John Martinson Gives $5 Million to Northeastern’s Honors Program

Venture capitalist and philanthropist John Martinson has donated $5 million to Northeastern’s honors program, which provides first-year students with unique experiential opportunities to learn both inside and outside the classroom. The newly named John Martinson Honors Program will support enhancing integration with the co-op program, and provide students with additional global experiential learning opportunities.

Martinson, a software industry leader who has been involved in venture capital for four decades, is the chairman of Martinson Ventures, a technology venture capital firm based in Newtown, Pennsylvania. He said Northeastern’s focus on preparing the next generation of globally agile talent aligns perfectly with his philanthropy efforts.

“Besides your graduates, what attracted me here was the leadership and the co-op program,” Martinson said on February 20, 2024, in East Village during a ceremony celebrating his generous support. “A number of our companies had both interns and mostly co-op students who went on to become valued, creative, and productive employees and leaders.”

David Madigan, the university’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said “undergraduate education is at the bedrock of every great university.”

“That’s the centerpiece of what we do,” he said. “An honors program is truly transformative in raising the game, raising the quality of our undergraduate program, particularly at universities like this that have co-ops, all kinds of experiential opportunities, and we’re global.”

Before the dedication event, Martinson took a tour of the campus, checked out the new EXP research center, sat in on a number of honors classes and met with student leaders.

He came away impressed.

“Your outstanding and well-run honors program with a substantial number of programs and 3,000 students makes you in the top quartile or so in the honors college nationwide,” Martinson said. “At the same time, [you] had the courage and foresight to say, ‘Let’s not stand on our laurels. Let’s think of a new pivot and approach going forward.’”

Becca Berkey, interim director of the honors program, said the new John Martinson Honors Program was designed with the intent to provide first-year students with experiential opportunities that foster networking and community engagement.

As part of the program, first-year honors students will take up residence in Honors Living Learning Communities in the East Village building. Students will participate in community group events throughout the academic year centered around a specific theme, according to the program’s website.

“Those living learning communities are pretty highly programmed and overseen by a faculty or staff member of the university as well as an upper class student leader,” said Berkey. “One of our pillars is building community, and that is one of the ways we are doing that most directly.”

First-year students will also be required to take a one-credit Honors Discovery course. Students engage in a number of learning activities, assignments and group discussions throughout the class to learn about their individual interests and the positive impact they could have as global citizens, she said.

Students will also be required to complete a third learning experience offered by the program, ranging from additional honors courses and study abroad experiences to undergraduate research and community service opportunities. 

Once students complete their first year, they are given an Honors badge and gain access to a plethora of resources and opportunities, including upper level and experiential academic courses, the Honors Alumni Mentoring Network and Honors upperclass housing options.

Natalie Coreas, a third-year criminal justice major, said the honors program has been a great way for her to make friends, particularly when she was a freshman.

“I honestly met a lot of my close friends through the honors program,” she said. “You come in and you get to pick a Learning Living Community and you get roomed based on your interests. I was in the foodies LLC and we just got to go on trips and basically experience students with similar interests.”

She said she’s excited for new first-year honor students who will partake in the revamped program, given how it has expanded the LLC component of the program.

Ihunaya Eluwa, a fourth-year business administration and mathematics major, said she appreciates that the revamped program will allow monetary support for more students.

The funds will provide support for current Northeastern students interested in applying to the honors program as well as incoming students already accepted into the program, Berkey said.

Martinson praised the value Northeastern brings by providing students with experiential learning opportunities, especially in the venture capital setting.

“Venture-capital type companies, even though they’re often started by young people, actually tend to hire in the ranks mostly mid-level people who have 10 years of experience. There’s actually very few entry-level jobs other than for some really bright extraordinary people.

“I think internships and co-ops and even a first or second job at a larger company gives you the skills you need. I’m eager to create a pathway to get into venture capital,” he added.

Martinson said he was enthusiastic about partnering with Northeastern, the world leader in global experiential learning. He was particularly interested in supporting the reimagined honors program.

“The more I thought about it, I said, ‘That’s exactly what I want to be a part of.’ How do we do things better at every level?” he said.

Martinson, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Purdue University, and Southern Illinois University, said he’s now proud to be a part of the “Husky community.”

“I’ll be rooting for your sports teams, and more importantly rooting and hiring your successful students,” he added.

This article was originally written by Cesareo Contreras
and published by Northeastern Global News.