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Empower to take Northeastern to ‘amazing heights’

Northeastern launched its $1 billion comprehensive campaign on Thursday night at a kickoff event that featured inspiring calls to support the university’s surging momentum and interactive exhibits through which faculty and students showcased Northeastern’s groundbreaking research, rising global profile, and leadership in experiential education.

Empower: The Campaign for Northeastern University aims to raise $500 million in philanthropic support and $500 million through industry and government partnerships by 2017, which together will shape the future of teaching, learning, and discovery at the university by supporting students, faculty, and innovation in education and research. The campaign will support programs and initiatives university-wide, focusing on three strategic goals: student support and financial aid, faculty advancement and expansion, and innovation in education and research.

Speaking to nearly 400 people gathered in the Marino Center, President Joseph E. Aoun said the Empower campaign is about “excellence, quality, and impact.” Philanthropic support, he said, will increase scholarships for students to pursue innovation, entrepreneurship, and professional leadership; provide resources for faculty to hurdle barriers and solve global challenges through use-inspired, interdisciplinary research; and deepen alumni connections with the university.

“I am asking you to empower our community and give life to a bold new vision of what Northeastern can be,” he said. “I am asking you to strengthen your university—and your Northeastern community—for decades to come.” By doing so, Aoun said Northeastern will continue attracting distinguished students and faculty and remain on the leading edge of research, particularly in areas of health, security, and sustainability.

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A series of major gifts have already set the stage for the Empower campaign’s success, including a $60 million gift from alumni Richard D’Amore and Alan McKim to the business school, now known as the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. D’Amore and McKim will serve as the Empower campaign co-chairs.

On Thursday night, the pair cited both the enormous professional and personal impact Northeastern has made in their lives and the university’s incredible momentum as factors to remain actively engaged on campus and ultimately make their combined gift last fall. D’Amore, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1976, said he and other alumni have been consistently impressed by how much Northeastern’s world-class reputation, quality of students, global profile, and depth of research have soared since he was a student.

“We’re tremendously proud of our university,” D’Amore said.

“We recognize Northeastern’s potential, just as Northeastern recognized our potential as students,” added McKim. “This is a monumental day for the university.”

Henry J. Nasella, chairman of the Northeastern Board of Trustees and a 1977 graduate, also addressed attendees. He touted Northeastern’s signature co-op program, which he said gave him the real-world experience to understand how business worked, “from the shop floor up.”

“There hasn’t ever been a job that I didn’t feel confident that I could do or learn to do in my career,” he said.

“We’re here to secure Northeastern for the future,” he added.

Later in the evening, a series of interactive exhibits allowed visitors to immerse themselves in the scope of Northeastern’s interdisciplinary research, global reach, innovative mindset, and entrepreneurial spirit. In various exhibits, students and faculty showcased cutting-edge projects in game design, cybersecurity, and explosives detection. Another station showcased Northeastern’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Mass, where students and faculty are collaborating on research ranging from underwater robotics to climate change studies.

There were also two alumni ventures on display: One was Njabini Inc., which helps poor families in rural Kenya grow income-generating projects that support their families and communities, including a new project that uses a cooperative model to bring potato producers together to collectively increase their production and profits. The other was Fresh Truck, a social venture aimed at transporting healthy food into urban areas without wide access to grocery stores.