was the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.). Like the good Samaritan Dick had often been moved to pity by someone who was sick and had used his considerable abilities, both medical and charitable, to make him well again. May the Author of the parable of the Good Samaritan now reward Dick for all his good works and give him eternal peace.
To all Dick's family especially Terry ('79), Paul ('83) and Debbie, we in the College send our deepest sympathy and an assurance of our prayers.
Requiescat in Pace.