The Fund Mourns the Loss of Abby O’Neill, Former Trustee and Board Chair, 1928–2017

  • Abby M. O'Neill, pictured here in 1983. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Archive Center.

With deep sadness, the trustees and staff of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund mourn the passing of our former trustee and board chair, Abby M. O’Neill. Abby was elected a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1958, the first member of her generation to serve on the board of the Fund. She was a trustee for 39 years, longer than any but the founding trustees, until retiring from the board in 2000. She was an advisory trustee from 2000–2009.

“Abby had both the business acumen and philanthropic passion of her great grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, and brought both to the work of the Fund, with great effect,” said Stephen Heintz, the Fund’s president. “Her lifetime commitment to the Fund, her warm, down to earth manner, and her deep concern for humanity have been greatly valued by the trustees and staff alike.”

For nearly half a century, Abby demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the Fund and to the philanthropic ideals of the Rockefeller family. She provided continuity and a sense of the Fund’s history to the board’s deliberations, particularly with respect to the Fund’s programs related to New York City, education, and Asia. Abby also championed the Fund’s arts and culture grantmaking in New York.

Abby played a key role in shaping the long-range plan for The Pocantico Center, the Rockefeller estate in Westchester County now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and managed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as a conference center, cultural venue, and community resource.

“Abby connected so naturally with people, providing a role model for genuine relationships as well as philanthropic excellence,” said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, chair of the board of trustees and second cousin of Mrs. O’Neill. “Abby was prepared for every board meeting she attended and every social occasion she hosted, cheerfully setting a high standard professionally and personally. Being a woman leader when that was more of a challenge—and a mother of six, which is ever daunting—never slowed Abby. I will miss her as a loving relative, and honor her as an exceptional RBF trustee.”

Abby also encouraged her children to be involved in the family’s philanthropic mission. Her daughters Catherine Broderick and Wendy O’Neill have previously served on the Fund’s board of trustees. Her son Peter O’Neill is currently a trustee.