In January of that year, the blond, fit Ohio native added a U-M law degree to the bachelor's and master's in civil engineering he'd earned at Ohio State. Turning down offers to teach at the U-M, O'Neal got a job with one of the world's largest contractors, Peter Kiewit.
"It was like a dream come true," says O'Neal. He was assigned to the New York City office. "My job was to work with the in-house lawyer/boss to get the bids they were doing in foreign countries in line with the laws of the country they were bidding in."
In 1961, Kiewit was taking the lead in a joint venture competing for the biggest construction project ever put out to bid: the Mangla Dam in Pakistan.
"It was a big, big opportunity, and a major, major project." But, O'Neal adds, "it was not to be, for me.
"At the end of two weeks they had a meeting of all the big leaders of this bid ... The night before this big meeting was to take place, I found a place in New York at which I could eat and afford it. It was down in the shadow of the United Nations building.