This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of
As a child, Oliver Halle ’74 watched people commuting each day to work via the Staten Island ferry and New York City subways and knew that he wanted a different life. “I wanted something that was going to keep me from sitting behind a desk, locked into a daily routine,” he says. With a 28-year career as a Special Agent in the FBI, after serving as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve, Halle certainly achieved that goal.
After college, Halle was on active duty in the Navy for three and a half years, including one year as the officer in charge of a swift boat in Vietnam. He says that during the many hours he stood watch on naval ships, he decided to apply to law school.
“I knew that I wanted to be in the FBI but even though I didn’t need a law degree for that career, I thought it would be advantageous to learn the critical thinking skills that come with a legal education,” says Halle. He is grateful for his years in Chapel Hill. “UNC gave me a world class education that I was able to carry with me for the rest of my career,” he says. “My UNC law degree opened doors wherever I went.”
And Halle went many places. As a member of the FBI’s Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training unit, he traveled extensively throughout the world for the U.S. Justice Department. “We trained police, judges, investigators and prosecutors in Third World and former Soviet bloc countries to help them become more skilled,” he says.
Halle’s FBI career also included serving as a legal instructor, keeping agents up-to-date on criminal procedure changes. He also handled foreign counterintelligence in New York, keeping track of the KGB, the Soviet intelligence service.
Halle says that the apex of his career was fighting organized crime in New York City.
“I was part of the squad that brought down the hierarchy of the Colombo family, one of the ‘five families’ in New York organized crime,” he says. “I wrote the affidavits for electronic surveillance which was a huge part of gathering the evidence we needed to convict these people. We took down the boss, the underboss and a whole line of capos. It was the first time there was a success like that with an organized crime family.”
After retiring from the FBI in 2003, Halle started two businesses: private investigations, primarily for attorneys, and “Corporate Scared Straight,” a fraud prevention and ethical awareness corporate training program. “I, along with two white collar felons who have served time in federal prison, try to sensitize good, honest, moral ethical people that they can get in trouble in ways that they can’t imagine,” says Halle.
Now mostly retired, Halle has time to enjoy his recently born first grandchild and his three adult children, all of whom are medical professionals. He has reflected on the arc of his life and the people who impacted it. “When I was going through Officer Candidate School in 1967, one of the instructors was instrumental in my getting through celestial navigation which was a tough course,” remembers Halle. “I didn’t know how to say thanks for what he did for me. So I made a commitment then that someday, I would pay forward the help I was given that allowed me to get where I wanted to go.”
Carolina Law is the beneficiary of the commitment Halle made 50 years ago. He recently made a generous gift establishing a scholarship fund, with preference to support veterans who enter the law school.
“I appreciate what service members do so this is a little way of saying thank you to them,” says Halle. “I knew that once I was finished putting my children through school, if I had any extra money, I wanted to help in this way.”
Halle says that it’s important to him that none of his donation is inherited money. “My point is that I’m not giving away money that doesn’t mean anything to me,” he says. “I can assure you it does! But I’m happier to be doing this than spending the money to replace my 14-year-old car. I felt like I should make this contribution even if it pinches a little bit.”
“I have done my best to show my appreciation and gratitude to this intangible thing that got me to where I am today,” says Halle. “I have gotten lucky breaks along the way and I feel good that I can pay it forward.”
– Michele Lynn
-January 31, 2018