Ocean Mammal Institute
Chief Operations Manager
CLASS OF 1974
Above all, Joyce O’Neal believes in the power of individuals to change the world. It is a belief that began to grow during her time at Washington & Jefferson College. “I initially was very shy in high school,” she recalls. “However, at W&J, I made the conscious decision to be more outgoing, and in return, the College presented me with the opportunity to become the best version of myself.”
O’Neal’s decision to break out of her shell served her well at W&J, especially as one of the College’s first female students in 1970. Considering it a time of great change in her life, O’Neal views her college experience as challenging, yet extremely rewarding. “I learned that with hard work and determination, I can achieve anything I want,” she says.
As she navigated her way through W&J’s liberal arts curriculum, O’Neal decided to double major in psychology and sociology because “it just clicked.” When she approached graduation, O’Neal found her calling in the U.S. Army, where she served for 20 years before retiring as a Major in the military police.
Determined to use her time after the military to make a difference in the world, O’Neal did not take long to embark on a new journey in her career. Reaching back to the science roots she established at W&J, O’Neal combined her knowledge of psychology and sociology with her passion for the water in a job with the Ocean Mammal Institute. The small non-profit organization has programs that aim to help individuals understand their connection to nature while improving protective laws for humpback whales and dolphins.
“This is an organization that examines man’s behavior and attempts to change our negative impact on the environment so that we can share the world with animals that have been here far longer than we have,” she explains.
Today, the Ocean Mammal Institute is working hard to achieve its goals by engaging in discussions with the European Union and the United Nations to look for better ways to protect dolphins and whales. For her part, O’Neal has never been more proud of her work.