Winslow Sargeant, E’86

After President Barack Obama nominated Winslow Sargeant to be chief counsel for advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration - the person in charge of watching out for the interests of small businesses - Sargeant credited his Northeastern education and co-op experiences as critical first steps to his successful career and eventual nomination.

"Northeastern will always be a special place for me. It was my first degree. It's a place where I was able to gain confidence and it was a launching pad for me to do many things," recalled Sargeant, who is a corporator on Northeastern's Board of Trustees. "Through co-op I learned not to be afraid to take chances, but putting theory into practice gave me the courage and conviction to take on challenges and see things through."

Co-op also motivated Sargeant to work hard in class; he knew his knowledge would soon be tested in the real world. 

Among his co-op experiences, he worked for the City of Boston, monitoring its system of traffic signals; at LTX Corporation, testing semiconductor equipment; and at General Electric, working on a hybrid helicopter-airplane called the V-22 Osprey. All of it, said Sargeant, was essential to giving him the tools he needed to embark on a career.

After Northeastern, he founded a start-up company specializing in microchips that could eliminate Internet bottlenecks with ultra-quick processing power. He worked with the National Science Foundation to determine which start-up electronics companies were worthy of receiving seed money from the government. And for the past four years, he has been in charge of the technology wing of a venture capital firm specializing in early-stage investments.

Sargeant's nomination to be head of the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy is stalled in the U.S. Senate, along with hundreds of other nominations.  However, he hopes that if and when he is confirmed, he will again be able to put theory into practice, leveraging what he has learned throughout his career to advocate for small business owners at the highest level.

Sargeant's is a typical Northeastern success story. He came to the United States with his family from Barbados in 1970.  He grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where he recalls sitting with his parents on the porch of their home near Blue Hill Avenue. But he also remembers the turmoil of court-ordered busing, where police cars were called in to protect his school bus from rock-throwing protesters.

While he was a student at Dorchester High School, he played basketball against future New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing, and was even offered basketball scholarships by some Division II schools. But by the time Sargeant arrived at Northeastern, he realized that his future was in engineering, not basketball. However, as a student he continued to enjoy pickup games with fellow Northeastern student and future Boston Celtics legend Reggie Lewis, CJ'94.

If Sargeant's confirmation passes the Senate, his future just might include playing some hoops with the president.