Northeastern University

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Northeastern University

Patrick F. O’Donnell, BA’83, PNT’12

Pat O'Donnell came to Northeastern for its location, its reputation and its signature co-op program. O'Donnell's story is one of a driven young man who split his time between co-op at IBM World Trade in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Northeastern classrooms.  In the end, it parlayed into a 26-year-career at IBM, where today he oversees more than $400 million in sales as client director.

"I could have worked elsewhere based on my degree and my IBM experiences, but I stayed at IBM and hit the ground running.  I learned that success is more than accomplishment and working hard, it's also building a network," said O'Donnell. "That's one thing I wouldn't have learned had I remained in a traditional college program."

From the onset at IBM, O'Donnell realized that he had a special connection with the company. He was gaining invaluable work experience as an import specialist, and serving as a liaison between IBM and the United States Customs Office, all the while gaining valuable life lessons from one of his most important connections, his boss and mentor: Joe McGowan.

After O'Donnell's first co-op at IBM, McGowan gladly rehired him for his remaining ones. In 1983, he so strongly praised O'Donnell in his end-of-term performance review, that then-Northeastern President Kenneth Ryder, H'83, bestowed upon O'Donnell a co-op achievement award, an accolade presented to a select few students for outstanding accomplishments.

"I always received great reviews from Joe. I guess Northeastern felt that the level of work I was doing for a reputable company made me a strong candidate to represent the business school," said O'Donnell. "It was a great event."

"He [McGowan] gave me a lot of advice on career and family and was always making sure that I had my priorities straight and that I lived by those priorities," said O'Donnell, who remained friends with McGowan for many years after leaving IBM's Poughkeepsie office.

From Poughkeepsie, O'Donnell transferred to New York, then to San Francisco, where he stayed for 14 years, and just last year to Dallas, climbing the corporate ladder every step of the way.

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