Historian William Lawrence O’Neill has died at age 80

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William Lawrence O’Neill, Historian, April 18, 1935-March 29, 2016

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William L. O’Neill, an eminent social and political historian of modern America, died on March 29, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, at the age of 80.

Professor O’Neill, a retired Distinguished Professor from Rutgers University, wrote more than a dozen books on subjects such as women, politics, and war in the United States in the Twentieth Century. Among his most well-known books are: Everyone Was Brave: a History of Feminism in America (1969); Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960’s (1971); The Last Romantic: A Life of Max Eastman (1978); A Better World: Stalinism and the American Intellectuals (1982); American High: The Years of Confidence, 1945-1960 (1986); and A Democracy at War: America’s Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II (1993). His last book was entitled A Bubble in Time: America during the Interwar Years, 1989-2001 (2009). In addition to editing numerous books, he also authored text books, including World War II: A Student Companion, and published many articles.

Born and raised in Big Rapids, Michigan, Professor O’Neill was the eldest son of John and Helen O’Neill. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan, and then earned his doctorate in history at the University of California, Berkeley. After teaching at the Universities of Pittsburgh, Colorado, and Wisconsin; Professor O’Neill joined the faculty of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1971 and taught there for over 35 years.  

A popular teacher, as well as a prolific scholar, Professor O’Neill taught courses on modern America as well as World War I and World War II. He was a founding member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Rutgers Oral History Archives. O’Neill received a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Humanities in 1979 and the Rutgers Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research in 1983. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and other directories.

Professor O’Neill is survived by his wife of 55 years, Elizabeth Carol; two children, Cassandra and Catherine; and two grandchildren, Caleb and Monica Aspy. He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather and is sorely missed by his family.

The funeral was held on March 31. Interment was at Elmwood Cemetery in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Memorial donations may be made to a charity of your choice.



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