We don’t succeed in life on merit alone—we need others to support and guide us along the way. In this respect, I was fortunate.
When I was five, my family emigrated from Sri Lanka, and I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. My dad worked in information technology while my mom pursued a banking career. After graduating from Lexington High School in 1993, I began the pre-med track at Boston University. But in my freshman year, the dot-com bubble burst, and the recession hit—and both my parents lost their jobs.
I was forced to decide whether to continue with college. It’s hard to be sure of a career path at age 18, and I didn’t want to waste money while I figured it out. Searching for adventure and a new career path, I moved to Austria and landed a job teaching English to businesspeople. There I was, living in a foreign country, learning to take care of myself. It forced me to grow up quickly.
I returned to the U.S. and began working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts in sales and marketing in late 2000. Eventually I was given the valuable opportunity to present healthcare plans to major corporate clients. Thanks to a director who saw potential in me, I was accepted into a management training program and was motivated to go back to school.
At Northeastern’s University College, now the College of Professional Studies (CPS), the first person I met was a professor and academic adviser, Robert Heron, MEd’71, EdD’86. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to complete my bachelor’s after having interrupted my educational journey, but I was determined. Due in large part to Dr. Heron’s guidance and belief in me, I finished my bachelor’s degree in finance and business administration while working full-time and later earned my executive MBA from Northeastern. Soon after completing my MBA, I moved to California to be with my future wife. I looked up to and trusted Dr. Heron, and we remained friends until his passing in 2010.
Today, I work at Kaiser Permanente in its IT Infrastructure Management Group, providing technology, systems architecture, and information security services across the healthcare organization’s 38 hospitals and 618 medical offices, which serve over 9.3 million members.
Northeastern is part of our life, our story. It’s ingrained in our DNA. Recently I made a gift in Dr. Heron’s memory to the CPS Excellence Fund, which supports student scholarships. I wanted to help students who can benefit from the support, encouragement, and high standards of excellence that my own mentors expected of me.
Northeastern has made a difference in many lives, and the collective power of these personal stories is very real and extraordinary. I encourage alumni to reconnect with the university and find a way to “pay it forward,” so other deserving students can benefit from the opportunities provided by a high-quality education.
Who Empowered You?
Behind every Northeastern graduate is a story of empowerment—often, a story about a formative personal or mentoring relationship. Please add your testimonial to the growing collection and share a favorite memory or anecdote about your empower source.
Bill Garvey remembers the “wake up call” of those first-quarter Cs, and a courseload so heavy that he “fell behind, overwhelmed.” But through co-op, he laid the foundations of a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry.
Joe Fleming, PAH’70, MS’71, and Chris Ford, DMSB’73, are delivering a healthy dose of mentorship through the Health Sciences Entrepreneurs program in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences.
“My first co-op advisor, Corinne Reppucci—she was Miss Cianci then—was instrumental in getting me a co-op I loved. That was the start of a wonderful career, one that gave me the ‘global mindset’ so essential for our students today.”
“I’m the first college graduate in my family, thanks to the Northeastern supporters who funded my Torch Scholarship.”
For Carla Oblas, director of Northeastern’s Balfour Academy, helping young people in underserved schools has empowered students in their quest for a college education—and it has empowered her along the way.
“I worked in Northeastern’s dining services as a part-time dishwasher and server, and was eventually invited to be a co-op assistant manager. It was the start of an incredible opportunity that far exceeded the typical college experience.”
“Northeastern has been a part of my life from the beginning. My father, William Kneeland Jr., DMSB’67, worked at the university for nearly 30 years, and to me, he is Northeastern.”
S'73, MA'75, PhD'78
“I owe my career satisfaction to co-op and my adviser, Professor Nancy Caruso. As a Northeastern professor, I have hired many wonderful co-op students in the course of almost 25 years.”
“Growing up, I launched businesses from my parents’ basement. By the time I was a high school senior, I was running a thriving IT support company and building websites for dozens of customers.”
“If you haven’t heard of The Husky Ambassadors, you have definitely seen us—the tour guides who strut through campus with prospective students, parents shuffling behind.”
“My degree provided a new level of professionalism, required for advancement in nursing. Northeastern’s innovative Nursing Interim Program influenced my work as a caregiver, manager, and risk taker—and throughout my career, I encouraged creative thinking and educational opportunities for my staff.”
“Professor Adomdza has empowered me to take full advantage of global experiential learning and has helped shape me into the person I am today: a budding entrepreneur prepared through coursework, research, and co-op for whatever opportunities come my way.”
“When I arrived at Northeastern I had very vague ideas about what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go into medicine but I had no idea where to go or who to go to about getting that kind of mentoring.”
“At age 37, I was a stay-at-home mother of three young children and in the midst of a divorce. I knew I needed an education or I wouldn’t be able to secure a job doing much of anything.”
“Balancing work and school, and being on co-op, has taught me how to live life as an adult. Northeastern’s career-oriented atmosphere changed me. It’s made me more mature.”
“My father-in-law said if I was ever going to marry his daughter, I’d better go to college. Things worked out! Because of the people I met at Northeastern, I had a great career, and I and my late wife, Nancy—also an alum—were married for 37 years.”
“I had been a senior vice president of human resources with a successful corporate career. The day my job was eliminated, in 2007, I looked at my husband and said, ‘I’m going to start my own business and go back to school!’”
“I can still picture her: a petite college grad, not much older than I was—my co-op advisor’s assistant. When I told her I wanted a co-op with a Big Eight accounting firm, she just laughed. ‘With your grades?’”
“I was a Torch Scholar in this incredible program’s second year. My mentor at Northeastern—James Stellar, then dean of the former College of Arts and Sciences—introduced me to research and took me under his wing.”
“As a junior at the business school, I managed to slip into an oversubscribed class on real estate finance taught by Steve Kursh. There weren’t enough chairs, so only the seniors were invited to enroll that semester. Somehow, I stayed.”
“It isn’t often that you encounter a manager who is both brilliant and extraordinarily caring, but that’s exactly what I got in Brenna McCarthy. I did a co-op at John Hancock Funds, where I assisted Brenna in marketing operations.”
“I was discharged from the Army in ’73, when the economy was faltering badly. I had no career direction. Joe Golemme convinced me to enroll at the Graduate School of Professional Accounting, which he both founded and directed.”
“I have wanted to attend Northeastern ever since I watched my dad graduate in Matthews Arena, when I was ten. It was my dream to follow in his footsteps.”
LI'59, UC'62, H'89
“After I received my engineering degree, I went on to University College and took a course in business law with Professor Victor Cohen. He was one of the toughest professors I ever had, but I must tell you, he would really put the law into you.”
“As a ‘double Husky,’ I’ve had some great teacher-mentors whose knowledge and solid advice have propelled my career successes. Professor James Ramos is one, though we’ve only ever met online.”