Educationalist, mathematician and priest


Father John O’Neill died in Wellington on Wednesday, August 28.

He made a significant contribution to education in New Zealand not just in Catholic Schools, but nationally.

O’Neill was a teacher at St Patrick’s College in Wellington from 1953 until 1981.

In 1960 he took a break from teaching to attend Cambridge University, returning to St Patrick’s College at the end of 1962.

From 1964 until 1980 he was involved with the Education Department in Mathematics Curriculum Development.

He was instrumental in introducing the “New Maths” into the curriculum of New Zealand secondary schools.

During that same time, he was one of a group of authors who published a series of textbook Shape of Mathematics.

For a long time, almost every secondary school in New Zealand used these texts.

O’Neill also played a significant role in the process of integrating catholic schools into the State education system.

From 1973 until 1975 he was a member of the Integration Working Party.

From 1987 until 1994 John was the executive director of the New Zealand Education office.

He then served as the Vicar for Education in the Archdiocese of Wellington until 2001.

In 1990 he received a medal for services to education, and later in the year the QSO.

After 1995 he lived in retirement in Thorndon.

O’Neill would have been 93 on September 19.

His health had been failing for some time.

He was assessed for hospital-level care late last week and was hoping to go there on Wednesday.

But on Tuesday he began to fail and after seeing his doctor was admitted to Wellington Public Hospital.

John O’Neill’s funeral will be Tuesday 3 September at St Mary of the Angels in Wellington at 1.30pm.

The Rosary on Monday 2 September will be recited at St Mary of the Angels at 7.00pm.


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