Beloved faculty bid Whitman farewell – Mary Anne O’Neil

Shannon Buckham

Courtesy of the Whitman Communications Dept.
Courtesy of the Whitman Communications Dept.

Professor Mary Anne O’Neil first came to Whitman as a sabbatical replacement in the spring of 1977. For the past 32 years, she has taught in the Foreign Language Department, and this past semester volunteered to act as chair while taking on a special topics class on conversational Italian in addition to her regular course load.  

She has taught courses in French and Spanish as well as a range of courses in world and western literature.   A member of many college committees, O’Neil served as Associate Dean of the Faculty, Chair of the Faculty and Chair of the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department, and was Core Coordinator for 2008-2009.

“Of the many highlights, I would mention the establishment of our Language Learning
Center in Olin and our years as part of the Northwest Language Consortium,” she said, adding that these contributed to more collaboration between faculty and students and developed better means of incorporating technology into language instruction.  

O’Neil received her B.A. in French from the University of California at Berkeley, her M.A. in French from Middlebury College and her Ph.D. in Romance Languages from the University of Oregon. At Whitman she has remained devoted to the development of the Language Department and to the Undergraduate Conferences, which she said have improved each year.  

While she will miss life at Whitman, O’Neil has embraced retirement as a chance to settle some unfinished business.    

“For the first six months after I retire, I plan not to get dressed but to stay in my PJs,” she said.  

O’Neil will also be working with publisher Yale University Press to develop two series of lesson plans to help other language instructors teach her book, “La France et la francophone,” which is already used at Whitman for intermediate and advanced French.  
“I will miss, above all, my colleagues in the Olin building, many of whom have already
left Whitman,” O’Neil said.   “We had so much fun and we worked together so well.   I include among those colleagues the wonderful administrative assistants and custodians.”