BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - For 50 years, the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs has focused on shaping public and environmental policy that would not only make a difference, but also lead for the greater good of others.
But for one day, the O’Neill School decided to focus on itself.
The top-ranked school of its kind in the country celebrated its 50th anniversary October 22, hosting alumni and friends for a series of events including panels, guest speakers, tours, and a reception at Showalter House.
“Fifty years seems like a lot of time, but many of us also know that time can go by in the blink of an eye,” said Siân Mooney, dean of the O’Neill School. “Our first half century has set a standard for what can be accomplished, but it is only a beginning.
“Our impact has been felt throughout the university, the state of Indiana, the country, and the world. Our faculty are world-renowned researchers known for their innovation and leadership. A Nobel Prize-winner has roamed our halls, and the groundbreaking work being conducted on both our Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses makes headlines on nearly a daily basis. Most importantly, our graduates have gone on to be leaders at every level of the public, private, and academic sectors, and the O’Neill School’s influence continues to spread.”
The O’Neill School welcomed guests with a coffee bar in the David and Cecile Wang Commons on the second floor of the O’Neill Graduate Center before a raft of panels opened the program. Experts from the O’Neill School, the IU community, and beyond gathered in four sessions to lead conversations ranging from health equity to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leading policy legitimacy into the future, and building a just and sustainable world.
Next, guests enjoyed a lunch under a brilliant blue sky on the Gillette Terrace between the O’Neill School and Hodge Hall featuring speaker Christina Motilall, a 2012 O’Neill graduate with dual master’s degrees in in public affairs and environmental science. Motilall currently is the communications lead for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, and is co-chair of the Public Participation Committee for the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to exploring the IU campus. Guests toured the O’Neill School building, took a walking tour of the campus, enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at the IU Auditorium, visited the Research and Teaching Preserve’s field lab at Griffey Woods, and toured Memorial Stadium.
The highlight of the day was the reception at Showalter House featuring food, drinks, laughter, and distinguished guests such as Pat Ryan, the widow of former IU President John Ryan, who was the driving force behind the establishment of the O’Neill School in 1972. Also on hand was former dean John Graham and Professor Emeritus Charles Wise, the first faculty member ever hired at the school.
Wise spent time at the podium regaling guests with tales from the early years of the school.
“This was an audacious effort,” Wise said. “The public affairs programs of national note were on the East and West coasts. People thought we were crazy to try to start such a school in the state of Indiana in the middle of the country. President Ryan was an engine to get this thing going, and he was behind melding two imperatives, public administration and environmental science policy. He had a vision that the School of Public and Environmental Affairs was going to meet the needs of the state of Indiana but also make a national and international impact.
“I’m sure John Ryan is up (in heaven) right now smiling about all the things everybody did over the past 50 years to realize his vision.”
Dean Mooney also introduced O’Neill graduate Neil Bloede, a former president of the O’Neill Alumni Board and current member of the O’Neill Distinguished Alumni Council, to introduce the O’Neill Future Fund. The O’Neill Future Fund is a one-time fundraising initiative with the goal of raising a minimum of $50,000 to celebrate the O’Neill School's 50th anniversary. All funds in the O'Neill Future Fund will be invested, growing interest until the school’s 100th anniversary in 2072, positioning it to grow to $1 million. Bloede announced the $50,000 milestone had already been reached and encouraged guests to continue to help the fund grow.
Bloede then welcomed Sophia Osterberg, a current O’Neill senior, to discuss what the school has meant to her.
Dean Mooney closed the event by looking to the future.
“The O’Neill School is proud to celebrate our 50th anniversary,” Mooney said, “and we couldn’t be more excited to see what happens during the next 50 years and beyond.”
Ken Bikoff, Faculty Liaison and Public Relations Officer
Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs | Indiana University
About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
The O’Neill School is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2023 "Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs" by U.S. News & World Report, the O'Neill School is one of the top-ranked programs in the country. Five of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including top-ranked concentrations in environmental policy and management; nonprofit management; and public finance.