Two Northeastern University dropouts who went on to earn their degrees after encouragement from a mentoring professor are teaming up to donate $60 million to the university, a record gift aimed at shaping the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.
The two said they hope their donation inspires others who have been helped by Northeastern to give back to the school. Richard D'Amore, cofounder of North Bridge Venture Partners in Waltham, and Alan McKim — founder of Clean Harbors, an environmental, energy, and industrial services provider in Norwell — are both university trustees.
Northeastern "had a huge impact on my family," said D'Amore, an Everett native with three siblings who also studied there. "Education means everything."
Northeastern, which will announce the donation Wednesday, plans to name its business school the D'Amore-McKim School of Business.
The donation is a strong show of support for Northeastern's mission and growth, school officials said. The university has seen the number of applications grow by more than 6,000 since 2010 and can boast this year of an incoming class with the highest average SAT scores in its history.
Northeastern said the gift will help launch programs, attract top faculty, provide financial aid to students, subsidize cooperative education programs that allow students to spend a semester working in their chosen industry, and offer more chances for students to study and work overseas.
"It's a real vote of confidence in the business school and university overall, and, of course, Mr. D'Amore and Mr. McKim exemplify the entrepreneurship and innovation that our college has developed over the years," said Hugh Courtney, dean of the business school.
The previous record gift to the university was $20 million in 2006 from Bernard Gordon, which established the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program at Northeastern. Gordon, a digital-applications pioneer, was the namesake of the Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, a multiuniversity initiative.
For D'Amore and McKim, the joint donation, $30 million each, supports a school they say changed their lives and a faculty that helped propel them and many others to success.
D'Amore quit as an undergraduate but was encouraged by his uncle and by Northeastern business professor Daniel McCarthy to go back and earn his business degree in 1976.
McCarthy "has always been a person who inspired me educationally, but also gave me the gentle nudges to stay on the track," said D'Amore.
More than 10 years later, McCarthy would go on to mentor McKim and serves on the board of directors of McKim's Clean Harbors.
"Northeastern really took a bet with me," said McKim, who grew up in Braintree, dropped out of the school's criminal justice undergraduate program, but was later accepted into its executive MBA program, based on his business experience. He graduated in 1988.
"Even today, I still see the impact that he has on people's lives," said McKim, who called McCarthy a mentor, confidant, and friend. "I think between the two of us, we probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him."
McKim and D'Amore met in 2004 when, wanting to honor their mentor, they teamed up to endow a professorship held by McCarthy. "I set a very high standard for them,'' McCarthy said. "They are two very, very interesting people with a wide range of skills. I've been so fortunate to know them."
McCarthy said he was not surprised by their generosity, considering the hours they spent speaking to classes and offering advice to students.
"They can see that [professors] are trying to to do the same thing for the current group of students that I hopefully did for Alan and Rich 25 years ago," McCarthy said. "I think were getting better at it."
The business school will be the first college or school to be named at Northeastern.
President Joseph E. Aoun, who had to coax the two donors to let the school put their names on the buuilding, said they represent what the school can do best: "Give you the possibility to live your life and the possibility to earn a living, and bring the two together."
Johanna Kaiser can be reached