Ed O'Neill to Return Honorary Degree to Youngstown State over Trump Ally Appointment

Ed O'Neill's bold stance shakes up alma mater's community.

by Nouman Rasool
Ed O'Neill to Return Honorary Degree to Youngstown State over Trump Ally Appointment
© Ilya S. Savenok/GettyImages

Ed O'Neill, famed for his roles in "Modern Family" and "Married… With Children," has decided to return his honorary doctorate to Youngstown State University (YSU). This dramatic decision comes in the wake of the university's controversial appointment of Congressman Bill Johnson, a staunch Trump supporter, as its new president.

At 77, O'Neill, a notable alumnus of YSU, expressed his disappointment and dismay over the hiring of Johnson, a conservative figure who has actively voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and openly endorsed Donald Trump for the 2024 election.

The actor's decision resonates with a larger sentiment of disapproval among the university's community and alumni.

O'Neill's Trump-U Remark

"I'm going to start calling it Trump-U," O'Neill stated emphatically, reflecting his disillusionment with the direction the university has taken.

His comments were first reported in an article shared by YSU's chapter of the Ohio Education Association and later picked up by Ideastream Public Media, highlighting the growing alumni backlash. O'Neill, who has deep ties to the university, having played football during his junior and senior years, criticized the board of trustees for their decision, suggesting it was politically motivated.

"Of course it is... If you would say it isn't, you'd have to be an artichoke," he commented. The actor went further, advocating for the dismissal of the entire board, with the exception of Trustee Molly Seal, who opposed Johnson's hiring.

His remarks come amid a turbulent time for YSU, where the board's decision to appoint Johnson as the tenth president was met with significant opposition. Over 100 people protested at the meeting where the vote took place, with the board ultimately favoring Johnson eight-to-one.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, O'Neill received his honorary doctorate from YSU in May 2013, a recognition of his achievements and contributions. However, his recent move to revoke this honor underscores a growing divide within the university community over its future direction and leadership.

Congressman Johnson, who has received substantial donations from three trustees totaling over $86,000 between 2009 and 2022, remains a contentious figure. Despite criticism, he remains firm in his new role, urging detractors to engage in dialogue.

"If they would just sit down and talk to me first, and then draw their conclusion, I think we'd be a lot further down the road," Johnson stated, addressing his critics. This unfolding story not only highlights the intersection of politics, education, and celebrity but also underscores the ongoing debates around academic governance and the influence of political affiliations in educational institutions.

O'Neill's decision to return his honorary degree is a significant statement in this broader conversation, signaling a deep concern for the values and direction of his alma mater.