scorecardresearch Skip to main content

DeLeo lands at Northeastern as a ‘Fellow for Public Life’

Former House speaker Robert DeLeo delivered his farewell speech at the State House on Dec. 29.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File 2020

Former House speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who resigned last month to pursue a job at his alma mater, Northeastern University, started a new role at the school this week, though details of the position remained unclear Friday.

DeLeo, 70, began Wednesday as a “University Fellow for Public Life,” a Northeastern spokeswoman said. The position sits under the Office of the Provost, according to the school’s staff directory.

Northeastern officials declined to say what responsibilities the job entails or whether it was created specifically for DeLeo. Renata Nyul, the school spokeswoman, said Northeastern plans to formally announce his appointment Monday.

Elissa Flynn-Poppey, an attorney at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, & Popeo, which represents DeLeo, said in a statement Friday that DeLeo will “participate in teaching and student mentoring” at Northeastern.


That includes through the school’s Open Classroom Series — which involves seminars open to the entire campus — and “experiential learning opportunities,” Flynn-Poppey said.

“Former Speaker DeLeo is excited to be joining his alma mater,” she said.

DeLeo resigned from the Massachusetts House in late December, ending a 12-year reign as speaker — the longest tenure in Massachusetts history — and three decades in the 19th Suffolk seat, representing his native Winthrop and parts of Revere.

His departure followed a period of rapidly intensifying speculation last month about his plans to leave the speaker’s office for Northeastern. A DeLeo spokeswoman said in mid-December he had “had no such talks” with the school. Two days later, the Winthrop Democrat filed an ethics disclosure notifying officials he was in negotiations for a job.

His longtime deputy, Ronald Mariano, succeeded him in the speaker’s role.

Mariano, who taught in Quincy for 12 years before joining the Legislature, said DeLeo asked him a few times in recent years about his experience teaching, suggesting he’d like to pursue a second career working with students. (DeLeo’s son, Rob A. DeLeo, is also a professor, at Bentley University.)


DeLeo also spoke in the past about wanting to organize seminars around different issues facing the state, such as transportation, education, or child welfare, as opposed to teaching a specific course, Mariano said Friday.

“That’s what he was looking forward to — the interaction, the discussing of issues with truly interested students,” Mariano said Friday. “I think he saw himself as being a mentor to young students who are interested in politics.”

A high-level elected official shifting to academia is relatively commonplace, particularly in Boston, with its rich assortment of colleges and universities.

Former governor and Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis served as a distinguished professor of political science at Northeastern before retiring last year after nearly 20 years of teaching. A university research center, known as the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, has also borne his and his wife’s name since 2008.

After he left City Hall, the late Thomas M. Menino was hired to help launch a new Institute on Cities at Boston University, a center meant to come up with solutions for urban problems.

And former governor Deval Patrick took a job as a visiting fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the spring after he left the State House, though his time in academia was short-lived. Patrick later joined Bain Capital, where he spent four years investing in companies that aimed to create social benefits as well as deliver financial returns.


“It’s important that practitioners have a chance to spend some time and connect with students,” Dukakis said Friday, adding that he hasn’t spoken to DeLeo about his new role. “I expect to be in touch with him. I know he’s very committed to the school and to the experience he had there as a student, and is a very loyal alumnus.”

Matt Stout can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.