Marguerite Derosier Eckles, LA’59

Thanks to Marguerite Derosier Eckles’ strong work ethic and impressive reliability while on co-op at Avco Systems Textron, the Wilmington, Mass. defense contractor rewarded her with a full-time position after graduation that was, some would say, out of this world.

Little did she know that her new position at Massachusetts’ largest government contractor would lead directly to her working on preliminary research for one of the most significant space exploratory missions in history: NASA’s Voyager probe.

Traveling toward the outer boundary of our solar system, the Voyager probe is today the farthest man-made object from Earth. After years of research and development, the first probe was launched into space in 1977 to gather images and more data about the outer planets in our solar system.

“At first we were given the coordinates to start drawing these graphs and the various points at which something might happen, so it was so important to pay attention to every little speck,” recalled Eckles, who at the time had no idea of the magnitude of the project she was working on.

“I was instructed at which point this graph is going to go up or down. All I was thinking of for probably a year were those graphs. When it became obvious that this was one major big deal, then I really went, ‘Wow,’” said Eckles, who was the first female president of a senior class at Northeastern, which was touted on the front-page of The Boston Globe in 1958.

Co-op was critical in Eckles gaining professional experience that put her leaps and bounds ahead of graduates from schools without the co-op program. Her co-ops at Avco, MIT and John Hancock Insurance Company were significant opportunities to apply what she learned in the classroom, fully preparing her to work on the Voyager mission at Avco after graduation.

In the 1960s, men dominated the workforce at Avco. “I can’t think of any other female who worked there that was not a secretary. It was a challenge, a confidence builder for sure,” said Eckles whose sister, Suzanne Tatarczuk, also graduated from the College of Business Administration in 1956. Their late father, Edward Derosier, graduated from the Law School in 1931. In addition, her grandson, Richard Starr, is in his second year in the College of Criminal Justice.

In appreciation for her co-op experiences and classroom studies at Northeastern, Eckles established the Marguerite Derosier Eckles Scholarship fund in 1992 to benefit deserving undergraduate students with financial need.