Alan McKim, trustee and founder of Clean Harbors, gives $25M to Northeastern in honor of President Joseph Aoun

alan mckim and president aoun shaking hands
Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

To help catalyze the university’s ambitious fundraising campaign, Experience Powered by Northeastern, trustee Alan McKim is giving $25 million to Northeastern to establish eight new endowed chairs across the university in President Joseph E. Aoun’s name.

McKim, who is co-chair of the campaign and vice chair of the Northeastern Board of Trustees, said the gift is intended to honor the leadership of President Aoun. 

“I think the world of Joseph,” McKim said. “I think he’s an amazing leader, and he and his team have done an amazing job taking the university to the level it’s at now—as a global institution.”

The Northeastern alumnus and long-time university benefactor announced that he would be giving the extraordinary sum on Friday during the campaign launch event in Boston. He said he hoped it would be a way to build upon Aoun’s passionate commitment to faculty excellence—“a way of touching all areas of the university,” McKim said. 

Though a significant donation, it’s not McKim’s first contribution of such magnitude. McKim and longtime friend and fellow entrepreneur Rich D’Amore gave a record $60 million combined gift to Northeastern in 2012. That gift led to the renaming of the university’s College of Business Administration to become the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. D’Amore is the chair of Northeastern’s Board of Trustees and an alumnus.

“I believe wholeheartedly in the power of a Northeastern education to transform students’ lives.  It certainly did that for me,” he told the audience at the Boston event.

McKim’s relationship with Northeastern began when he was a student, and has since grown into a lifelong affair. Founder and CEO of environmental powerhouse, Clean Harbors, McKim, as an undergraduate, started down the criminal justice track at Northeastern in the 1970s. He ultimately dropped out to pursue his business, now a leading provider of environmental, energy and industrial services around the world.

McKim started Clean Harbors when he was 24. And by the mid-1980s, when it was time to take the company public, McKim realized that he needed an MBA in order to successfully scale his business and steer it into the future. Despite his lack of an undergraduate degree, a network of Northeastern business leaders helped McKim enroll in the masters-level business program. 

“I reached out to a friend of mine who knew someone in the executive MBA program” at Northeastern, McKim said. 

That person was Dan McCarthy, emeritus university distinguished professor and D’Amore-McKim distinguished professor of global management and innovation, who McKim credits in making the educational experience possible. 

“Dan joined my board and served on it for 30 years,” McKim said. “He was my mentor, my advisor, my friend. He was like a father to me. I stayed involved in Northeastern really because of Dan.”

Diane MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement, said that McKim is “the embodiment and the ideal model of a philanthropist.”

“A more thoughtful, genuine donor would be almost impossible to find in terms of just his desire to do great things,” she said, “to do good in the world, to support students, to support education, to support discovery via faculty research. I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to have him co-chair the new campaign.”

The university’s strategic plan is laser-focused on faculty excellence, attracting top talent to teach and conduct research across its growing global campus network, MacGillivray said. McKim’s gift will go a long way in furthering that strategic priority. 

“To give in the president’s name to solidify the importance of that is going to be hugely catalytic in attracting additional support, whether that be in the form of an endowed chair, or the research infrastructure, or support of graduate students, or of undergraduate activities—it has a huge halo effect around all of those things,” MacGillivray said. 

Aoun described the gift as “humbling,” adding that it “captures the priorities of the university.” 

“This is not a gift in my name, but a gift in our name, collectively,” Aoun said at the Boston event on Friday. “And we are going to benefit from it for years to come. Thank you, thank you.”

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