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Staff Addition Gives Allston Initiative New Face

By Lauren A.E. Schuker, Crimson Staff Writer

As the University’s move across the river quietly steps forward, Mass. Hall lost one of its veteran staffers to the Allston planning team this week.

After a decade of work as staff director for two Harvard presidents and a provost, Jackie O’Neill has left her post to become the new director of communications and external relations for the Allston Initiative, which is headed up by top University planner Kathy Spiegelman.

O’Neill has worked for Harvard in a variety of capacities over the past 23 years, and her jobs have ranged from coordinating presidential installations to heading up community relations.

Sometime during the next year, Harvard administrators will likely reveal a plan for a new campus on the University’s hundreds of acres of formerly-industrial land across the river in Allston.

The top options on the table include moving a cluster of graduate schools, anchored by the Law School, or creating a science park with possible tie-ins to commercial biotech.

O’Neill is the latest addition to the Allston Initiative team—which includes on-the-ground-deal-maker Harris Band and Boston native and neighborhood specialist Kevin McCluskey.

As part of the Allston team, O’Neill will oversee community relations with the Allston neighborhood as well as the greater Boston community.

Spiegelman said she initially approached O’Neill for the job because of her strong background at Harvard, as well as her connections with key players in the Allston project, such as Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“Jackie [O’Neill] has a lot of experience with community relations within and outside of Harvard, as well as a lot of contacts in the Boston area,” Spiegelman said. “That kind of convergence of experience is exactly what made her an attractive prospect.”

And as the University’s long-range plan for Allston becomes more of a reality every day, Harvard’s relationship with the Allston neighbors and Boston politicos becomes more and more important.

“Our biggest obstacle right now is convincing people to get excited about Allston—particularly those at Harvard,” Spiegelman said.

O’Neill said she hopes to contribute her previous experience with Boston community affairs to the Allston initiative.

“Allston is a work in progress, which will require both careful external and internal planning,” she said. “We need an academic vision, but before we can do anything meaningful with academics, we need to convince the Allston neighbors and Boston stakeholders that this is a win-win situation—that’s what I’m ready to do.”

O’Neill’s move to Holyoke Center is not the only shift in the President’s office. Lucie McNeil was just hired as Summers’ new press liaison.

“After a year and a half of Larry [Summers] being president, it is only natural that he is reassembling his administrative team,” O’Neill said.

Spiegelman said she has no plans for further additions to the Allston team.

“We are waiting to propose additional positions,” Spiegelman said. “That depends on what the President and Corporation decide is the next move for Allston.”

—Staff Writer Lauren A.E. Schuker can be reached at

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