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O’Brien Foundation makes $1 Million Gift to Merrimack College to transform Career Services and Experiential Learning



May 07, 2012
“The James W. O’Brien Center for Student Success will provide a bridge into and through college, and ultimately into the workforce, by providing cooperative educational opportunities that allow students to gain real-world experience and pay for college.  We believe the Center will reflect James O’Brien’s belief that, through hard work, anything is possible,” said Merrimack College President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D.

Merrimack College has received a gift of $1 million from the James W. O’Brien Foundation to create the James W. O’Brien Center for Student Success.  This new innovative center, focused on experiential learning, will provide deserving students greater access to higher education and prepare them to compete in the 21st century global economy.

The O’Brien Center for Student Success will transform career services and student preparation in response to the changing demands of a global economy, shifts in the marketplace, and an increase in student loan debt.  The Center will focus on cooperative education, a learning experience that builds practical skills and helps students translate theory in the classroom into practice in the workplace.  Recent research published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that more than 72 percent of employers prefer to hire new graduates who acquired work experience during their college careers through co-ops and internships.  The O’Brien Center will serve as a hub for providing these deep and meaningful learning experiences.

“We are very pleased to extend our partnership with the O’Brien Foundation and thank the organization for its generous support through the years,” said Merrimack College President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D.  “The James W. O’Brien Center for Student Success will provide a bridge into and through college, and ultimately into the workforce, by providing cooperative educational opportunities that allow students to gain real-world experience and pay for college.  We believe the Center will reflect James O’Brien’s belief that, through hard work, anything is possible.“

The O’Brien Foundation, founded by prominent Lynn businessman James W. O’Brien, is Merrimack College’s largest benefactor, having contributed more than $10 million in student scholarships and financial aid to more than 1,000 Merrimack students over a period of 25 years.  Among the Foundation’s contributions are the O’Brien Revolving Loan Fund, the O’Brien Foundation Presidential and Presidential Gold Scholarships, and the Merrimack College-O’Brien Lynn Scholarships. 

“We are delighted to partner with Merrimack College to develop a program that provides access to college and prepares students to succeed in their personal and professional lives after graduation,” said James J. McInnis, Esq., Managing Trustee of the O’Brien Foundation and a former member of the Merrimack College Board of Trustees.  “Merrimack has long believed in relevant and practical education, and the O’Brien Center for Student Success will develop a new delivery model that will meet the demands of today’s students and employers.“ 

The Center will offer an “earn to learn” environment that allows students to pay for part of their college tuition through their cooperative education experiences.  The co-ops will be employed in regional and national corporations and their cooperative educational experiences will be aligned with classroom curriculum. Over the next several years, through the generosity of the O’Brien Foundation, Merrimack College will build relationships with more then 100 regional and national employers and will place more than 750 students in cooperative educational experiences. 

The O’Brien Foundation’s gift is an endorsement of Merrimack’s future at a time of renewed optimism and momentum.  The O’Brien gift marks the second time in three months that Merrimack has attracted a gift of this size.  In February, local entrepreneur Richard Gallant and his wife, Susanna, made a $2 million unrestricted gift to the College to support the institution’s Agenda for Distinction.

“The O’Brien Foundation’s extraordinary support of Merrimack College reflects its confidence in the institution’s past, present and future. Coupled with the generous contribution we recently received from Richard and Susanna Gallant, we are securing the financial support that will underpin our growth. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I thank the O’Brien Foundation for its commitment to Merrimack,” said Hopey. 

The Foundation is the legacy of James W. O’Brien, who was orphaned at age 13, but achieved financial success in the leather industry.  Mr. O’Brien died in 1979.  He received an Honorary Degree, posthumously, from Merrimack in 2011.  A Merrimack College residence hall, O’Brien Hall, is named in his honor.

The new O’Brien Center will support Merrimack College’s Agenda for Distinction, the strategic plan that will enable the institution to confidently drive toward its vision of creating a highly ranked, internationally respected, selective masters comprehensive Catholic college, which is residential, student-centered, professionally focused and rigorous in the liberal arts, sciences, and business.  Student access and career success are cornerstones of the Agenda. 

About Merrimack College
The only Catholic Augustinian college in New England, Merrimack College is a selective, independent, co-educational institution with 2,000 full-time students from 22 states and 20 countries. Merrimack’s beautiful 220-acre campus is situated 20 minutes north of Boston in North Andover, Massachusetts. Featuring rigorous academics, small classes, and a close-knit residential community, Merrimack offers a wide range of business, education, liberal arts, science and engineering programs. Our reputation for inspiring excellence is exemplified through our 22,000 alumni—accomplished professionals who are committed to serving the greater good.

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Great article...I have fond memories of years spent at Merrimack.
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    Carolyn Digiammo, Dr. Christopher E. Hopey, Marybeth McInnis of the O’Brien Foundation, Christopher Riley ‘93 and Jennifer Riley ‘93.
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