CAHNR Recognizes Mike O’Neill for Service and Sense of Humor as Head of UConn Extension

With boundless energy, a sense of humor, and an eclectic collection of bow ties, Mike O'Neill elevated UConn Extension and helped advance CAHNR's mission

Man standing at podium

Mike O'Neill at CAHNR's Awards & Honors ceremony. (UConn Photo)

The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) recently held a reception honoring outgoing CAHNR associate dean and associate director for Extension, Michael P. O’Neill, upon his retirement.

“In his 10 years of service to the College, Mike provided leadership and expertise that advanced CAHNR’s mission in research, teaching, and extension outreach,” says CAHNR Dean Indrajeet Chaubey. “But he also had an infectious energy and desire to have an impact that fostered community within our College and beyond. He will be missed, but we wish him the best on this next chapter.”

O’Neill received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of Buffalo. His extension and research programs focused on the nexus of food, energy, environment, and water.

Before coming to UConn, O’Neill worked as a national program leader at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This background gave O’Neill the unique expertise to help guide the College through the federal funding process to advance research and extension efforts.

O’Neill helped improve UConn Extension’s presence around the state, making their programs and the work they do more visible to at UConn and beyond. He often wore his trademark bow tie to special events and functions.

“Mike departs the College leaving behind an Extension structure far more robust and better integrated with research and teaching than when he arrived,” says Cameron Faustman, former CAHNR associate dean for academic programs and interim dean.

During his time as associate dean, O’Neill coordinated the implementation of CAHNR’s strategic vision which emphasizes the College’s commitment to moving the state, country, and world toward a safe, sustainable, and secure future for people and the environment.

“He embodies all of those goals,” David Peterson, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, says. “That was done during his tenure and that will guide the College long after Mike’s retirement.”

O’Neill was dedicated to innovation, keeping up with peers in the National Extension Directors and Administrators and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities to continuously move the College forward. He felt the best way to achieve success was to elevate from withing. So, O’Neill led efforts to provide leadership development training for faculty and staff and improve communications about CAHNR’s successes.

Sandy Bushmich, former CAHNR associate dean of academic programs and director of the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture (RHSA), recalls O’Neill’s dedication to CAHNR and his willingness to take on any task for the benefit of the College with his sense of humor and care.

“In ten years, he moved [CAHNR] forward,” Bushmich says. “I think he was absolutely the right person for the job.”

Follow UConn CAHNR on social media