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D’Amore-McKim graduates urged to follow their talent, find their passion

Graduates share a hug after receiving their diplomas at Thursday's graduation ceremony. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Northeastern University celebrated the D’Amore-McKim School of Business’ 2017 graduate class at a ceremony Thursday afternoon, as speakers congratulated graduates on their achievements while urging them to make an impact on the world and harness their passions and talents with an eye toward career success.

“You’ve worked very hard to get to this moment,” said Raj Echambadi, D’Amore-McKim’s inaugural Dunton Family Dean. “You have brought passion and enthusiasm every day. You have inspired us on a daily basis. And while you have been a pleasure to teach, our faculty has also learned a lot from you. I’m confident that you will take this D’Amore-McKim degree and do many great things professionally to benefit the world.”

The graduate class comprised some 430 master’s students across 12 programs. They joined an alumni network that includes more than 245,000 graduates living in 164 countries. Family and friends cheered as graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.

Graduation speaker John Pulichino, CEO of Group III International Inc., an industry leader of travel-gear products, drew from his own distinguished career as a business leader and entrepreneur to impart some words of wisdom to the graduates. Pulichino, ME’72, who is a member of the Northeastern University Board of Trustees, noted that while it’s important that graduates follow their passions, they must first identify and sharpen their talents.

Graduation speaker John Pulichino, CEO of Group III International Inc., told graduates to honing their talents is a critical first step in discovering their passions. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“Without talent, honed by experience, there’s no guarantee that passion will lead to a successful and fulfilling career,” he said. “I subscribe to the proposition that too often we can be misdirected by our passion if we don’t first understand, develop, and master our talents.” Then, applying that talent to opportunities that demand it, he said, will lead to discovering a rich and abiding passion for doing what you are good at.

Pulichino shared his own journey toward finding the intersection of talent and passion in his career. He studied engineering as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts after realizing his much greater aptitude for math than English. After graduation, he took an entry-level industrial engineering position at Raytheon where he began to more deeply understand his talents, which included simplifying complex tasks, assessing and improving operational bottlenecks, and being willing to take on any assignment.

“I subscribe to the proposition that too often we can be misdirected by our passion if we don’t first understand, develop, and master our talents.”

John Pulichino ME'72, graduation speaker

He later enrolled in a Northeastern master’s program to develop his talents further, and his career path began to take shape. He joined the Polaroid Corporation as an industrial engineer, rising through the ranks into senior management. But he left to pursue a position in which his talents were better suited to lead him to the highest levels of executive management. He accepted the position of vice president of operations at American Tourister, a leading marketer of quality luggage products. In this role, he was responsible for improving the company’s operations and driving the business to new heights in product innovation, marketing, and sales. Thirty-six months later, he was named president and CEO.

“Here is where and when that in following, developing, and mastering my talent, I had discovered my passion,” Pulichino said. “And this passion now became the fuel that powered me to achieve great accomplishments and find personal fulfillment and satisfaction.”

Following a highly successful 10-year stint as president and CEO of American Tourister, culminating in the sale of the company to Samsonite, Pulichino pursued his entrepreneurial dreams of business ownership. He purchased Innovation Luggage, Inc., a New York-based specialty retail chain, in 1993.

But then the World Trade Center attack caused sales of luggage to plummet, and Innovation Luggage declared bankruptcy. Pulichino ably guided his business through a painful reorganization. He was able to sell the smaller but profitable company that emerged, paving the way for his leadership of Group III International, which was founded by his wife, Joy Tong, in 1984.

Pulichino is “the quintessential entrepreneur and a true Northeastern success story,” said Board of Trustees Vice Chair Alan McKim, MBA’88, who introduced Pulichino at the ceremony. In 2012, a combined gift from McKim and fellow Northeastern alumnus Richard D’Amore, BA’76, named the university’s business school.

“I’m confident that you will take this D’Amore-McKim degree and do many great things professionally to benefit the world.”

Raj Echambadi Dunton Family Dean, D'Amore-McKim School of Business

Pulichino, who is also a sponsor of the Torch Scholars Program and recently initiated the Pulichino Student Innovation Fund to support aspiring student entrepreneurs, was awarded a special citation at Thursday’s ceremony.

“Each and every generation is shaped by different events and forces and so develops its own set of attitudes and innovations different from those of the generation that came before or will come after,” Pulichino told graduates. “But following your talent, applying it to life’s opportunities, and in the process finding your passion is the theorem that I believe is timeless.”

Todd Alessandri, associate professor in D’Amore-McKim’s international business and strategy group, introduced the student speaker, Shayne Reddington, of Exeter, New Hampshire. “Shayne was like a sponge—absorbing as much as he could,” said Alessandri, who has served as the faculty director of the full-time MBA program for the past four years. “He was open to trying different courses and pursuing different opportunities—anything that would help prepare him for his future career in business.”

Reddington, MBA’17, who will begin working as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers after graduation, urged his fellow graduates to use this moment to reflect not on their individual experiences at Northeastern but their shared experiences as graduate students and the “campus family we’ve been a part of.”

Raj Echambadi, D’Amore-McKim’s inaugural Dunton Family Dean, delivered welcome remarks. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

For example, Reddington pointed to his first semester, when he worked with four people from diverse personal and academic backgrounds including music, finance, the military, and marketing. He came to Northeastern from a finance background, and working in teams happened infrequently. “We were all motivated and accomplished amazing things together—and we had fun doing it,” he said. “This experience will surely shape how I work with other people in the future, and this lesson is an important one.”

“These experiences,” he added, “and a lot of what else we learned in school cannot be graded or quantified. I am sure many of you will agree with me that learning how to band together and find common ground is one of the most important lessons learned here.”