Irene Panagopoulos graduated in 1985 from Mills College in Oakland, California. About 12 years ago, she was helping her daughter navigate the college selection process.
She applied to Mills, but did not attend. Not because she didn’t love him. She did it.
“She told me that she wanted to have her own college and not her mother’s,” Panagopoulos said.
In the end, her daughter chose Northeastern University, spent five memorable years on the Boston campus, participated in co-op, made many connections, and graduated in 2015.
Fast forward seven years and mother and daughter now share the same school. In July, Mills College became Mills College at Northeastern University.
“What an incredible coincidence,” Panagopoulos said.
“I had an incredible experience at Mills and my daughter had an incredible experience at Northeastern,” she said. “Now our schools have united.”
It’s this unique perspective—a graduate of Mills and mother of a Northeastern graduate—along with her extensive experience in business and higher education that made Panagopoulos a natural addition to Northeastern’s board of directors.
Panagopoulos and Kathleen Sanborn, a 1983 Mills graduate, were recently elected to the Board of Directors, Northeastern’s governing body, which works with Chairman Joseph E. Aoun and other senior leaders to shape the company’s strategic vision. ‘university.
“All members of Northeastern’s Board of Directors share a deep commitment to education and our institutional mission,” said Richard D’Amore, Chairman of the Board. “We are delighted to add Irene and Katie to this dynamic group of university leaders. »
Aoun described Panagopoulos and Sanborn as “remarkable leaders whose careers and perspectives enrich the vision we have for the future of the Northeast”.
“They are excited about our mission to educate students throughout their lives and to solve the world’s most pressing problems through research and discovery,” Aoun said. “We salute their wisdom and support as new members of our Board of Directors.”
An art graduate at Mills, Panagopoulos lives in Athens, Greece, where she is president of Magna Marine Inc., a commercial shipping company founded by her late father.
Sanborn lives in Northern California, where she is Director of Editorial Services for OTR Global LLC, which provides market-based, journalistic-style research for large institutional investors. She earned an English degree from Mills and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern.
Panagopoulos and Sanborn were both board members at Mills College. Sanborn was the president and is proud of the work of her former board that helped bring Northeastern and Mills together.
“I’m excited to be able to continue this work on the North East Board of Directors,” Sanborn said.
Northeastern is the only university in the United States with full campuses on both coasts – campuses that include undergraduate and graduate learning, residential life, recreation, and research.
Sanborn’s first impressions of the merged university were very positive. Among administrators in the Northeast, she found a common aspiration to expand education to more students. Trustee David House, for example, shared with her his experience as the first member of his family to attend college and his commitment to helping pave that path for others.
“It’s exactly what Mills directors have always embraced,” Sanborn said. “I think that’s what strikes me the most about this merger. Mills and Northeastern are two very different institutions, but we are driven by the same goals and purposes. »
English was Panagopoulos’ second language when she arrived at Mills as an international student, but she became an honors student and campus leader, earning the respect of her peers, staff, and community. his faculty. After graduating, the college created a new position for her: recently graduated administrator.
“It was a great honor for me,” Panagopoulos said. “In a way, Mills was my American dream.”
Several years later, Panagopoulos was again nominated to become a regular administrator.
“I never stopped being involved with Mills,” she said. “I loved Mills and everything he brought to me and wanted to reciprocate.”
A generation ago, Sanborn also fell in love with the 135-acre campus. In fact, the smell of eucalyptus everywhere still brings her back to the intimate living room of Olney Hall, where she lived for four years.
“I love our newly renovated Lisser Hall, which has helped reinvigorate the center of campus as a place to gather, relax and work,” Sanborn said. “I love Mills Hall and the presidential portraits, the creaking of the wooden floors and the display of some of Susan Mills’ teapot collection.
“I love the Reinhardt Alumnae House and the green space that extends the glass room, like a vision of Eichler. I even love Lake Aliso, which continues to be a body of water despite its source having been interrupted by the construction of I-580 above so many years ago.
Sanborn joined Mills’ board in 2013, quickly learned about the college’s challenges, and joined others in reimagining its future.
“It was painful to finally recognize that Mills as an independent institution was unsustainable, but together we made the decision to allow Mills to transition, to evolve – as part of Northeastern University, including the Mills Institute,” Sanborn said.
“Mills has evolved and changed before, and this is a new era,” she said. “I am grateful to President Aoun and the North East Board for having the vision to see what Mills could offer in terms of ideology, culture and mission and to really aspire to extend these qualities at the global university.”
At the farewell reception for former Mills College president Beth Hillman, Sanborn said she was encouraged by the conversations she had with Mills faculty.
“I was struck by their optimism and, frankly, how much more relaxed and happy they were compared to the months leading up to the decision and the merger,” Sanborn said. “It confirmed to me that we had made the right decision. I know they are delighted to have more students to teach and are impressed with the caliber of the students and their desire to learn. I believe the merger lifted everyone up.
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