Business leader invests in future through ACE Scholarships
38 years in the oil industry taught Martin O’Neil the importance of cutting back and counting pennies when times were tough, and investing in people and equipment when times were good. He achieved success by taking risks, working hard, and never giving up. His generous support for ACE Scholarships in Montana is grounded in the belief that honoring God’s call to help the less fortunate is at the heart of a truly successful life.
“There are many hardworking families who struggle financially and their greatest hope is that their children will be able to get a great education and achieve the American Dream,” Martin explained. “These children are our future and if we give them a strong moral and academic foundation they will see us through the many challenges we face as a nation.”
Born and raised in Havre, Martin moved to Billings in 1985. He and his lifelong bride Judy have three children and nine grandchildren. Martin owned and operated several oil companies in Montana, and he also ran U.S. and International operations for companies in Houston and San Antonio.
Martin saw the impact of private education when one of his grandchildren was enrolled in Billings Christian School, a non-denominational PreK-12 school. At the time, the school had 50 students and most classes took place in modular trailers; today, the school is on a ten-acre campus with state-of-the-art facilities, including a new gym.
“Part of the mission of the school is to ensure access to students from families from all income levels in the community,” Martin explained. “Around 40 percent of students require some form of tuition assistance and ACE Scholarships has allowed the school to welcome even more students from families in financial need.”
From a business perspective, Martin appreciated the customer-service focus on the ACE Scholarships team – the school is informed of the number of ACE Scholarships they will have to award each year, and is responsible for processing applications and selecting students.
“The paperwork and reporting requirements are kept at a minimum, which allows school personnel to focus on providing a supportive, faith-based academic program,” he explained.
Martin said that his personal support for ACE Scholarships is also driven by the fact that ACE Students in Montana across all grade levels have higher proficiency rates in Math than their public-school counterparts; and outperformed all students across the state in all ACT subjects.
“When a business associate asks me about my support for ACE Scholarships, I share my belief that you can own all kinds of things and have all kinds of toys, but you leave them behind when you leave this life,” he explained. “I believe that helping those in need is one of the ways God calls us to live our faith – when you help another person you have done something that reaches into eternity.”
For more information on becoming involved in ACE Scholarships, contact Jake Penwell, Montana State Director of ACE Scholarships at JPenwell@ACEScholarships.org