NU receives $20 million grant

Northeastern received the largest single donation in its history last week: a $20 million gift from the Gordon Foundation which will be used to advance the university’s engineering programs.

Bernard M. Gordon and his wife Sophia provided the donation in recognition of Northeastern’s ability to combine educational and professional experience with programs like cooperative education, the university announced last week in a press release.

The donation will support Northeastern’s Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (CenSSIS), which focuses on finding ways to look into “hidden worlds,” such as underground and within the human body. The gift will also create The Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, an intensive one-year graduate program, which is scheduled to begin in September 2007.

“Through his life and career, Bernard Gordon has demonstrated that an engineering leader can have a tremendous impact on society and on individual lives,” former President Richard Freeland said in the release.

CenSSIS was founded in 2000 as a federally funded, multi-university Engineering Research Center (ERC) with the purpose of giving students the opportunity to help solve real-world engineering problems. Northeastern heads the center with other academic partners: Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Puerto-Rico at Mayaguez.

The initial 10-year grant from the National Science Foundation ERC will end in 2010, but the donation by the Gordon Foundation will allow the center to continue operating. The center was renamed the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems will grow from an academic research center into a research and development center that will go beyond the research and focus on actually creating new commercial and governmental products.

Michael Silevitch, director of CenSSIS, said the funding will enable Northeastern to compete heavily at the graduate level of engineering. Students will have the opportunity to not only research but also work to create products, such as an advanced microscope to find skin cancer, that will potentially leave the lab and become useful tools in the industry.

The Leadership program will allow students, called Gordon Fellows, to achieve a master’s degree in a core engineering discipline as well as earn a certificate in engineering leadership. In the program, fellows will conceive and work in teams to complete a single project, which must produce a practical commercial product or government system application.

In the announcement, Silevitch said the program would redefine the way engineers are educated. Students are less interested and inspired to go into engineering than they were 50 years ago, he said, but he believes CenSSIS and the new educational programs will help reignite the flame.

“The lack of effective engineering leaders is a national problem that must be addressed immediately,” Silevitch said in the release. “The Gordon Foundation gift will enable us to do that.”

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