Northeastern University celebrated the highest achievements of students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the Academic Honors Convocation on Monday afternoon to a standing-room-only crowd in East Village.
The event honored more than 70 members of the Northeastern community whose academic prowess, insatiable curiosity, and entrepreneurial spirit have made them standout scholars, researchers, mentors, teachers, and innovators.
The biggest honor of the afternoon came near the end, when Sy Sternberg, ME’68, H’12, awarded the Presidential Medallion—the university’s top honor, which symbolizes excellence, commitment, and dedication to pushing Northeastern forward. Sternberg was recognized as a visionary leader, generous philanthropist, and passionate advocate for Northeastern.
Sy Sternberg Tribute
“Sy is a giant in his field, but also here at the university,” said Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun, extolling both the breadth and depth of Sternberg’s accomplishments.
The university’s top honor symbolizes excellence, commitment, and dedication to pushing Northeastern forward.
“I’m so grateful for the honor accorded to me by Northeastern and my friend Joseph E. Aoun,” Sternberg said. “I’m so proud to be associated with Northeastern, a school being recognized worldwide as one of the greatest universities.”
As an engineer, Sternberg had a drive and innate leadership skills that propelled him quickly to high-level posts at global insurance companies Mass Mutual and New York Life. During his 11 years as the CEO and board chairman at the latter, he led the insurance company to top ratings from four major rating agencies, a feat only ever matched by two other companies.
As chairman of the Northeastern University Board of Trustees from 2008-12, Sternberg helped push the university’s boundaries by expanding experiential learning globally, focusing research enterprise on areas of strength, and recruiting outstanding interdisciplinary scholars.
He and his wife, Laurie, also established the Sternberg Family Distinguished University Endowed Chair and the Sy and Laurie Sternberg Interdisciplinary Endowed Professorship.
“The Sternberg name will be with us forever,” Aoun said. “Sy continues to impact the university through his involvement on the Board of Trustees as well as with his advice as a leader.”
Undergraduate student honors
With so much to celebrate Monday, students were honored alongside their peers and collaborators. A full list of award recipients can be found here.
James Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, congratulated the honorees for their “achievements in scholarship, leadership, and innovation.”
Six scholars earned Fulbright Scholarships, a program that provides grants for individually designed study and research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. The recipients meet, work, live with, and learn from people of the host country, in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.
Six students were awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which is awarded to U.S. undergraduate students to pursue academic studies abroad, with the goal of better preparing American students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.
Four students were recognized with the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate science scholarship in the country. It is granted annually to top sophomores and juniors studying math, science, or engineering. Goldwater Scholars must demonstrate outstanding potential for and interest in pursuing a career in research.
Two students earned the American India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellowship, which pairs a select number of highly skilled young professionals with leading nonprofit organizations and social enterprises in India to create projects that are replicable, scalable, and sustainable.
Twenty Northeastern-affiliated students—a mix of graduating seniors, graduate students, and recent alumni—earned National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowships. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students who are or will be pursuing research-based master’s or doctoral degrees in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines, and provides three years of support for recipients.
Three students received Harold D. Hodgkinson Awards—one of the university’s highest honors for graduating seniors. Students were chosen by a faculty committee based on nominations from each of the colleges within Northeastern. Colleges nominated their top students on the basis of academic and experiential performance.
Three students were named Presidential Global Fellows, an honor given on the basis of students’ academic standing, leadership qualities, and understanding of the importance of global experience to their education, personal development, and career goals.
Seven individual graduate students—including soon-to-be graduate students and young alumni—were also recognized for their achievements Monday.
Students were honored for their commitment to experiential learning, community service, teaching, and research.
Nine members of Northeastern’s faculty were honored for their research achievements and the pioneering innovation in their fields.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology was acknowledged for her inclusion in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; English professor Theo Davis and law professor Jessica Silbey were recognized as John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellows; Laura Lewis and Daniel Medwed were appointed to the rank of University Distinguished Professors, the highest honor Northeastern can bestow upon a faculty member; among other honorees.
“I’m a lawyer trained in criminal defense, which means I’m accustomed to making a case,” Medwed, a renowned scholar in criminal law and wrongful convictions, said in his remarks Monday. “I’m going to make a case that Northeastern is guilty of the crime of being the pre-eminent research institute in the country—strike that—in the globe.”
Medwed then went on to offer “evidence that is Robot-Proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” invoking the title of Aoun’s book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, and listing the university’s excellence in innovation, experiential education, and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Dozens of staff members were honored for leading the charge toward exceptional service, entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity.
Among them were a 32-person Online Experiential Learning team that is reimagining how Northeastern designs and delivers lifelong learning, an essential component of the 2025 Academic Plan. In the past year, the team partnered with every Northeastern school and college to develop 91 new online experiential courses and it will soon finish 33 more.
Also recognized was the Global Resilience Institute team, a 36-person group that is building alliances between resilience researchers and practitioners worldwide. These alliances ensure that global expertise is leveraged to discover interdisciplinary, practical, and scalable solutions that enable individuals, communities, and systems to be resilient in an increasingly turbulent world.