"Whatever I ate, I got the world's worst case of food poisoning. It was terrible. I got to that meeting, and I finally had to admit ... I needed help. They took me to the hospital, and I spent five days trying to get rid of this thing. And I said [to myself] in those five days, 'I want freedom. I want Ann Arbor. I want to build my own company.'"
O'Neal moved back to Ann Arbor and a much smaller project: that fall, he started a house for civil engineering prof Eugene Glysson and his family. He'd worked for Glysson at Camp Davis, the U-M's summer program in the Rocky Mountains, and "they trusted me," O'Neal says.
"I knew we needed a house, and I knew he was wanting to build one," Glysson recalls. "So we worked together and planned it, and he proceeded to build it, and he did a heck of a job."
O'Neal went on to build several more homes before landing his first two commercial projects in 1966--Northside Presbyterian Church (designed by the great modernist architect Glen Paulsen) and fire repairs on the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house.