A native of Hull, Massachusetts, Richard Neal was attracted to Northeastern because of the co-op program, which allowed him to simultaneously gain work experience and pay for his schooling. He arrived at the University intending to pursue a career as a teacher or a civil engineer, in the end deciding upon education. General Neal's ultimate profession led him to become an educator of a different kind: a four-star general in the United States Marine Corps.
After three co-ops at Silver Lake Regional High School in Kingston, Massachusetts, General Neal graduated from Northeastern in 1965 with his bachelor's degree in education and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. After entry level training, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines in Vietnam. He subsequently served a second tour in Vietnam as an infantry battalion advisor to the Vietnamese Marines. He earned a master's degree in education from Tulane University and is a graduate of the National War College.
General Neal climbed briskly through the Marine Corps ranks during his nearly 35 years in the military. He commanded at every level, battery, battalion, and division, and held significant staff and leadership positions both in the Marine Corps and in Joint Commands. Working under General Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War as the Deputy Director of Operations, it was General Neal who briefed the national press on the status of the effort. He became the de facto voice of the military, appearing daily on television and radio.
General Neal graduated from Northeastern in 1965 with his bachelor of science in education, and was awarded an honorary degree from the university in 1991.
During the early 1990s, General Neal was advanced to major general and lieutenant general, and was promoted to four-star general in 1996. He assumed duties as the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps that year. General Neal's many personal decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Star Medal with one gold award star in lieu of a second award; the Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster; Bronze Star Medal with valor device; the Purple Heart; and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. He retired from the military in 1998.
General Neal is currently president of Audio MPEG, Inc., a company that licenses digital audio compression technology. He has been a member of the Northeastern University Corporation since 1997 and serves as Chairman of the Board of the Military Officers Association of America, as a senior fellow for the CAPSTONE Program at the National Defense University, as a Senior Mentor for the Marine Corps, and as a director of Humanetics Pharmaceuticals. Additionally, he is a former director of United Industrial Corporation and former trustee of the Marine Corps University Foundation.
General Neal and his wife, Kathleen, spend their time in the Washington, DC area and in Massachusetts. They have three children and seven grandchildren.