A professor who made his mark

Distinguished Professor Daniel J. McCarthy left the academic teaching treadmill on June 30 after 52 years of legendary contributions to the D’Amore McKim School of Business at Northeastern University.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” By any measure you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has so selflessly served the university and students as Professor McCarthy. All at the university have been rewarded with his efforts.

His contributions to the institution go far beyond longevity. He was always welcoming and gracious to those who interacted with him without a tint of academic snobbery. The quintessential gentleman. Those who worked with him understand full well that he valued loyalty to the institution in the true sense of the word. It only matters when there are 10 reasons not to be loyal.

Professor McCarthy is an internationally renowned scholar, outstanding teacher, and generous benefactor to the university. He is academically prolific with crazy energy levels. He is fiercely competitive, when he puts his mind to getting something done, nothing will stop him unless a machine is attached to it.

As a scholar, since 2007 Professor McCarthy has authored or co-authored 28 articles in academically refereed journals and ten book chapters as well as presenting his papers in over 50 conferences. And if that were not enough, he was in the top five percent of scholars globally who published in the leading international business journals from 1996 to 2000.

As a teacher, he was always giving students more than they asked for or even wanted. He was always present, listening, counseling, knee-deep in student engagement, touching scores of students in meaningful and memorable ways. He deserves praise for pushing students to ask hard questions, omnivorously driving them to consider diverse perspectives, encouraging them to get to the bottom of things, and nurturing their intellectual growth without wounding their egos. He never avoided demanding excellence while always being fair. Unlike many he was not in love with the sound of his own voice.

Professor McCarthy has an almost unfair writing style with a gift for clarity. Unlike many academics he does not visit cruel and unusual punishment on the language. He makes the language work for the reader. His words travel well.

We should remember not to forget that he has enjoyed success in business as well as in the academy. Unlike many academicians, he has a deep understanding of business. He knows whereof he speaks. He understands that when there is a disparity between theory and facts, the flaws are not with the reality on the ground.

It goes without saying but it goes better with saying that Professor McCarthy and his wife Margaret have generously given personal treasure to the university over the years as well as motivating others to give. For example, Professor McCarthy and venture capitalist Jeff McCarthy (unrelated) jointly invested $1 million to fund the university wide venture mentoring program in 2012.

It is not hyperbole to acknowledge Professor McCarthy played a key role in Richard D’Amore and Alan McKim’s making the largest philanthropic investment in the school’s history of $60 million in 2012. In 2005 these two benefactors endowed the Distinguished Professor of Global Management and Innovation chair held by Professor McCarthy who mentored both when they were students at Northeastern.

While Professor McCarthy will no longer be formally teaching, fortunately for the school he will continue to be intensely involved in the university wide Venture Mentoring Network and IDEA, the student run venture accelerator both of which are housed within the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education for which he chairs the board.

To paraphrase that author anonymous while faculty, students, and staff may not remember all the things Professor McCarthy has done and all the things he has said, they will always remember how he made them feel.

originally published: July 8, 2017