Northeastern honored alumnus and accomplished entrepreneur Amin Khoury as the inaugural recipient of the university’s Distinguished Entrepreneur Award on Tuesday night as part of its celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Khoury, MBA’89, is an exemplar of Northeastern’s entrepreneurial spirit, having founded and grown companies in fields ranging from medical products and services to aerospace manufacturing and distribution. His brainchild, B/E Aerospace, is the market leader in airline cabin interiors manufacturing and services.
The Distinguished Entrepreneur Award is an initiative of President Joseph E. Aoun and recognizes success stories from the university’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Aoun presented Khoury with the award at a celebratory event in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex. He described Khoury as someone with a keen eye for identifying opportunities, executing his vision, and scaling his companies.
“You can be a great entrepreneur in one field, but it’s very difficult to be a great entrepreneur in many fields. That’s what we’re honoring,” Aoun said of Khoury. “We’re honoring this ability he has to innovate constantly, to think differently, and to make that a reality.”
Khoury and his wife, Julie, have established the Amin J. and Julie E. Khoury Endowed Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students pursuing technological entrepreneurial studies. To date, the fund has granted scholarships to 21 students. In his remarks Tuesday night, Khoury drew from his own entrepreneurial experiences to offer advice to budding entrepreneurs among the Northeastern community. He urged them to be thoughtful before jumping into something right away.
“Go to work someplace, hone your skills, think carefully about how you’re going to contribute your passion, your life, your energy, your capital before you jump into something,” Khoury said. “Be thoughtful about it. It’s not always about your heart and passion. It’s also about your mind and carefully analyzing whatever it is that you want to do and giving yourself the best chance at succeeding.”
Entrepreneurship, Aoun said, is part of Northeastern’s DNA, and is also one of the key human traits that artificial intelligence won’t be able to replace in the decades to come as robots and smart machines eliminate and change many jobs, but also create new ones. This notion is a core theme of his new book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. “This celebration of entrepreneurship is really a celebration of what makes us unique as human beings,” Aoun said.
A distinguished career
In a Q&A with Aoun, Khoury reflected upon his career, which began in the medical research and instrumentation industry in Boston in 1968. Khoury spearheaded a partnership between Damon Engineering, a small defense electronics company, and the private equity firm, Greylock Partners, which resulted in a multi-million-dollar, publicly-owned, medical services and products company.
Khoury went on to launch several other companies before founding his career’s most noteworthy success, when he identified an opportunity to create a market-share leading business in another industry: aerospace. He recognized that airlines sourced their interior cabin components—seats, galleys, food and beverage preparation and storage equipment, lavatories, and overhead lighting—from numerous small companies. He recognized this fragmentation and saw the opportunity to become a global supplier of a broad range of airline cabin interior equipment for the world’s largest airlines. In 1987 he founded B/E Aerospace Inc., which came to be a leading manufacturer of cabin components for commercial aircraft and business jets.
“It’s not always about your heart and passion. It’s also about your mind and carefully analyzing whatever it is that you want to do and giving yourself the best chance at succeeding.”
In 2014, Khoury separated B/E Aerospace’s services operations to create KLX Inc., for which he continues to serve as chairman and CEO. Earlier this year, he sold B/E Aerospace—the manufacturing business—to Rockwell Collins in a multi-billion-dollar deal.
During a Q&A with the audience, Khoury Scholar Toju Ometoruwa, DMSB’16, founder of Pickasound, asked Khoury about how to form the best management team. Khoury responded by underscoring the value of working at another company and being part of a team before becoming an entrepreneur, and using that opportunity to recognize the disparate skills each team member brings.
His connection to Northeastern
When Khoury decided to go back to school and hone his business skills, he chose Northeastern for its tradition of supporting entrepreneurship and providing students with real-world work experience through co-op. While attending Northeastern, Khoury was simultaneously launching two companies. He also met his wife, Julie, on campus, and they received their Executive MBAs in 1989. Together, in 2003, they established their endowed scholarship fund.
In 1999, the Northeastern Alumni Association recognized Khoury with the Medallion Award, an honor celebrating the achievements of alumni selected on the basis of professional accomplishment, character, integrity, and service to Northeastern.