Paul O’Neill, the nation’s nominee for treasury secretary in President-elect Bush’s cabinet, worked as a box boy to help make ends meet during his college days at California State University, Fresno in the late 50’s, says a faculty member who is a long-time friend.

Dr. Paul D. Bush, a Fresno State economics professor, and Fresno State President John D. Welty talked to local news media about O’Neill who received a bachelor’s degree in economics from then Fresno State College in 1960.

In 1999, an honorary doctoral degree — a doctor of humane letters — was conferred by the California State University and Fresno State on O’Neill during the university’s 88th Commencement ceremonies.

In 1991, O’Neill, who is chairman of the board of Alcoa, received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Fresno State Alumni Association.

O’Neill also remains in touch with his alma mater as a member of the President’s Circle as well as working with various faculty members and alumni.

If confirmed, O’Neill would join an elite Fresno State alumnus circle of grads who have served in high level presidential administration positions such as Phillip V. Sanchez (Nixon Administration) and Dr. Lee P. Brown (Clinton Administration).

Dr. Paul Bush’s long-time friendship with O’Neill dates back to 1960 when they met in graduate school at Claremont College were Dr. Bush was a doctoral student and teacher beginning his current 30-year teaching tenure at Fresno State in 1961.

Dr. Bush says that O’Neill’s box boy days are typical of the college experience many students face, working to pay their way through college. The economics professor also said that in O’Neill’s role with the Office of Budget and Management, he developed a reputation of being able to work with both Republicans and Democrats.

Dr. Bush also notes that other notable alum from O’Neill’s era includes Marvin Baxter (1962), California Supreme Court Justice; and Dr. Lee Brown (1961), mayor of Houston, Texas who served as drug czar in the Clinton Administration;

Phillip V. Sanchez (1953) was director of the US Office of Economic Opportunity and ambassador to Honduras under Nixon. He is now publisher of Tiempos del Mundo, an international weekly newspaper.

Other honorary doctorates awarded by the CSU and Fresno State include Sid Craig, Dr. Lee Brown, Dr. Vincent Petrucci, Earl Smittcamp, Robert Duncan, Edward James Olmos, Elmer “Bud” Richter, Hugo Morales and Coke and James Hallowell.


O’Neill was elected chairman and chief executive officer of Alcoa April 20, 1987. Before being elected to his present position, he served as an Alcoa director.

Dubbed by the Associated Press as a “corporate chieftain,” Paul O’Neill has shared his career work with community and business organizations, where he has been a director, trustee or board member of more than a dozen organizations and foundations.

Although he holds Alcoa’s top position, he recently gave up his plush mahogany office — replete with seven armchairs, massive desk and private bathroom — for a cubicle with his staff. O’Neill enjoys “bumping” into his employees and working together in an informal setting.

O’Neill has served on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a director of the Council for Excellence and the Gerald Ford Foundation. He was a founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and a trustee for the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.

Some of O’Neill’s industry highlights include serving as director for Eastman Kodak Company, the Institute for International Economics, Lucent Technologies, the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation and the International Primary Aluminum Institute.

Mr. O’Neill began his career as an engineer for Morrison-Knudsen, Inc. in Anchorage, Alaska. He worked as a computer systems analyst with the U.S. Veterans Administration from 1961 to 1966 and served on the staff of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from 1967 to 1977. He was deputy director of the OMB from 1974 to 1977.