Remembering Northeastern’s kind and confident leader, George W. Chamillard

Headshot of George Chamillard
George Chamillard

George W. Chamillard is remembered by friends, family and colleagues as a strong leader and inspiring presence whose business savvy and oversight helped Northeastern’s financial situation immensely during the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2008. 

George Chamillard, vice chair emeritus of Northeastern’s Board of Trustees, died last month. He was 83. 

Chamillard, who received a master’s degree in business administration from Northeastern in 1970, was elected to the Northeastern Corporation in 1991. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for five years before he became vice chair of the board. 

“George had a profound impact on our university, and on me personally,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “He was keen to share with me his passion for Northeastern and I am grateful for his vision and wise counsel over the years. George was a dear friend and will be missed.”

Chamillard was awarded an honorary doctorate of business administration from Northeastern in 2007, and he received the Outstanding Alumnus designation from both the D’Amore-McKim School of Business in 2002 and the College of Professional Studies in 2006. He also spearheaded the presidential search committee in 2005, which led to the selection of Aoun. 

Carole Shapazian, who served on the Board of Trustees from 1992 to 2016, remembered a story about the selection process during which Chamillard and Neal Finnegan, chairman emeritus of the board, took Aoun to Northeastern’s Night at the Pops at Boston Symphony Hall.

“The story goes that George asked President Aoun if he liked the show, and he said he loved it, and then George replied: ‘Then don’t mess it up!’” Shapazian recalled. “He was a no nonsense kind of man.”

Though Shapazian does not remember Chamillard to be verbose, when he did speak, she said everyone listened. 

“He was thoughtful, and he would process what he wanted to say for a long time,” she said. “When he did speak up, it was always something important.” 

Chamillard was chair of Northeastern’s Financial Affairs Committee for five years. Additionally, he established the Chamillard Engineering Scholarship and has been a generous donor to students in the Social Entrepreneurship Institute.

“When I came to Northeastern in 2009, the university was going through a tough time rebounding from the economic crisis. Our bond portfolio needed to be completely restructured, and George was such a steady hand turning that time. He never panicked,” said Thomas Nedell, senior vice president for finance and treasurer at Northeastern, who was interviewed by Chamillard when he applied for the position at the university over a decade ago.

While the university restructured its finances in the wake of the financial crisis, Nedell said Chamillard was crucial not only as a guiding force, but also in communicating the university’s position to board members and outside financial institutions.  

Chamillard served as president, chief executive officer and chairman of the Board of Trustees during his career at an electronics company, Teradyne. At Northeastern, he was the type of leader who knew when to hang back, a subtle but powerful skill for someone with as much finance experience.

He knew how to be supportive but ultimately let the university’s management team take control. He was always the spokesperson of the board, but he never micromanaged the university’s management team.

Chamillard is survived by two great-grandchildren and eight grandchildren, two of whom are part of the Northeastern community. His grandson, Mark Johnson, graduated from Northeastern in 2012 with a degree in business administration, and his granddaughter, Cassidy Chamillard, is a fourth-year environmental studies and sociology student. 

Cassidy grew up in Arizona, but she came to Massachusetts every summer to visit her grandparents since she was about 3 years old. During those visits, she would occasionally accompany her grandfather to Northeastern’s campus where he would take her on unofficial tours in between work and sometimes bring her to alumni meetings. 

She said her grandfather encouraged all his grandchildren to pursue college degrees, and when she was applying for schools, Cassidy had no doubt in her mind that Northeastern was her top choice. Her grandfather, who lived in Cohasset with his wife, Maureen Chamillard, picked up Cassidy from the airport to attend freshman orientation after she was accepted.  

“Before the pandemic started my freshman year, I used to go out to lunch with him almost every other week, usually to Chicken Lou’s before it closed or to Dumpling Palace on Mass. Ave.,” she said. 

When Chamillard was a business student at Northeastern, he worked a full-time job and attended night classes. “He had three kids at the time,” Cassidy said. “There was no time for slacking. He taught me that.”

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