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Visionary engineer invests in Northeastern again, expands leadership program

Pioneering engineer and entrepreneur Bernard M. Gordon, H’07, has once again invested in Northeastern University to educate engineering leaders at the nexus of academia and industry. His new $10 million gift launches the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership and builds on the success of the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program he created with a $20 million investment in 2007.

Impressed by Northeastern’s strong industry ties and excellence in experiential education and research, Gordon has been a strong partner in building a successful program that produces skilled engineers with the technical depth, experience, and aptitudes necessary to be leaders. His combined $30 million gift makes him one of Northeastern’s leading benefactors and will sustain the institute for the foreseeable future.

“Bernie is a visionary leader who has been transforming engineering education throughout the United States,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern. “He entrusted us to make his vision a reality at Northeastern and in higher education.”

The institute’s unique experiential program offers a master of science in engineering in a variety of disciplines, such as mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering or engineering management, or opt for a standalone graduate certificate in engineering leadership.

“Students must build the character, knowledge, and skills to truly develop themselves and to benefit their organizations and society,” said Gordon, a pioneering engineer, inventor, and active philanthropist.

The students, known as Gordon Fellows, get the formalized mentorship and tools to expand their engineering education while building leadership skills and industry experience. Students gain a competitive edge over their peers by learning to effectively lead engineering teams and complex projects, at startups or at large organizations, earlier in their careers.

Bernard M. Gordon, center, and President Joseph E. Aoun attend a ceremony in 2012 dedicating the new Bernard M. Gordon Tribute to Engineering Leadership archway on campus. Northeastern University photo.

Bernard M. Gordon, center, and President Joseph E. Aoun attend a ceremony in 2012 dedicating the new Bernard M. Gordon Tribute to Engineering Leadership archway on campus. Northeastern University photo.

The institute’s signature experiential component is the Challenge Project, which allows students to apply concepts and techniques learned in the classroom to lead an industry-focused project with tangible impact. Corporate partners sponsor students to develop a product or process of market value on behalf of the company with an emphasis on customers and stakeholders. Participating companies represent the energy, medical, and defense industries; high-tech sector; research labs; and branches of the military. Students lead the project from plan to proposal to project delivery, which they defend to the program’s faculty.

“We’re doing something academically unusual,” said Simon Pitts, director of the institute. “We’re teaching our students how to learn engineering in the context of leading people while bringing winning products to market.”

The classroom curriculum is supplemented by a Leadership Laboratory, which augments the themes introduced in lectures. Students also engage in detailed self-assessments of 14 key leadership characteristics to help them target their strengths and weaknesses. By engaging in interactive role-playing exercises and case studies in the laboratory setting, students are able to explore and master engineering and leadership skills through experience.

Each year, this highly selective program enrolls approximately 30 students, but will grow to include 50 in 2015, thanks to Gordon’s renewed investment. To date, 145 Fellows have completed the program—40 percent of whom are alumni of other Northeastern degree programs.

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