Michael O’Neill

Renowned actor and Auburn alumnus Michael O’Neill will be the keynote speaker for Auburn University’s fall commencement exercises on Dec. 14. O’Neill will deliver his commencement address before a graduating class of nearly 2,000 students and their families.

“Commencement is a time when we celebrate our students’ achievements and empower them to continue living the Auburn Creed as they pursue their dreams,” said Jay Gogue, Auburn’s interim president. “Throughout his career, Michael O’Neill has represented the best of Auburn University and inspired others through his powerful roles onscreen and service to his communities behind the scenes.”

A native of Montgomery, O’Neill launched his acclaimed film and television career after graduating from Auburn in 1974 with a degree in economics. With a career spanning nearly four decades, O’Neill holds more than 120 acting credits to his name and is known to audiences for his roles in award-winning films including Dallas Buyers Club, J. Edgar, Seabiscuit, Transformers and Traffic.

In addition to his celebrated film career, O’Neill’s television credits include memorable roles on prominent shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Rectify, Extant, Bates Motel, Jack Ryan and The West Wing. O’Neill will soon be seen in the highly anticipated NBC drama series Council of Dads, and in the critically acclaimed feature film, Clemency, which was awarded the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.

Delivering an address titled The Unexpected, O’Neill will discuss the challenges and rewards that come with life’s unexpected journeys. A degree in economics doesn’t ordinarily lead to acting, but he’ll discuss Auburn‘s role in a long career in the entertainment industry.

Following his graduation from Auburn, O’Neill began his career under the mentorship of veteran character actor Will Geer and Geer’s daughter, Ellen, at the Theatricum Botanicum in Los Angeles. After leaving Hollywood for New York City in the 1980s, O’Neill emerged as a gifted character actor who became known for strong performances across his extensive body of work.

When not filming, O’Neill spends time with his wife and three daughters and focuses on service to professional and charitable organizations. He has served on the board of the Hollywood branch of the Screen Actors Guild and has often participated in the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s BookPALS program, reading to elementary school children. He has also been involved in Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity and Focus on Recovery in Birmingham.

Auburn’s fall commencement ceremonies will be held in the Auburn Arena at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.