Northeastern will ‘change the world.’ Founders Day an opportunity to reflect on the past, look ahead to the next 125 years

Cheerleaders outside of Ell Hall for Northeastern's 125th Birthday celebration.
Cheerleaders celebrate outside of Ell Hall for Northeastern’s 125th birthday celebration during Founders Day on the Boston campus. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Northeastern University celebrated its first 125 years and looked to its future at Founders Day celebrations across its global network on Tuesday.

“We are here because we want to thank everybody who preceded us who built this magnificent university, and we are here to pledge that we will continue to build a great university that is going to have an enormous impact and change the world,” President Joseph E. Aoun said at a birthday party on the Boston campus’ Krentzman Quadrangle.

Richard A. D’Amore, chair of the Board of Trustees and a Northeastern graduate, then led everyone in a countdown until celebratory banners were unfurled and the crowd began to sing “Happy Birthday to You.”

Then, student a cappella singers, dancers, band members and cheerleaders took over ––  performing a second “Happy Birthday NU” song that culminated in red, black and white streamers being shot into the crowd. 

“It’s such a cool way to experience the school,” said Nate Sarnow, a second-year student from upstate New York. “It’s fun to see how many people are at the school, and have them all come out together.”

Chloe Tolari, a fourth-year student studying nursing, had an interesting perspective on the day’s event, as she was one of the cheerleaders involved in the birthday celebration. She said the team was able to put together the choreography for this event pretty quickly. One of Tolari’s jobs was to help lift one of her fellow cheerleaders. 

“We had practice last night and on Sunday as well,” she said, noting other teams involved in the day’s event, including the Northeastern dance squad. 

“I’m glad I got to experience this and get involved with the school, especially because stuff like this doesn’t happen that often,” she said.

Global campuses celebrate

Northeastern celebrated Founders Day across the university’s network of 13 global campuses, including Boston, London and Oakland, California.

Birthday events were also held in Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., as well as in France, Nigeria, Panama, Hong Kong, Spain, Greece and Saudi Arabia.

The commonwealth of Massachusetts recognized the day with an official proclamation. The proclamation traced the university’s history to its 1898 founding as The Boston YMCA Evening Institute for Young Men, through its move to Huntington Avenue and name change to Northeastern College, its evolution to a university and start of its co-op program, and to its global expansion.

“Whereas, on the 125th anniversary of its founding, the university’s investments in entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, civic engagement, public art and sustainability have made an extraordinary contribution to the economic and social fabric of the City of Boston and to the Commonwealth, and are a credit to the 300,000 Northeastern alumni living, working, and making a difference in communities around the globe,” the proclamation read. “Now, Therefore, I, Maura T. Healey, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, do hereby proclaim October 3rd, 2023, to be Northeastern University Founders Day.”

Students enjoy festivities on the quads 

The festivities on the Boston campus occurred on an unseasonably warm, beautiful October day and brought students out onto the quads and common spaces of the university to celebrate. 

“It’s very good, it’s very nice, very warm,” Lance Feng, a first-year graduate student from China, said after taking a selfie with King Husky and wiping excess fur off his pants. “I like the atmosphere here.”

Audry Lassen, a fourth-year business major, was enjoying the day with her friend Addison Englehart, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student. The pair had arrived at the birthday celebration a little late. They had been partaking in the other Founders Day events going on around campus, which included band performances at Centennial Common and a photo booth at the Egan Research Center. 

“It’s been cool to see all the school spirit, especially because it’s nice out and everyone is excited and eager to do everything,” Lassen said.   

Englehart added that she had been impressed with all the performances and events. 

Taking part in the festivities, Ksussvoo Talrani, a master’s student getting her degree in data analytics engineering, was enjoying a cupcake with vanilla frosting at Krentzman Quad. With a smile on her face, she said Founders Day was the first big Northeastern event she had attended since starting at the university this fall. She was excited to be “experiencing the whole college vibe.”

Husky games draw crowds

Throughout the day, a crowd of students gathered on Snell Quad and huddled over their phones to play a Husky-themed Jeopardy! game (Categories were King Husky I, Turnover on the Husky Throne and King Husky Today) and a Pac-Man game. 

“Pac-Man’s hard,” said third-year student Emma Miller, from Melrose, Massachusetts.

Apparently, so was Jeopardy!

“Yeah, I failed even more on that than on Pac-Man,” Miller said, laughing. “I’ve got to brush up on my Husky knowledge.”

High scores on the games enabled participants to choose prizes at the Husky Dog House, which ranged from a chocolate bone to vintage 1935 Northeastern football shirts.

