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Remembering the man who ‘wouldn’t let anyone in the university community fail’

John F. Kilbride, a man who spent his career ensuring Northeastern never went dark, was a guiding light among friends and family. The longtime Facilities Division employee died this month at the age of 53. He’ll be remembered for his encyclopedic knowledge of the university’s electrical system, his wry sense of humor, and his willingness to help anyone who asked.

Jack, as he was better known, was a master electrician at the university for the past 25 years, the final 10 years of which he spent as the electrical shop supervisor. In his role—and throughout his career at Northeastern—Kilbride played a key role in “anything and everything that was necessary in regard to the health and wellness of the electrical infrastructure,” said Ronald Lavoie, associate vice president of operations and services.

Lavoie and Kilbride were hired at Northeastern within a month of each other, and together got to know the university’s electrical system’s many complexities.

“Jack won’t be easily replaced here,” Lavoie said. “His knowledge of the finite details of our systems, which can be so difficult—you just can’t replace that. You get to know the system like the back of your hand; you get to where you don’t even have to think about it. That’s what Jack had.”

John Malone, senior director of Facilities Services, noted that Kilbride was generous with both his knowledge and his time.

“Jack always had a smile on his face, and he was always trying to be helpful on everything that came up across the board—from commencement activity, to a small conference that needed help,” Malone said. “Every time there was an event going on, it seemed someone would ask something that seemed simple, but turned out not to be. Jack wouldn’t let anyone in the university community fail, though.”

Indeed, his care extended even to prospective members of the community. Lavoie recalled receiving a note from the father of a prospective student some years ago. According to the note, the man—an electrician himself, as it later turned out—was touring campus with his daughter and searching for areas that were dark or neglected.

“He couldn’t find any; he couldn’t find anywhere that wasn’t well maintained,” Lavoie said, describing this feat as a testament to Kilbride’s fastidiousness. “If it was our business to maintain it, Jack made sure we maintained it.” (That student ended up enrolling at Northeastern, Lavoie said.)

A Waltham, Massachusetts, native, Kilbride earned his associate’s degree from the Franklin Technical Institute. He held Massachusetts Journeyman and Masters electrical licenses, and was an avid golfer and sports fan, as well as a loving husband and father. Kilbride is survived by his wife, Dava Feltch Kilbride, and his daughter, Emma Christie Kilbride, in addition to four brothers and many nieces and nephews.

“When I think of Jack, I think of electricity, golf, and his daughter,” Lavoie said. “Whenever he had free time, Jack spent it with her.”

Funeral services will be held privately, but a memorial service will be held Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Fenway Center for members of the Northeastern community.

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