In recognition of her lifetime of exemplary character, leadership, and community service, Wesleyan College honored June Jordan O’Neal ’90 with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award during a board of trustees meeting on Thursday, October 14, 2021.
For many years, June has served sixty-hour weeks as executive director for The Mentors Project of Bibb County. Established in 1990, The Mentors Project pairs successful, caring adults with at-risk students from Bibb County public middle and high schools for the purpose of encouraging them to remain in school through graduation. In 2021, two students enrolled in the program ranked as valedictorian and another as salutatorian of their high schools.
In addition to providing one-on-one and group mentoring for these students, or Protégés, The Mentors Project provides wraparound services which may include providing clothing, housing, utilities, school supplies, furniture, shoes, and food.
Eighteen months ago June’s work with The Mentors Project changed drastically. In the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic and most of us went into lockdown mode, working, teaching, and learning remotely, June went into supersonic mode. In order to keep serving some of Macon’s most underserved population, June moved The Mentors Project food pantry into her garage in North Macon where it remains today. June said, “The food pantry provides groceries to children and their families on a weekly basis. Discontinuing this service was not an option.”
At the onset of the pandemic, June worked for five months with no staff and only a handful of volunteers. For nine weeks in 2020 and for four weeks in 2021, June, her staff, and her volunteers fed 500 children each week. Additionally, thanks to gift card donations from her sisters in the Class of 1990, classmate Saralyn Collins made fifty-seven casseroles at her restaurant Grow that June delivered to needy families in Bibb County.
President Vivia Fowler said, “June is known throughout Macon and Middle Georgia for her humanitarian work. Not only did she not slow down during the pandemic, she stepped up her efforts to serve some of our community's most vulnerable individuals and families. No one could be more worthy of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award than June O'Neal.”
June currently serves as chairwoman of the Macon Coalition to End Homelessness and was recently chosen as a member of the 2021 Macon Violence Prevention Committee. In January of 2016, Wesleyan’s Lane Center for Service and Leadership recognized June with its Women’s Servant Leader Award. The Wesleyan College Alumnae Association presented June with its Alumnae Award for Distinguished Service to the Community in 2000. June is a member of Martha Bowman United Methodist Church, and is proud of her personal connection to Wesleyan College. In addition to being an alumna, June’s husband Hansley Thomas O’Neal III (Hank) is the great-great-grandson of Wesleyan’s seventh president, William C. Bass. June and Hank are proud parents to their daughter Shamekia.
June joins previous alumnae honorees Eleanor Adams Lane ’58 and Chiebonam Ezenwugo Ezekwueche ’96 as recipients of this prestigious award for excellence of character and service to humanity.