Northeastern honors veterans, announces $1M family gift to support, name center

At Northeastern’s Veterans Day ceremony on Friday, President Joseph E. Aoun, left, acknowledged Jim and Leslie Dolce, whose family has made a $1 million gift to endow and name the Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The Northeastern community joined together Friday for its annual Veterans Day ceremony, where speakers honored veterans, servicemembers, and their families and President Joseph E. Aoun announced a $1 million gift from the Dolce family to support the university’s Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers.

Aoun underscored Northeastern’s longstanding commitment and link to military veterans, and expressed great pride in the university’s emphasis on both security research and supporting veterans in their transition to college and employment.

“The veterans themselves who are here and part of this community, and who are students too, have been leading the way,” Aoun said. “Our Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers is a model for the nation.”

Launched in 2015, the center offers a range of services and benefits, including mentorship, career resources, networking events, and assistance with the transition to civilian life. The gift from the Dolce family—Jim and Leslie, and their son Alex, who is an undergraduate business major at Northeastern—will endow the center. In recognition of the family’s generous support the center will be named the Dolce Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers.

The gift will support the center’s core responsibilities, which include funding for co-op experiences for veterans, travel and other costs related to the job search, the hiring of tutors and job coaches, and assistance with other job transition costs such as moving expenses, travel, and child care. Aoun said the gift will ensure it “will remain a vibrant center forever.”

“You gave us your name, and we have an obligation to honor it in the same way that you are honoring our veterans today,” Aoun said. “And the only way to honor it is through the engagement of the next generations.”

Jim Dolce said his family started a philanthropic foundation about 20 years ago with a focus on education. He described how meeting a veteran named John Griffin and his family put into perspective the fact that sacrifices by veterans and their families have enabled so many opportunities for others. This realization, he said, inspired his family to combine its mission of education with “the purpose now of paying forward for the sacrifices that our veteran families have made.”

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

You gave us your name, and we have an obligation to honor it in the same way that you are honoring our veterans today.

Joseph E. Aoun, President of Northeastern

“That’s the reason we ended up here today,” said Dolce, noting that his son played an instrumental role in proposing the idea for the gift.

During the ceremony, Distilled Harmony sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, ROTC cadets laid a wreath at the Northeastern Veterans Memorial in recognition of all Northeastern veterans who have served the nation.

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern Veterans Memorial updated

Neal Finnegan, DMSB’61, H’98, chair emeritus of Northeastern’s Board of Trustees, acknowledged three updates to the Northeastern Veterans Memorial, which commemorates the more than 400 students and alumni who have given their lives in service to our country, dating back to World War I. One name has been added to the memorial, and two names have been updated with newly uncovered information:

  • Joseph Eugene Daley was enrolled in the law program before leaving early to join the Army during World War I. He died in Germany in October 1918, and the Northeastern ROTC Alumni Association recently discovered his connection to Northeastern.
  • Richard “Dickie” Horwitz was a 21-year-old engineering student at Northeastern when he left to join the Army during World War II. He had been classified as missing in action after his plane was shot down over Italy in February 1945 during World War II. Earlier this year, his remains were identified, and his dog tag on the memorial has been updated to reflect newly discovered details.
  • The dog tag of John Robert Alvord, a Marine Corps captain who died during World War II, has been updated to reflect newly uncovered information that acknowledges his death at the Battle of Midway.

Finnegan led the effort to build the Northeastern Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in 2006 and is located on Neal F. Finnegan Plaza adjacent to the Egan Research Center. He was primary benefactor for the memorial. “We should all be especially proud that this memorial is situated in the very heart of our campus,” he said.

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director of the U.S. Air National Guard, traveled from Washington, D.C., to participate in the ceremony. He noted how he’s been inspired in his life by the Air Force’s core values of integrity, service, and excellence. He also credited Finnegan for his work in bringing the Veterans Memorial to campus, noting that it’s an American value to never give up in “finding our lost, our fallen, and our missing in action, and finding out details about them.”

“This journey is about history,” Rice said. “History turns into heritage. Heritage turns into culture. Culture is what brings us together as a community.”

Longstanding history of supporting veterans, servicemembers

Northeastern’s commitment to the military is underscored by a number of initiatives, programs, and partnerships. In 1918, the U.S. government implemented a Student Army Training Corps program at Northeastern. Since 1950, Northeastern has hosted a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program on campus. Approximately 4,000 Northeastern alumni who were enrolled in ROTC have been commissioned into the U.S. Army and other services. The current ROTC formation at Northeastern is an Army ROTC unit known as Liberty Battalion. Northeastern is the battalion’s host institution, and it includes cadets from other Boston-area universities as well.

In the past few years alone, Northeastern has launched the Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers; opened a Veterans of Foreign Wars post—the first to be opened in Massachusetts since 2009 and only the second in the nation to be led by student veterans on a college campus; and secured a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to conduct critical defense research, specifically in designing and developing advanced engineered materials.

The university also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a federal program that allows post-9/11 veterans to earn college degrees at little or no cost. Paul Scherlek, president of Northeastern’s Student Veterans Organization and master of ceremonies, underscored the impact of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, noting the student veterans who take part are more likely to graduate and have a higher GPA.

Scherlek, DMSB’18, also reflected on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, which marks the anniversary of the armistice ending World War I in 1918, and noted that the red buddy poppies worn on this day remember those who lost their lives in that war. “Today, we reflect on what it means to be a veteran and offer our respect and gratitude to those who donned a uniform in defense of this great nation,” he said.

Francisco Ureña, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and who served in the Marine Corps for eight years, described the dedicated work at the state level to support veterans living in Massachusetts and credited Northeastern for doing its part. “Northeastern University continues to set the tone as best in class into how others can model programs to be able to bring that sense of community to veterans,” Ureña said.

Maj. Joseph Luchetta, who was appointed Commander of Liberty Battalion Army ROTC and professor of military science at Northeastern in June, thanked the many veterans in attendance for providing a “true example of servant leadership” and praised their families for their supports.

“Our job here at the university is to prepare the next generation of officer leadership for service in the United States Army, to develop leaders of high character, extreme competence, and unwavering confidence,” Luchetta said. “With the overwhelming university support we currently enjoy, to include the many alumni that often reach out to assist, I’m exceedingly confident we will succeed in our mission.”