fb-pixelNortheastern student death: Shane Michael McCarthy, 21, died of bacterial meningitis Skip to main content

Northeastern University student, 21, dies of complications from bacterial meningitis

Pedestrians walked past the Northeastern University sign on Huntington Avenue.Rodrique Ngowi/Associated Press

A 21-year-old Northeastern University student died last week from complications caused by bacterial meningitis, according to the school and his obituary.

Shane Michael McCarthy, a Greenfield native, was studying business management with a concentration in entrepreneurial start-ups before his death on Nov. 30.

“Shane loved to play ultimate frisbee or simply throw the disc in his backyard or on the beaches of the Cape,” his family said in the obituary. “He enjoyed playing squash and pick up games of basketball with his Cape friends. Shane was an expert skier and shared many trips with his father and had a couple amazing trips to Steamboat [ski resort] with friends that were highlights in his short life.”

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Northeastern officials notified faculty, staff, and students at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business of McCarthy’s death in an email Wednesday.

“Shane was an outstanding student in the BSBA [bachelor of science in business administration] program and was scheduled to graduate in May 2026,” David De Cremer, dean of the business school, said in the email. “He was consistently named to the Dean’s List in all semesters at Northeastern and was an honor roll student prior to his time here.

“Shane was an excellent student and athlete at Deerfield Academy before enrolling at Northeastern,” De Cremer continued. “He was a passionate soccer player, played competitive ultimate frisbee, and was a member of the Downhillers ski team at Northeastern.

“All of us at Northeastern mourn this terrible loss. Shane will be missed dearly.”

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges — the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord — causing an inflammation that can lead to death “in as little as a few hours,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease can be spread through eating food contaminated with certain kinds of bacteria or by contact with people carrying the bacteria, who may or may not become sick themselves.

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Certain types of bacteria, after entering the bloodstream, are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, causing an infection that is often more severe than viral meningitis, an infection of the same membranes. Bacterial meningitis symptoms usually begin within three to seven days after infection and typically include fever, headache, and a stiff neck.

Babies are at a heightened risk of bacterial meningitis, as are travelers to sub-Saharan Africa, people who are immunosuppressed, have suffered skull fractures, have undergone neurosurgery, have cochlear implants, or who live in close contact with others — as in a college dormitory, according to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.

McCarthy was the son of Michael and Angela McCarthy and had one brother, Colin, with “whom he shared a special bond,” according to the obituary. The family is planning to establish “A Brother’s Bond” scholarship fund in McCarthy’s memory that will honor their connection.

“We like to say that Shane was part land and part sea,” the obituary said. “Growing up he loved spending time with his grandfather and his uncles learning to garden, attend to farm animals, assist with yardwork, or visit his uncle on construction sites.”

McCarthy attended the Greenfield public schools through sixth grade and then went to the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield and Deerfield Academy, where he graduated in 2021.

“His first trip to Cape Cod was when he was only a couple months old and [he] spent time there every summer of his life,” the obituary said. “The last five summers he spent living in Mashpee with his grandmother and working at the Popponesset Inn and New Seabury Country Club. The Cape is a special place for his family and he made many great memories and friends during his time there.”

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Calling hours for McCarthy will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Kidder Funeral Home in Northfield. A funeral service will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at the United Church of Bernardston, followed by a burial at Center Cemetery in Bernardston.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.