We share with heavy hearts the sad news that our colleague Professor John McNeil passed away this weekend at age 101. John worked until last week. He loved his work and his work home, UCLA Ed&IS.

This page will serve as a tribute to a life well-lived by Professor McNeil. We invite you to submit your fondest memory of John as we remember the lasting impact he left on so many. You may submit a tribute by completing this form.

Over the years, Professor McNeil has been featured in various UCLA publications; including UCLA Ed&IS Magazine, Ampersand Online Magazine, and UCLA Newsroom. Please take a moment to look back at previous articles about Professor McNeil.

Obituary

John Donald McNeil: 1919 – 2021

UCLA Ed&IS Magazine

Ampersand Online Magazine

UCLA Newsroom

Professor John McNeil in the Reading Room at UCLA Ed&IS

Remembering Professor John McNeil: Tributes

You may submit a tribute by completing this form.

Leah Wilmore: “Prof McNeil was so precious. Always a kind word. Gentle smile. Amazing determination. I will truly miss stopping to chat with him in the hallways and on campus. He will be missed.”

Patricia McDonough: “Because John’s office was close to mine, he and I had lots of talks over the years.  He was always working on something, thinking about something and always caring about everything. I am sad and will miss him!”

Carlos Alberto Torres: “The life of John McNeil is to be celebrated. He lived a long life, and over the 31 years that I had made my home at UCLA, he and I interacted on many different ways and environments.” Read Full Tribute Here

Tyrone Howard: “This is truly sad news. I can recall numerous conversations with John. He always had a smile, lots of wisdom, and a gracious spirit. He will be truly missed!”

Nataly Birch: “John had such a kind, resilient spirit! Every day, he was full of enthusiasm walking up to Moore Hall excited for the new day. It was obvious that he loved his job and the School of Education. I always admired how he would walk up two flights of stairs to get to his office on the third floor. John was a wonderful man! I will miss him!”

John McDonald: “For me, John was the bright light of Moore Hall – – a real treasure of a man, kind, honest, funny and always intellectually curious. He would stop by my office now and then for a chat , asking about my family — or what I was working on. He would read things I had written and offer complements or comments and ask questions, or talk about things he was working on. Sometimes I would see him in the hall, always with a newspaper under his arm or the Economist or some magazine, and he would share some article that had gotten his attention. I was fortunate to sit in on a class he was helping to teach – at age 99- and was just amazed at his contributions and connections with the students. His was a life well lived and he definitely enriched mine. I’lll miss him, but he will always make me smile.”

John enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the UCLA Men’s Recruitment Center in 1940. His Navy career included serving as Gunnery Officer at the Battle of Normandy; Executive Officer during the Battle of Okinawa; Commander of Amphibious Group one and keeper of Military War Diary during the Korean War; and Commander, U.S. Navy Reserve. Received 4 Battle Stars. Courtesy of Heather Larkin
Early birthday party at 1137 West Cherry Street, Cherokee, Iowa. John Donald McNeil and mother, Elizabeth Scott (McCulloch) McNeil, at far right. Courtesy of Heather Larkin

 

 

John celebrates his 100th birthday on October 29, 2019, in Moore Hall with friends, colleagues, and former students – and former students who have become friends and colleagues. L-R: Al Aubin (Ed.D,’71), Arif Amlani, director of program development; Wasserman Dean Christina (Tina) Christie (then- Professor and Education Chair), Professor Mike Seltzer, Jody Priselac (’99, Ph.D.), Associate Dean for Community Programs; and Octavio Pescador (’93, Political Science; ’03, Ph.D., Education).

 

Cary Whitcup: “John was a brilliant scholar and teacher, a war hero and a humble, lovely man. He always had time to stop by my office for a chat. He had loads of interesting stories and a great sense of humor. John, you will be missed.”

Bob Naples: “What a fine and interesting man! Truly a life well lived.”

Ramces Jimenez: “John was always so nice and happy to see you, and he was invested in those around him. I mentioned to him once that I got married in November 2014, and every Fall term, he’d ask if I had bought an anniversary present for my wife….wow. I’m sad to hear of his passing and send my thoughts and prayers to his family.”