“I refuse to go without getting a shirt,” Miller said. “I think I’m improving.”

Miller and fellow third-year undergraduate Stacey Bonsu of Worcester, Massachusetts, said they were glad to be on campus for such a notable anniversary.

“It’s very extra, but I like it,” Bonsu said.

“We’re fans of extra,” Miller added.

Global birthday party

The sounds of party horns, towers of mini cupcakes and rumors of puppies drew a crowd on the Northeastern’s Oakland campus, where a big white tent, selfie stations and balloons marked Founders Day.

“I heard there were puppies,” said Samantha Pierre, a first-year computer science and biology major from Massachusetts. She and fellow classmate Dharana Aliaikannan, a first-year computer science and business major from Connecticut.

The puppies in question — Siberian Huskies, Northeastern’s official school mascot — were indeed at the party on Holmgren Meadow. They were just stuffed, not real: cute plush versions available to students as prizes for entering games and raffles. There were also elaborate selfie stations, music and postcards available for students to write to loved ones about college life.

Daniel Sullivan, a first-year biology major, attended with friend Marwa Ellis, a first-year health sciences major. 

“It’s such a cool thing to be a part of,” said Sullivan, blowing a noisemaker, the party prop most favored by many of the students in attendance. Several played them in concert to the pop music coming from the speakers, producing an odd sound that could be described as a mixture of a goose honk and baby’s cry.

Meanwhile, students, faculty and staff across the pond celebrated anniversary events at the Devon House on the London campus.

They frosted and decorated miniature birthday cakes, posed for photos in front of a large lighted “125” display, inflated black, red and white balloons, and sang “Happy Birthday to You.”

“It was so much fun,” one London student said. “The hub was thriving with excitement and happiness and the cake decorating topped the day off! It’s a great way to keep the global students together as one!”

“Being a student at Northeastern means being a part of a broader community of like-minded students from across the U.K., the U.S. and beyond,” another London student said.

Back in Boston, Joshua Hill, a third-year economics major, was heading to class at Richards Hall but made sure to stop by the quad to show his school spirit. His favorite part of the festivities was getting to celebrate with the university president, he said.  

“I love President Aoun,” he said.

Bands rock the common

A number of local Northeastern musicians played in Centennial Common throughout the event, including Tanvi Das, a fourth-year psychology and music major. She is the lead singer of the band, Hallway. 

During her set, Das played a number of original and covers and was accompanied by her band. Not all members of Hallway could make it so a few of Das’ friends subbed in in their place. 

“It was kind of like a makeshift,” Das said. “We only had one 45-minute rehearsal of all of us. We all just did our own work in our own time and put it together. For that, I think it was really successful.”

Aleeza Syed, a third-year political science major, said she really enjoyed Das’ performance even though it wasn’t typically the kind of music she listens to. 

She described it as having an indie-pop vibe. She added she might check out their new single coming out this Friday. 

“I very much enjoyed it,” she said. 

Former pub comes to life

One of the nostalgic touches of the day was in West Village Quad on the Boston campus: a replica of Punter’s Pub. It included the pub’s original bar, booths and pool table. The pub was located at the corner of Parker Street and Huntington Ave. 

Akhil Metlakunta, a master’s student studying information systems, was able to successfully win a Northeastern husky plushie while trying his hand at the toy claw machine placed in front of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex. 

Metlakunta had originally planned to just head to the gym for the day, but when he saw the machine, he knew he had to at least try it. 

“Who can say no to a stuffed toy?” he exclaimed.   

He had a system. 

“I just used physics,” he said. “I wanted to place the claw right on the center of the husky so it would be able to pick it up and not miss.” 

Metlaknuta made sure to grab some shots of him and his new plushie while posing at a photo booth nearby. 

He said he is glad he ended up taking a break from his studies to partake in the activities as it was a good stress reliever, he said. 

While Sage Chen, a fourth-year marketing and communications major, and her friend Sydney Su, a fifth-year marketing major, were unsuccessful at the claw machine, they said they got some awesome photos of themselves at the booth. 

The main reason they headed out to partake in the day’s activities was to eat some cupcakes, but they said they were excited to learn more about Northeastern’s past. 

“We just want to walk around and see what’s up, because we really haven’t learned a lot of stuff about the history of Northeastern,” Su said. “We’re really excited.” 

Vickie Jean DeHamer contributed to this report.

Cyrus Moulton is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @MoultonCyrus.
Cesareo Contreras is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on X @cesareo_r and Threads @cesareor.