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In Memoriam: Ogretta McNeil, Associate Professor Emerita of Psychology

October 27th, 2016 by 

Ogretta McNeil
Ogretta McNeil, who became the first African American woman to be tenured at the College of the Holy Cross in 1974. She passed away on Oct. 5 at age 84. Photo by: Archives and Special Collections

Ogretta McNeil, associate professor emerita of psychology at the College of the Holy Cross, passed away on Oct. 5. She was 84.

McNeil was the first woman hired on a tenure track to teach in the psychology department and the first African-American woman to serve on the faculty at Holy Cross. In addition to her accomplishments as a faculty member, chair of the psychology department and administrator, she spearheaded various initiatives, including her role as an organizing member of African American studies in 1990 (renamed to Africana studies concentration) and Phi Beta Kappa—the oldest honor society among liberal arts and sciences. She acted as a confidante and mentor to African American, Latino and Asian students through her roles as the advisor of the Black Student Union and the assistant dean for academic services for ALANA students.

After retiring from Holy Cross in 1997, McNeil “plunged into politics” and won a seat on the Worcester School Committee in her first bid for public office. According to an interview with Holy Cross Magazine in the Winter 2000 issue, she described her decision to enter politics as a “wonderful transition” following the demands of a hectic and fulfilling teaching career. “It wasn’t as if there were reasons not to. I’m not working any more, and here is this opportunity to advocate for students, help teachers and give back to my community through public service.”

McNeil was also involved in a variety of organizations and communities during her educational and political careers. She was a founding member of the Jesuit Conference on Minority Affairs, and received an honorary degree from the College in 2009. She is survived by her two sons Reverend John Vaughn, ‘82 who was awarded a Sanctae Crucis Award in 2015, and Robert Vaughn.

A complete obituary will appear in the winter issue of Holy Cross Magazine. If you have a special memory or story about McNeil, you are welcome to share it by leaving a comment below or emailing hcmag@holycross.edu. Your remembrance may appear in a future issue of the magazine.

Related information:

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Nov. 4: In Memoriam: Ogretta Ann Humphries Vaughn McNeil, 1932-2016

Worcester Magazine, Oct. 7: Ogretta McNeil a force at Holy Cross, on School Committee

Telegram and Gazette, Oct. 4: Clive McFarlane: McNeil’s conviction steady through years of community service

Holy Cross Magazine, 2000: Since retiring from Holy Cross, Ogretta McNeil has found her cause in public service

For additional information, please contact Jessica Kennedy at 508-793-2419.

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