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Northeastern University

The Averill Family

Not only do Robert and Claire Averill’s three sons and two daughters feel a debt of gratitude for the experiences they received through Northeastern’s co-op program, it could be argued that they owe their very existence to it.

Robert Averill Sr., E’57, ME’59, recently celebrated his 51st wedding anniversary with his wife Claire, whom he met during his co-ops at Boston Edison Company from 1953-57. Their children – Ruth, AS’82; Robert Jr., LC’85; James, LC’86; William, AS’92; and Jennifer – followed in their father’s footsteps to Northeastern. Through their co-op experiences, each earned an appreciation for the rigors and demands of the workplace while getting invaluable knowledge and experience that put them ahead of graduates from other universities.

“I learned that there are all kinds of engineers,” said Robert Sr., who was a research electrical engineer at Harvard and an electrical engineer and executive in industry before retiring from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as chief engineer at the school’s Bates Laboratory.

“The discussions I had with my classmates after returning from co-ops were interesting because they experienced many diverse assignments,” he said.

He said that being exposed to many different jobs and possible career paths while in college is a huge benefit for Northeastern students.

William Averill, the vice president of institutional sales for Loomis Sayles and Co., Inc., in Boston, said, “The first co-op experience will help clarify what you like and dislike about a given field and help narrow your focus toward a target job.” When asked what advice they would like to share with current students, his brothers had similar advice.

“Don’t worry about your first co-op job,” said James, who worked at Microwave Associates (M/A-com) while at Northeastern. “Try to stay in your field of interest and while you’re there, see how exciting it is for you.”

“You don't necessarily have to love the job,” added Robert Jr., who spent his co-ops at Raytheon, “but it will give you insights into the things you do like and it may help focus your educational career going forward.”

Ruth Averill discovered there are also important intangibles that co-op positions provide, such as real-life experiences that will help you throughout your professional life. “Early on it was evident that to interview for a job you need to consider the environment you’re working in. What is the office like? Is there room for doing things differently and the human element of getting along with your coworkers?” said Ruth, a police detective in Wayland, Massachusetts, who had two co-ops with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. While the array of co-ops made for great conversation around the Averill dinner table, it was how those jobs augmented the educational experience that had a lasting effect.

“Solving a problem in a book cannot compare to designing and measuring an actual product that is put into use,” said Jennifer, who had several engineering co-ops at Digital Equipment Corporation. “In the real world the math does not always accurately predict the outcome.”

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