"This is for my mother, who always stressed the importance of education," O'Neal said. "I am proud to have achieved a doctoral degree and wish to thank my professors and Barry University for helping make this dream a reality. I'm smart enough to know that, even at my tender age, my pursuit of education is never finished."
O'Neal, 40, was one of more than 1,100 graduates who received degrees at the private Catholic school's commencement ceremonies at the James L. Knight Center.
His doctorate is in organizational learning and leadership with a specialization in human resource development, a release on the Barry University Web site said. O'Neal, who retired from basketball in 2011, spent the past 4 1/2 years pursuing the degree, finishing with a 3.81 grade-point average.
The school said he completed 54 credit hours, including 16 courses and six credit hours of "self-directed research" under the guidance of the program's chairman.
In addition to attending class on Barry's campus and participating in academic sessions with university professors and administrators, O'Neal's instruction was provided via satellite classrooms, video conferencing and Blackboard.com.
His doctoral capstone project was titled "How Leaders Utilize Humor or Seriousness in Leadership Styles."
O'Neal received his bachelor of science degree from Louisiana State in 2000 and a master's of business administration in 2005.
The 7-foot-1, 325-pound O'Neal was a 15-time NBA all-star who won four national championships during a career that spanned from 1992 to 2011 with Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston.
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