Professor of Law Emeritus
University Professor Emeritus
LL.B., Harvard Law School, 1961
A.M., Harvard University, 1957
B.A., Harvard University, 1956
Robert O'Neil, former director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and an authority on the First Amendment, teaches constitutional law of free speech and the press, and church and state. He came to Virginia in 1985 to become the University of Virginia's sixth president, a position he held until 1990.
After his law school graduation, O'Neil clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. In 1963 he began his law faculty career, first as a teacher at the University of California-Berkeley and then as a teacher-administrator. His posts included provost of the University of Cincinnati, vice-president of Indiana University, and president of the statewide University of Wisconsin system.
O'Neil has served as the president of the Virginia Council for Open Government, chairman of the Council for America's First Freedom, director of the Commonwealth Fund and the James River Corporation, and chair of the American Association of University Professors Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure. He is currently director of the Ford Foundation's Difficult Dialogues program, chair of the American Association of University Professors' Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in Time of Crisis, and is a consultant to the Association of Governing Boards on issues of Board Accountability. He has served as a trustee for the Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association (TIAA), WVPT Public Television, and the Piedmont Council for the Arts.
From 1979-95 O'Neil served as a trustee for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He has also chaired the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, a commission on the future of Virginia's judicial system, and a commission of the Markle Foundation on media coverage of presidential elections.