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Pat and Mike O’Neill

Pat and Mike O'Neill

Pat O'Neill has always considered the library the cornerstone of any academic institution. And that was on her mind one morning last spring as she prepared to meet with Dean of UT Arlington Library Gerald Saxon.

"The receptionist joked that I was early," O'Neill said. " ‘That's OK,' I told her. ‘He'll be happy to see me.' "

He was. O'Neill had come to discuss establishing a $100,000 library endowment to be funded through her and husband Mike's estate.

"As Mike and I were approaching retirement, we started really thinking about what we wanted to do with our money," she said. "And we wanted to do something that represented both of us."

The inspiration sprang from the couple's academic ties. They met as graduate students (with English degrees) at Long Island University and have always been interested in music, art and literature. They are longtime members of the Friends of the Library and participants in the Adopt-A-Journal Program.

As liberal arts devotees, the O'Neills already had endowed a prize in the English Department for graduate teaching assistants. Each year, one award recognizes excellence in teaching, and another recognizes outstanding academic achievement.

But they wanted the $100,000 endowment to make a wider impact.

"Over the years, I've seen the UT Arlington Library consistently implement exciting innovations and create a dynamic learning environment," Pat said.

So each year, a specific amount of money will be made available to the College of Liberal Arts from the library to purchase books and other scholarly materials that faculty and staff can use for research and in the classroom.

"Every student takes liberal arts courses," Pat said. "It just seems like it will make a really nice, broad impact."

As a doctoral student, Mike spent most of his time in the library at the University of Florida and again when he taught at Florida and the University of Alabama. He says libraries, in general, are under-supported.

"If you ask someone in the library what you're looking for, they'll tell you," he said. "These are some of the best people on campus, and you can find some very interesting things if you know where to look. To me, that's an experience every student needs to have."

Pat retired as assistant vice president for student affairs in August after 28 years at UT Arlington. She hopes the gift will help other faculty and staff understand the benefit to students 10, 20 or even 30 years from now and will encourage them to consider supporting projects of their own special interests.

"The mission of the University centers on intellectual discovery," she said. "The library is where all members of the University community can go for those discoveries."

— Susan M. Slupecki

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