University, community mourns the loss of mathematician, mentor and friend Jim O’Neal

Mr. Jim O'Neal, former chair of Mathematics, passed away Wednesday, May 19 at his home in Troy. He was 96. (TROY photo/Mark Moseley)

Mr. Jim O'Neal, former chair of Mathematics, passed away Wednesday, May 19 at his home in Troy. He was 96. (TROY photo/Mark Moseley)

Troy and the University lost a caring, gentle and genteel legend with the death of Mr. James “Jim” O’Neal, who died Wednesday, May 19 at his College Street home surrounded by loved ones. He was 96.

He had taught mathematics at the University for some 40 years, serving as department chair for 16 years, and had continued to serve the University by mentoring faculty members and college students alike. In 2006, Mr. O’Neal joined the Troy University Foundation’s Legacy Giving Council.

A lifelong member of Troy’s First Baptist Church, the College Sunday School Class there was named for him. In honor of his 90th birthday, the church designated him Deacon Emeritus.

Mr. O’Neal’s secular educational career began in the Laboratory School at Troy State College before his career at Troy High School. In 1943, he was drafted into the Army Air Corps through the end of World War II. After the war, he attended Troy State College and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1949. He earned a degree in Religious Education at Southwest Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and later completed a master’s degree at Columbia University.

Before joining the faculty at Troy State in 1959, he served as a high school teacher and principal at Americus, GA.

“Mr. O’Neal was a dedicated teacher and Trojan,” said TROY Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. “He was a true southern gentleman.”

“True gentleman” is an apt description for Mr. O’Neal. He was always quick with a kind word or to offer gentle advice or help to anyone in need.

“We were all saddened by his passing,” said Mathematics Department Chair Dr. Kenneth Roblee. “With his kind demeanor, he had a profound influence on his students through outstanding teaching and on several of our current and former faculty members through mentoring.”

Today, the Mathematics Education Award bears his name.

“I was among many who were blessed to know and love him as a teacher, colleague, mentor and friend,” said Dr. Diane Porter, a retired associate professor of mathematics at TROY. “He and my dad were born the same year and were so much alike – men who valued faith, family, friends, teaching and treating everyone with respect every day. I am so very thankful to have had the two great men in my life.”

Becky Watson, director of development at TROY, was a beneficiary of his friendliness and caring.

“Mr. Jim O’Neal was one of the most special people I have met in my time at Troy. He was kind, thoughtful and the definition of a true gentleman. He also loved Troy University and the city of Troy,” she said. “He welcomed me to Troy and made me feel like I belonged from day one. He will be missed by all that knew him.”

Services are set for Friday at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Troy. Visitation will be from 12:30 p.m. until 2 p.m. in the church parlor. The services will be streamed at .

His full obituary can be found at .

Authors Note: In full disclosure, Mr. Jim was my neighbor for about a decade. He was such a genuine, interested friend and confidant who exuded all the traits a Christian man should possess. I will forever be thankful for my relationship with him and for his caring of and interest in my family. He made College Street such a great place to live, even when my son was learning to play the trumpet (which I am sure aggravated everyone within earshot on the street, especially Dr. Denison, Mr. and Mrs. Spann and Mr. Jim).