Northeastern University Office of the President
Joseph Aoun photograph
Past Northeastern Presidents

Richard M. Freeland
1996-2006

Under the leadership of Richard M. Freeland, Northeastern focused on achieving excellence as a national research university that is student-centered, practice-oriented and urban.

President Freeland emphasized Northeastern's leadership in practice-oriented education by enhancing the university's flagship program of cooperative education and strengthening links between co-op and classroom in both professional fields and the arts and sciences.

John Anthony Curry
1989-1996

John A. Curry boosted academic quality while transforming the university into a smaller, more student-centered institution. Despite financial constraints, Curry improved Northeastern's infrastructure with the construction of three new buildings and the renovation of four others. He oversaw the creation of the campus-wide computer network and the dramatic alteration of the physical landscape of campus. He also led two major fund drives and hosted President Bill Clinton at graduation in 1993. A champion of tolerance and diversity, Curry also strengthened and deepened the university's commitment to the city, promising scholarship to 100 local sixth-graders who excel in school.


Kenneth Gilmore Ryder
1975-1989

Credited with enhancing the liberal arts, Kenneth G. Ryder began as a history teacher in 1949 and moved into the administrative ranks in 1955. Under his leadership, the student population grew to 50,000, the operating budget nearly doubled, sponsored research tripled, and the endowment quadrupled. Also during his tenure, a $43 million fund-raising drive was completed, nine buildings were constructed, and work began on the $34 million Snell Library.


Asa Smallidge Knowles
1959-1975

Asa S. Knowles began at Northeastern as a teacher and administrator in the 1930s, left for 17 years for other administrative work, and then returned to campus. He decentralized the university's administration, achieved national prominence for the co-op plan and adult education, expanded the university's commitment to community service, expanded the physical plant, and changed Northeastern's image from "technical school" to one of the country's foremost professional universities.


Carl Stephens Ell
1940-1959

Known as "Mr. Northeastern," Carl S. Ell steered the university through a period of unprecedented physical growth as well as the development of colleges, the growth of co-op, increases in student population, the expansion of evening education, and advances in educational status. The Ell years included a construction boom on campus that resulted in six new buildings: Science Hall (now Mugar), the Student Center Building and Alumni Auditorium, the library (now Dodge Hall), the physical education center, Hayden Hall, and a graduate center (now Churchill).


Frank Palmer Speare
1898-1940

Son of a steamship builder and operator, Frank Palmer Speare headed the evening program at the Boston YMCA that later became Northeastern. As founding president, he oversaw the launching of several of the university's early schools: the evening law school, the now-defunct automobile school, the evening polytechnic schools, the school of commerce and finance, and the co-operative engineering school.


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