Each year, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation awards the Medal for Distinguished Public Service to an individual, or individuals, who have served the public good in the private and public sector. During the June 3 annual meeting of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation at the Capitol Hill Club, Mike Ford, son of President Ford and chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation; and Carla Hills, foundation trustee, paid tribute to this year’s recipient former Secretary of the Treasury Paul H. O’Neill.
O’Neill was appointed the 72nd secretary of the Treasury Department in 2001 by President George W. Bush. O’Neill started his career in government service under President John F. Kennedy and continued working under Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ford. Under the former administrations, he acted as a computer systems analyst from 1961-1967 for the U.S. Veterans Administration and as a staff member and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1967-1977. After working with the OMB, O’Neill left the government to pursue business interests in the private sector. O’Neill came to the Treasury Department following several years of experience as chairman and CEO of aluminum giant Alcoa.
“Through his tenure as a public servant and as a leader in the private sector, Secretary O’Neill has demonstrated personal and professional qualities making him a worthy recipient of the President Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service,” said Ford. “Dad always had the highest regard for Secretary O’Neill and his ability to keep our nation’s finances in check while serving as deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget, and later as secretary of the Treasury.”
Instrumental in setting up a special task force within the Treasury Department to combat terrorist financing, O’Neill worked closely with Middle Eastern countries to stop money laundering and fraud. The initiative ultimately led to the creation of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
“During his many years of government service, Secretary O’Neill exhibited the very qualities we deeply admire with respect to President Ford,” said Hills, former ambassador and secretary of Housing and Urban Development and chair of the GRFPF awards committee. “He devoted much of his life to serving the American people through public service positions and was dedicated to making a difference while he served.”
O’Neill was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from California State University, Fresno. He studied economics at Claremont Graduate University, and earned a Master of Public Administration from Indiana University. O’Neill and his wife, Nancy Jo, reside in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and have four children, 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
The Ford Medal has been given annually since 2003.
Previous recipients include: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (2003), Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (2004), First Lady Betty Ford (2005), the men and women of the Armed Forces (2006), Congressman Lee Hamilton and Secretary of State James Baker (2007), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Carla Hills (2008), Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (2009), Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger (2010), Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman (2011), Senator Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill (2012), Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft (2013), Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh Jr. (2014), Senator Carl Levin and Congressman John Dingell (2015), President George H.W. Bush (2016), President Jimmy Carter (2017), and Senator John W. Warner (2018).
About the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation fosters increased awareness of the life, career, values, and legacy of America’s 38th President. It does so through activities designed to promote the high ideals of integrity, honesty, and candor that defined President Ford’s extraordinary career of public service. The Foundation promotes the ideas, values, commitment to public service and historical legacy of President Gerald R. Ford and further promotes greater civic engagement and recognition of integrity wherever it exists in the public arena. It supports permanent and changing exhibits designed to promote historical literacy; conferences; educational outreach and other programs, both scholarly and popular, including at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
Photo: Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation/Robert Humphries
Paul O’Neill Jr. accepts the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service on behalf of his father, former Secretary of the Treasury Paul H. O’Neill. Secretary O’Neill was honored during the annual meeting of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation on June 3, 2019, at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington D.C. Pictured (left-right) Mike Ford, son of President Ford and chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation; Paul O’Neill Jr., and Carla Hills, foundation trustee.