The future of Maine is now with Roux Institute at Northeastern graduates

More than half of the graduates of the Roux Institute at Northeastern’s inaugural class have jobs at Maine-based employers. Photo by Billie Weiss for Northeastern University

PORTLAND, MaineFor most of his adult life, Daniel Peabody-Harrington has heard people say, “I love Maine but am moving out of state because there just aren’t enough opportunities here.”

Two years ago, Peabody-Harrington, a born Mainer, thought the same thing. He had graduated from Maine Maritime Academy and was in the workforce but also interested in graduate school. As a triplet, Peabody-Harrington had already seen his two siblings leave the state after graduation, and, as he considered graduate programs, he feared he would have to do the same.

Then, he found the Roux Institute at Northeastern University.

“Simply put the Roux Institute has represented opportunity,” Peabody-Harrington said.

Two years after he became a member of the Roux Institute’s inaugural class, Peabody-Harrington graduated with his master’s of science in project management during Commencement on Friday. Walking across the Commencement stage in Portland, Maine’s Ocean Gateway, with the waters of Portland Harbor shimmering in the background, Peabody-Harrington took in the view of the city’s historic waterfront.

With its unique focus on entrepreneurship and the mission of making Maine a hub for technological innovation and investment, the Roux Institute represents a unique partnership between Northeastern, Maine-based entrepreneurs and philanthropists Barbara and David Roux, and the Harold Alfond Foundation.

Peabody-Harrington was one of 44 graduates to receive their degrees on Friday. As the featured student speaker, he said the program afforded him the opportunity to invest in himself and his home state. During his time as a co-op in the Sherman Center, Peabody-Harrington created his startup, Mallard Enterprises. The venture, which he founded with his father, develops commercial amphibious planes that will be able to land on both waterways and airport runways.

The inaugural class’ time in Portland was also defined by challenges. The graduates started their time in Portland shortly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to quickly transition to remote learning and the world of Zoom. But, smiling beneath his cap, Peabody-Harrington told the crowd that the future has never seemed brighter.

“I truly believe that our work together today is creating a future where ‘I left Maine…’ will be a distant memory replaced instead by ‘I came to Maine because the opportunities here were just too good to pass up,’” Peabody-Harrington told the crowd Friday.

The graduate was not alone in his optimism. In a set of pre-recorded video messages, Maine Gov. Janet Mills and Portland Mayor Kate Snyder congratulated the graduates while championing the future of Maine and the Roux Institute’s role in it. 

Mills said Northeastern’s presence in Portland is already a testament to its stated mission of investing in Maine’s economy. Thirty-four of the 44 graduates are employed by Maine companies, and 16 graduates moved to Maine during their program, mirroring a broader trend of migration to the state.

“We need your skills, your ingenuity, your commitment to succeed,” Mills said. “I hope that all of you will continue to stay in Maine in the years ahead, driving change in companies that are already here, attracting new companies and technology, and starting and expanding businesses of your own right here in Maine.”

Snyder reflected on how Northeastern’s arrival coincided with the pandemic, which provided an unexpected increase in people moving to Maine. The last two years haven’t been easy, but Snyder said “Portland, Maine will always be here welcoming you back.” 

David and Barbara Roux speak to the crowd of graduates during the inaugural Commencement ceremony. Photo by Billie Weiss for Northeastern University

Northeastern’s partners in the Roux InstituteGregory Powell, executive chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation, and and Barbara and David Rouxwere also at the ceremony to offer words of encouragement and wisdom. 

David Roux said that when he and Barbara conceived of the Roux Institute, the idea was to create an “opportunity machine” anchored in Maine. The foundation was to inspire students to take action and apply their lessons in practical ways to solve the world’s problems. During his address to the graduates, Roux jokingly asked his academic colleagues to put on their earmuffs before saying that although “ideas are great,” what matters is “getting things done.”

“My advice to you is … to start small, but think big and don’t wait,” Roux said. “The whole way to get ahead is to get started. You don’t need to overthink it. You can always change it if you get it wrong, but when you’re on to something and when you have a mission, just getting going is absolutely critical.”

To close out the ceremony, Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun urged the Roux Institute’s inaugural class to think about the ways they have reinvented themselves over the past two yearsand how they will reinvent the world moving forward.

“You are going to be asked by reality, by the world, by the changing sciences and technologies and opportunities to reinvent yourself constantly,” Aoun said. “It’s not going to be easy, and it’s never a straight line. But what you will retain of what you have done here, of what you have acquired here at the Roux Institute is the ability to know that reinvention is possible. You proved it, you showed it.”

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