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After 16 months without an official master of ceremonies and host, Harvard has a new University marshal.
University President Lawrence H. Summers announced Wednesday that he had filled the position with the Mass. Hall employee who had spearheaded the search.
Jacqueline O’Neill, a former staff director in the president’s office and the current communications and external relations director for the Allston Initiative, will become the first female marshal of the University when she assumes the part-time position Feb. 1.
“I’m honored. I think it’s a wonderful job,” she said yesterday. “It was the last piece of unfinished business I had when I left Mass. Hall.”
O’Neill said Summers offered her the position at a meeting three weeks ago.
As marshal, she will take charge of organizing the University’s Commencement exercises and coordinating the visits of foreign dignitaries and international scholars.
The position of the University marshal came under increased scrutiny in 2002, with a contested speech by graduating senior Zayed M. Yasin ’02.
The speech made national news because of its controversial title, “My American Jihad.”
After some debate, Yasin changed the name of the piece but delivered it in its original form.
University officials have said that Summers was not happy with how Hunt handled the controversy.
At the time of his resignation, Hunt said that Summers should be given a chance to choose his own marshal, though he added that the controversy did not have anything to do with his retirement.
The marshal search, which began immediately after Hunt’s retirement, was put on the back-burner just under a year ago when O’Neill was promoted to the Allston Initiative. Harvard has never gone so long without a marshal.
“[Summers] had a lot of searches and I don’t think it was dropped but it became one of many searches,” she said. “It requires a lot of staff time.”
In Hunt’s absence, last year’s Commencement excercises were organized by the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA), and University Provost Steven E. Hyman served as a stand-in master of ceremonies.
But HAA Executive Director John P. Reardon ’60, who is also associate vice president for University relations, said yesterday that O’Neill’s office will reassume these duties.
O’Neill will also sit on the Commencement Parts Committee, which chooses speakers for Harvard’s graduation ceremonies.
O’Neill said her appointment will fill a gap that currently exists in Harvard’s official programming.
“[Summers] recognized when high-profile visitors came to Harvard that it does take quite a bit of time and attention to do these things thoughtfully and carefully,” she said, citing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s December appearance at the Business School. “The political circumstances need to be taken care of.”
The marshal used to also oversee the International Students Office, but administrative duties were transferred to Harvard’s general counsel after Hunt’s retirement and will not return to the marshal’s office.
But O’Neill said she will will keep her current job with the Allston Initiative in addition to the part-time job of marshal.
“I plan to divide my time between both positions, which will not be that difficult because one is in the Holyoke Center and one is in Wadsworth House,” she said. The two buildings are across Mass. Ave. from each other, she said.
O’Neill said that Summers wants to focus on creating a more welcoming atmosphere at Harvard for international scholars.
“In terms of getting [international] scholars from across the University together, there’s a lot to be done,” she said.
—Staff writer May Habib can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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