Auburn University to confer 1,900 degrees during weekend commencement ceremonies

Published: December 09, 2019
Updated: December 12, 2019
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Renowned actor and Auburn alumnus Michael O’Neill will be the keynote speaker for Auburn University’s fall commencement exercises on Dec. 14. He will deliver his commencement address before a graduating class of 1,900 students and their families.

O’Neill will speak at a 10 a.m. ceremony for the College of Education, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts. He will speak again at a 2 p.m. ceremony for the College of Agriculture; the College of Architecture, Design and Construction; the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business; the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences; the College of Human Sciences; the School of Nursing; and the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

“Commencement is a time when we celebrate our students’ achievements and empower them to continue living the Auburn Creed as they pursue their dreams,” said Jay Gogue, Auburn’s interim president. “Throughout his career, Michael O’Neill has represented the best of Auburn University and inspired others through his powerful roles onscreen and service to his communities behind the scenes.”

O’Neill will soon be seen as “Larry Mills” in the new NBC drama series, Council of Dads, and as “Chaplain Kendricks” in the critically acclaimed feature film, Clemency, which won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize. His most recent role is “Senator Mitchell Chapin” in season two of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Amazon. Other recent appearances for O’Neill include the series’ The Romanoffs, The Resident, 11.22.63, Shooter, S.W.A.T. and a five-episode arc in the final season of Scandal. Previous television credits include his four-season role on the award-winning Sundance TV series, Rectify; the CBS series, Extant with Halle Berry; and A&E’s Bates Motel. O’Neill’s memorable TV roles include Grey’s Anatomy and fan-favorite “Special Agent Ron Butterfield” on The West Wing, as well as Necessary Roughness, Vegas, The Grim Sleeper, NCIS, Sons of Anarchy and The Unit. In feature films, O’Neill played FDA Agent “Richard Barkley” in the award winning Dallas Buyers Club and his vast credits include J. Edgar, Green Zone, Transformers, Secondhand Lions, Traffic, Sea of Love and Seabiscuit. O’Neill also recently completed two feature films, The Stand at Paxton County and Indivisible.

A native of Alabama, O’Neill has a degree in economics from Auburn University. He began his acting career under the mentorship of Will Geer, and Geer’s daughter Ellen, at the Theatricum Botanicum in Los Angeles.

Delivering an address titled The Unexpected, O’Neill will discuss the challenges and rewards that come with life’s unexpected journeys. A degree in economics doesn’t ordinarily lead to acting, but he’ll discuss Auburn‘s role in a long career in the entertainment industry. 

When not filming, O’Neill spends time with his wife and three daughters and focuses on service to professional and charitable organizations. He has served on the board of the Hollywood branch of the Screen Actors Guild and has often participated in the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s BookPALS program, reading to elementary school children. He has also been involved in Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity and Focus on Recovery in Birmingham.

Auburn University will award 93 doctoral degrees, 375 master’s degrees, 14 education specialist degrees and 1,418 bachelor’s degrees. The bachelor’s degrees by college and school are: Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, 333; Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, 266; College of Liberal Arts, 255; College of Sciences and Mathematics, 165; College of Education, 112; College of Architecture, Design and Construction, 100; College of Agriculture, 92; College of Human Sciences, 66; School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, 23; and School of Nursing, six.

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.