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From Co-Op To President: Ouellette’s Journey To The Top

Back in 1976, David Ouellette was looking for a co-op through Northeastern. In fact, the opportunities available through co-op are what attracted the chemistry major to the University.

Paving a Career Path
Ouellette found a co-op at Chemtan Company, Inc., located near his home in Exeter, NH. He took the job because it not only allowed him to explore the field of chemistry, it gave him a chance to figure out what career path he would like to take after graduation.

Chemtan is an international leader in developing, producing and marketing chemicals for the leather tanning industry. The company was started back in 1948 by a group of five employee-partners who decided to leave American Cyanamid. They believed investment in products based on new chemistries developed during and after World War II would play a major role in leather making.

Fueling a Passion
Ouellette enjoyed organic chemistry and his co-op assignment gave him an opportunity to work in an area of chemistry he really felt passionate about. “Chemtan… provided me with a chance to understand how things were put together or used by our customers,” said Ouellette. “I received a comprehensive training approach. I felt I was really part of the company.”

His Journey to the Top
Ouellette’s time at Chemtan would not end after his co-op. In 1978, Ouellette graduated from Northeastern and accepted a laboratory technician position at the company.
After several years of developing skills in the laboratory, Ouellette became Chemtan’s R&D director.

In 2009, he was named president – a title he shares with two other Northeastern alumni, John Mitchell, COE ’68 and Stephen O’Connor, COE ’60.

Northeastern Memories
Looking back on his days at Northeastern, Ouellette remembers Dr. Phillip LeQuesne (his favorite professor), the Blizzard of 1978, Punter’s Pub and spending hours in the chemistry lab. “I would leave my dorm room at 8 a.m. and return at 5 p.m. every day. My roommates referred to me as the factory worker.”

Today, in addition to his leadership role at Chemtan, David Ouellette is married and has three children.

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