“A few years back, I had the opportunity to get involved with a startup. It was going to be a pay cut but we’d own a big portion of the company. It was risky and my wife and I decided to go for it. Well, that company turned out to be Staples.”
I could feel my heart skip a beat as I listened to Northeastern University’s Board of Trustees Chairman, Henry Nasella, tell this story. Henry eventually became the President and COO of Staples after graduating from Northeastern in 1977. His story is incredible: it epitomizes the risks, rewards and excitement of going out on your own in a startup.
The narrative was fitting for the night. Last Thursday evening, Northeastern kicked off Empower, our most ambitious campaign for the university yet, where we will raise $1 Billion by 2017. The evening was nothing short of mind blowing. Northeastern’s wildly talented Office of Events transformed our Marino Recreation Center into a barely recognizable venue, complete with fog machines, a 30 foot statue and a bar made of solid ice. As President Aoun stood at a podium, multi-colored lights shining from all angles, everyone in the room could feel chills when he explained Empower.
The name has a deep meaning. Northeastern is an institution and community of empowerment, where titans like Henry Nasella set the stage for future generations of entrepreneurs to create their own success. Northeastern is the powerhouse that it is because our alumni entrepreneurs use their success to empower others. This fully clicked for me later in the evening when Northeastern’s VP of Alumni Relations, Jack Moynihan, shared a simple piece of advice: “Greg, never forget where you came from.” Students and young entrepreneurs at Northeastern are empowered precisely because our alumni, like Nasella, never forget where they came from.
It’s an immensely powerful message, and it makes me proud to be husky. It makes me proud and hungry to follow in the footsteps of entrepreneurs like Henry Nasella. It makes me proud that Northeastern empowered us to get there.