University Marshal O'Neill to Retire

Tercentenary Theater Commencement 2016
Commencement 2016.
University Marshal Jackie O’Neill, Harvard’s chief protocol officer and master of ceremonies, will retire in December after more than 40 years at the University.

A veteran Harvard administrator, O’Neill has previously served as the University’s associate vice president for state and community relations, chief of staff to the president, and senior communications consultant to the Allston Initiative. She took the position of University marshal in 2004 under former University President Lawrence H. Summers.

As the tenth University marshal, O’Neill led the Wadsworth House office responsible for welcoming foreign dignitaries, organizing Harvard-wide events, and providing information on the University’s traditions and ceremonies.

Announcing O’Neill’s retirement, University President Drew G. Faust commended O’Neill’s dedication to strengthening the University’s institutional ties both in Cambridge and around the world.

Faust also announced that Margot N. Gill, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ first administrative dean for international affairs, will assume the role of interim marshal until June 2019.


In her 13 years in the marshal position, O’Neill represented the University president in matters of protocol by welcoming distinguished guests to Harvard. In the past few years, she hosted heads of state and senior officials from countries including Sweden and Tanzania.

The marshal’s office reported that last year it arranged for 129 total visits from 52 countries, hosting 847 dignitaries like government officials, university leaders, and professionals in various fields. As Harvard continues to expand its global reach, the office expects to receive even more visits from individuals and delegations seeking to learn more about Harvard, according to the report.

O’Neill also played a leading role in organizing important University-wide events. She oversaw three presidential inaugurations, planned Harvard’s convocation honoring former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela and former U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and in 2011, organized the University’s 375th anniversary celebration. Each year, O’Neill has also orchestrated the ceremonial Morning Exercises of Commencement, during which officials confer University degrees.

Faust said she is grateful for O’Neill’s “super organizational skills” that helped create “special moments and memories” for members across the University.

“With warmth, wit, and wisdom Jackie has also demonstrated time and again her ability to knit our own Harvard community together in celebration, to mark transitions, and to honor our history and traditions,” Faust said.

Gill, the interim Marshal, currently presides over international initiatives of the Faculty of Arts and Science by working on behalf of the school as a liaison to foreign governments, international corporations, and NGOs. Previously, Gill served as the administrative dean for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for more than 20 years. She also held positions overseeing the College’s international programs.

According to Faust, Gill has “a long history at Harvard” and “a deep knowledge of the University's international and local activities” that make her well-positioned for the role.

—Staff writer Sonia Kim can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @soniakim211.


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