Albert E. Aubin (Class of ’71, Ed.D): “I first met “Professor” Mc Neil while still a student in the 1960s. We became colleagues when John served as Director of Teacher Education and I was with the Office of Student Services.  From then on, we became friends and I enjoyed our chats on campus at the Kerckhoff Coffee House, Faculty Center, or the UCLA Cafeteria.” Read Full Tribute Here

Val Rust: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of John McNeil. He came to symbolize the best of the academic environment that I so appreciated while working for more than forty years at UCLA and in Moore Hall.” Read Full Tribute Here

Charles J. Alexander: “John was at the Wooden Center almost everyday working out and getting in his exercise. I had the privilege of sharing a bowl of oatmeal with him at the Reagan Hospital cafeteria after our workouts. He was a great conversationalist and shared many of stories about his life at UCLA He was also interested in discussing current social justice issues. I missed him this past year due to COVID, but will always remember our moments together in conversation at the Wooden Center.”

Wellford “Buzz” Wilms: “John always had a new idea about something important.  Whether running into him in the old mailroom or in the hall, he would have a sheaf of papers clutched in his hand and he was brimming over to discuss it. Also, that twinkle in his eye.  I realized that was a big part of what endeared me to John – it was like a reflection of my own creativity that he was helping me to see.  You don’t find very often.  And then his humility – I wished I’d learned that one better – but he was always there in his own quiet way teaching.  The university can be a real dog-eat-dog world, but John always stood apart from it seemingly unaffected.”

Bill Younglove (Ed.D., 1983): “John was one of a kind. Despite having served in both theaters during World War II and having academic credentials ad infinitum, he understood the essence of schooling; that it was all about kids–and what curriculum could/would do for them. Thank you, John, on behalf of those of us who were your own students.”

Edward Cody Schumacher (Class of ’71, ’74, ’86): “Of many it is said that their door is always open. Professor McNeil’s heart was always open.”

Michael Hinson (Class of ’87): Professor McNeil was the nicest teacher I encountered at UCLA. He was such a kind person, willing to take time to talk to his students about any issue. He really helped me during my time at UCLA. He was really one of a kind, such a great instructor and human.

Marjorie Orellana: “May we all have half the wisdom he acquired in his life. I will miss seeing John walking into Moore Hall every day, newspaper under his arm, a smile ever upon his face.”

 

John D. McNeil with Boy Scout Troop 15; pictured at far right with Scoutmaster George Edwardson. Courtesy of Heather Larkin

 

Marilyn Winters (Class of ’57): “I had fond memories of Dr. McNeil. I remember going into his office one day. I was struggling with personal problems and shed a few tears when I went in to speak to him. I received my MA Degree from UCLA and then went on to have a career in the field of Curriculum becoming a Director of Curriculum in a local school district. I still have his textbook ” Curriculum Administration.” He and I exchanged letters in 2015. He invited me to come and have lunch with him. That office visit so long ago was a huge helping hand to me when I was struggling with school and home pressures. I was so sorry to hear of his death.”

Michelle Huang (Class of 2021): “I am grateful to be Professor McNeil’s student and attend his very last class, although virtually. Professor McNeil may not be with us anymore, but his teachings and impact will last a lifetime. My deepest sympathy goes to Professor McNeil’s family in this time of grief.”

Mike Rose: “It’s hard to add to what has already been said in tribute to John McNeil, for it is all lovely and all true. I want to confirm and affirm these tributes and add that I knew John for about 45 years, through different stages of his long life.

He always had a curiosity about things and expressed it frequently, often asking a question about some concept or theory, truly seeming to want to know what you thought. What YOU thought. Then he would consider what you said, acknowledging a point, perhaps, but often raising a further question. None of this was done in an aggressive way, never an “I gotcha” stance, but genuine and humane.

I didn’t know much about his personal life, or, for that fact, about any of his life outside of Moore Hall, but I bet that generous, inquiring approach to matters intellectual characterized his approach to a lot else. Here’s to you, John. You touched a whole lot of life and a whole lot of lives while you were with us.”
Professor John McNeil and Robert Crawford watch a demonstration of a teaching machine in the Educational Psychology Lab. Courtesy of Albert E. Aubin

 

Verghese Nallengara: “I knew Professor McNeil from seeing and chatting with him at the Wooden Center and Ackerman Union on many mornings. I was very, very impressed when he disclosed his age to me between reps a few years ago. I will miss him.”

John McNeil with two former students, Octavio Pescador (’93, B.A., Political Science; ’03, Ph.D., Education, at left) and Albert Aubin (’71, Ed.D. ), celebrating McNeil’s 99th birthday at the UCLA Faculty Center. Since 2016, Professor McNeil had been co-teaching a course on preserving human rights through entrepreneurial projects with Pescador; in 2020, they continued to teach the class remotely. Courtesy of Albert E. Aubin