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the 38th Annual golden door award Gala

Seven hundred people gathered at Matthews Arena last night to honor Dr. Joseph E. Aoun, the president of Northeastern University, as he received the Golden Door award from the International Institute of New England (IINE).


Dr. Joseph Aoun

President, Northeastern University

November 21, 2019
Matthews Arena at Northeastern University

About The Event

The Golden Door Award has been an IINE tradition for more than 40 years. The honoree is a U.S. citizen of foreign birth who has made outstanding contributions to American society. It is an occasion that calls us to stand together in celebration of the achievements of new Americans who have played an integral role in our community, economy, and society.

The Award takes its name from Emma Lazarus’s words, which are inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “From her beacon hand glows world-wide welcome…I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The 2019 Golden Door Award Honoree

Dr. Joseph E. Aoun

A nationally known higher education thought leader, native of Lebanon, and renowned scholar of linguistics, Dr. Joseph E. Aoun is the seventh president of Northeastern University.

He has led the university’s expansion of experiential learning to 136 countries and established a network of seven campuses in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom—part of his vision for a global university system supporting lifelong learning and collaborative research. President Aoun has aligned the university’s use-inspired research enterprise with three global imperatives—health, security, and sustainability—a focus supported by eight interdisciplinary research institutes.

These and other initiatives have enabled Northeastern to attract record numbers of high-talent students from around the world, while more than tripling external funding for research.

As a scholar, Joseph Aoun has advanced the human condition by envisioning the future of our relationship with technology through learning—most notably, in his most recent book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press, 2017). As an immigrant, he has welcomed learners from all countries who are transcending borders to advance creativity and innovation. His example of the unlimited potential of the immigrant spirit is an inspiration to students, faculty, alumni, staff, and Northeastern University’s vast global network of co-op and research partners.

For his work connecting Northeastern University to people and countries around the world, the International Institute of New England proudly presents the 38th Golden Door Award to Dr. Joseph E. Aoun.

About Dr. Joseph Aoun

Dr. Aoun, a highly respected scholar, teacher, and academic innovator, spoke of his early days as a lonely and struggling graduate student at MIT. He recounted “wrestling” with English and having serious concerns about whether coming to America to study was the right choice.

“My teachers liberated me from self-doubt,” he said.
The welcome he received from his professors at MIT – including a number of memorable Thanksgiving dinner invitations – helped him feel more at home in Boston, then in California, when he took a teaching position at USC.

He said the ongoing welcome he received at every turn of his American journey taught him that the people around us have the greatest impact on our success.
“Every immigrant needs the support of a community,” Dr. Aoun said.

President Aoun’s remarks resonated with an audience of refugees and immigrants enrolled in IINE’s legal services, education, career, and resettlement programs as well as Northeastern students, business leaders and supporters.
Dr. Aoun praised the work of the International Institute and concluded his speech by inviting

IINE clients to join him on stage. “I am proud and humbled to share this journey with you,” Aoun said.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Chairman, President and CEO, Jeff Leiden, who served as the Gala co-chair, praised IINE, President Aoun, and spoke about how Vertex embraces innovative ideas from people of all backgrounds.

“Vertex would not be the company it is today without immigrants,” he said.

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, an alumnus of Northeastern raised in an immigrant neighborhood, said he was brought up to respect and value people from all over the world. He praised Dr. Aoun for infusing Northeastern with a multicultural spirit.

The evening included inspiring musical performances from the Northeastern University Choral Society singing “The Immigrant Experience” by composer John Kramer, and the university’s award winning a capella group.

More than 100 corporate and individual sponsors provided support to the event, which raised $800,000 for the International Institute of New England.

Download President Aoun’s Remarks

Good evening, it is a special honor for me to be here with you.

Alex and Rahmattulah, who are here tonight, came to this country as refugees and became clients of the Institute.
They gave me the following advice about my remarks.

Host Committee

Jeff Leiden, Chairman, President and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals

John Fish, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Suffolk Construction

Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York
Noubar Afeyan, Flagship Pioneering

Vivian Brocard, Issacson, Miller

Richard D’Amore, North Bridge Partners

Robert DiCenso

Deborah Dunsire, Lundbeck

Linda Pizzuti Henry, The Boston Globe

Amin Khoury, KLX Energy, Inc.

Jonathan Kraft, The Kraft Group

David H. Long, Liberty Mutual Insurance

Kevin McGovern, Deloitte

Henry Nasella, LNK Partners

Ed Pendergast, Dunn Rush & Co LLC

Kater Pendergast, Northeastern University

Andrew Plump, Takeda

Robert Reynolds, Putnam Investments

Michael Ringel, The Boston Consulting Group

Robert Rivers, Eastern Bank

Bill Sibold, Sanofi Genzyme

Joe Tucci, Dell EMC

Christopher Viehbacher, Gurnet Point Capital

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen

IINE Board of Directors

Zoltan Csimma, Chair

Jeffrey Thielman, President & CEO

Rita McDonough, CFO, Treasurer

Christina Bai, CollegeFindMe

Douglas Bailey, DB Media Strategies

Tara Chynoweth, Hologic Inc.

Ginger Gregory, Biogen

Avak Kahvejian, Flagship Pioneering

William Krause, Northern Trust

Dan Koh, HqO
Shari Loessberg, MIT

Bopha Malone, Enterprise Bank

Theo Melas-Kyriazi, Flagship Pioneering

Frederick Millham, South Shore Hospital

Deborah Shufrin, Brandeis University

Champion Sponsors

Illumination Sponsor

VIP Table Sponsors

Table Sponsors

Community Light Sponsors

Many thanks to our generous event sponsors

American Express

Columbia Construction Company


Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP


Isaacson, Miller Inc.

Millipore Sigma

Parlee Farms


JW Real Estate Services

Orn Almarsson

Christina Bai
Richard Burnes

Gustav Christensen

Tara Chynoweth

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

Linda Hammett Ory and Andrew Ory

Fred Millham

Kater & Ed Pendergast

Rick & Gitte Shea

George Gemayel

Vartan Gregorian

Dan Koh

Consigli Construction Co, Inc

Commodore Builders


Doug Bailey

Jessica & Naiff Bethoney

Richard & Nancy Donahue Family Foundation

Jean Jacques Hajjar and Nicole Babikian

Tuan Ha-Ngoc

Charles Hewett

Robert Sutcliffe and Thomas Hudnut

Bopha Malone

John Maraganore

Barry Mills
Gabriel Schmerge
Susan Whitehead

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Ernest Mudarri Haddad


Karen and Steven Krichmar