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Don’t Call Him Shaq, Call Him Dr. O’Neal

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When Shaquille O’Neal graduates from Barry University this weekend, he’ll receive a Ph.D in organizational learning and leadership.

More than 1,100 students will graduate from Barry University on Saturday, but only one will be wearing a custom-made size-XXXL gown — seven-foot-one, 325-pound Shaquille O’Neal, the former Miami Heat and NBA superstar.

Among O’Neal’s many nicknames during his 19-year career were “The Big Aristotle,’’ “The Diesel’’ and “Superman.’’ After this weekend, he’d like to be referred to as “Dr. O’Neal’’ following his graduation with a doctoral degree in education.

O’Neal spent the past 4 1/2 years working toward his degree in organizational learning and leadership, with a specialization in human resource development.

“I was skeptical at first, because I only knew what I saw of him on TV and media,’’ said David M. Kopp, the department chair who guided O’Neal through the program. “I’m not a sports freak, and didn’t know what to make of it. But he insisted he wanted to earn it, and he certainly did that. He was thoughtful, asked very good questions, and never missed an appointment.’’

O’Neal graduates with a 3.81 grade-point average, and he completed 54 credit hours comprised of 16 courses and six credit hours of self-directed research. The title of his doctoral capstone project was “The Duality of Humor and Seriousness in Leadership Styles.’’ He interviewed CEO’s and business leaders about their use of humor in the workplace and presented his findings to a faculty panel last month.

“Kids can still call me Shaq, but adults should call me Dr. O’Neal,’’ he said by phone on Wednesday. “I did this for two reasons. One, I wanted to continue challenging myself, see if I could do it. I was a medium-level juvenile delinquent, didn’t believe in school. But my parents instituted no pass-no play in our house, and that changed my life. Also, a lot of kids look up to me, especially my own kids, and now that I’m not playing anymore, I want them to have something to look up to me for.’’

O’Neal left Louisiana State University after three years to join the NBA in 1992, but eight years later fulfilled a promise to his mother by completing his bachelor’s degree in general studies. In 2005, he received a master’s of business administration through the University of Phoenix online degree program.

“As I was playing, I was doing a lot of business and a lot of the people I was dealing didn’t think we athletes knew what we’re talking about, so I wanted to get my MBA,’’ O’Neal said. “As for my doctorate, I consider myself an expert on leadership from all the years leading in the locker room, but I wanted to become a professional practitioner in the field of leadership. I want to be an African-American version of Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker who can go into Fortune 500 companies and teach them how to get better.’’

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11 Comment

  1. Shaq, er- Dr. O’Neal is an inspiration to us all! I’m very proud of him. I hope he’ll inspire more of us to get more education. It doesn’t have to be in the classroom anymore, as his MBA from the University of Phoenix attests.

    Hey, even a good ol’ fashioned street education applies as education! Add it to a couple degrees, and you’re now a more whole person, able to speak the language of the high-and-low minded.

    Shaq is only 40, and he’s just getting his doctorate. Excellent!

  2. Congratulations Dr. O’Neal! Just more motivation for me to continue on my PhD journey!

  3. Big Props, Applause and most of all Respect to Dr, O’neal. You make even me proud of your accomplishments and I am not a sports freak either.

  4. Wow! An Omega who not only graduated college, but even went on to achieve his masters degree and now a doctorate! How rare is that! Congratulations Dr. Shaq!

  5. Goooo Dr. O’Neal. You inspire me.

  6. Congratulations Dr. O”Neal! I hope you will put in place resources and real contacts to help the next generation of Young Black Athletes or those Blacks committed in their craft to achieve their goals! Please support those who look like you!

  7. Dr. O’Neal, you are amazing! I am so pleased to know about your Ph.D. It is awesome! You not only proved your academic ability to yourself, but also to others – most especially the younger generation. Again, congratulations!

  8. CONGRATULATIONS DOCTOR SHAQ!! You have set the goal for the youth of all of our communities.

    Thanks for all of your hard work.

  9. WOW! a very special congratulations Dr.O’Neal ,also thanks for destroying Black Man stereo-type’s this is a pattern that a lot more of us brothers should really and truly follow.now I know I have to finish up my masters degree by any means necessary!
    thanks again ,Dr. O’Neal the inspiration you just gave me is incredible.

  10. Congratulations Dr. O’Neal you have made many of us proud by showing you can be a Black African-American male, superior athlete
    from “the hood” Newark, NJ (BrickCity), and, educated formally as well as educated streetwise (shaq-diesel). You give me the inspiration to finish my college education I started in 1980, in the
    indomitable words of Luther Vandross,(education that is) “never too much.”

  11. Well, alrighty then Doctor Shaquille O’Neal! I’d say your academic accomplishment earning your Ph. D in organizational learning and leadership deserves as much fan fair if not more than that of your athletic accomplishments in basketball my Brother!

    And we thought you were just a talented athletic Brother with a lot of brawn! Well, now we’ll have to include brain as well if not more in your newly expanded title!

    Congratulations and bravo Dr. O’Neil!!!!

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