They Broke Barriers, Built Companies, and Became Role Models
When Carole Shapazian started working as a bench chemist at Polaroid five decades ago, men and women were not equals in the workplace.
“Polaroid was a very liberal company,” Shapazian said. “But they had rules. There were rules for promotions that were different for women. There were two pay scales. There were rules around pregnancy. A woman could not supervise a man.”
Over her 30 years at the company, Shapazian would challenge those rules again and again, crossing boundaries and opening doors for other women. She eventually rose to the rank of assistant chief operating officer, before moving on to new challenges in 2000.
Shapazian was just one of the graduates who were honored on Thursday for their contributions to the university and its mission at Northeastern’s annual volunteer leadership summit, Networked for Life
“We will be celebrating the impact of what you have done,” President Joseph E. Aoun said to the award recipients, “to show how your investments of time, energy, and treasure have allowed [the Northeastern community] to soar. The power of networks, the power of role models, and the power of experience—that is why we are here today.”
The summit was a celebration of the university’s values, Aoun told a luncheon audience on the 17th floor of East Village with its sweeping views of Boston.
“This university has been built on something that differentiates it from all other universities all over the world,” Aoun said. The experiences of Northeastern students, he said, “start with co-op and end with entrepreneurship, with cultural agility, with global exploration.
The Distinguished Service Award
Gary C. Dunton credits Northeastern’s co-op program with helping him rise to executive roles in the insurance industry at Aetna, USF&G, and MBIA, Inc., where he served as president, chief executive officer, and chairman. He and his wife, Lea Anne Dunton, were among five winners of the Distinguished Service Award, which honors graduates who have promoted Northeastern’s mission by performing notable service to the university and its community.
Gary Dunton, who is an emeritus member of Northeastern’s corporation, acts as a student mentor while serving on the D’Amore-McKim Dean’s Executive Council. Lea Anne Dunton is on the Mosaic Council, an alliance of student-led organizations that foster entrepreneurial activities at Northeastern.
The award was also given to another husband and wife pair. Not only have Eugene M. Reppucci and Corinne Reppucci held extended roles at the university—Gene as senior vice president of development, and Corinne as a cooperative education faculty member, in addition to being vice president of public affairs at the National Commission for Cooperative Education—but they have also contributed to Northeastern philanthropically across a variety of disciplines. Together they are responsible for four Northeastern funds that continue to provide benefits for students.
The fifth award was given to Janet Shoemaker Swanson, a Northeastern Varsity Club Hall of Fame swimming coach and multisport athlete. Swanson, who received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northeastern, founded the varsity women’s rowing program in 1975. She was also the first Northeastern donor to make a six-figure gift to women’s athletics, apportioning her donation to educational programs and varsity swimming.
The Pioneer Award
The two recipients were honored for outstanding contributions to the Northeastern community while serving as pioneers in their own right.
Shapazian, who started her career as a bench chemist and rose to assistant chief operating officer at Polaroid, later became executive vice president at Maytag, overseeing a $4 billion consumer business and 18,000 employees. She served on several corporate boards and chaired committees that were focused on technology, strategy, and operational excellence.
Shapazian has served on Northeastern’s Board of Trustees in several roles since 1992. Her endowment of the Carole Shapazian Research Co-op Fund has enabled many scholars to complete co-ops at leading research laboratories, hospitals, and nonprofits.
Entrepreneur James L. Waters founded the Waters Corporation, a specialty measurement company focused on improving human health and wellbeing, in 1958 in the basement of a police station. It has grown into a multibillion-dollar corporation with more than 7,000 employees in 35 countries. The corporation’s innovations in chromatography, mass spectrometry, and thermal analysis have resulted in the discovery of new pharmaceuticals and gains in food and water safety.
Waters serves on the advisory board of Northeastern’s Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis. He and his wife, Faith Waters, endowed the James L. Waters Chair in Analytical Chemistry in 1984. He is trustee emeritus on Northeastern’s Board of Trustees.
The Emerging Leader Award
Mohammad Al Wazzan, founding chair of Northeastern’s Young Global Leaders, was recognized for demonstrating an early, sustained commitment to furthering the university’s mission. Al Wazzan has grown the organization to include 127 graduates from 49 countries, who advise Northeastern leadership on strategic priorities, share perspectives on key issues, and strengthen international connections. Al Wazzan is managing partner of Valia Ventures, which empowers globally-minded entrepreneurs from a coalition of current and future business leaders in the Middle East and North Africa, and which was co-founded with Northeastern graduates.
Following the award announcements, Aoun provided the audience with a “state of the university” report.
“The executive summary is that the university is doing extremely well,” he said.
Aoun focused on the core strengths of the university’s co-op system and its strategic plan, Northeastern 2025, “which is focused on helping our students become robot-proof,” he said. He added that Northeastern will become a national leader in research over the next five years, while continuing to offer a diversity of experiences fitted to students—not only during their undergraduate career but for the remainder of their lives.
This story was originally published on News@Northeastern on October 3, 2019.