Giving the Gift of Global Exploration

It’s been said that to travel is to live—a philosophy that certainly rings true for the Thomas family. Parents Kelly and Matthew and their sons Joe, AMD’18, and Max, Khoury’20, were bitten by the travel bug and haven’t looked back. They have traversed seven continents to unique destinations including Ecuadorian jungles, the Galapagos Islands, and even Antarctica.

Kelly and Matthew instilled in their kids the importance of discovering new places, understanding different cultures, and gaining life experiences.

“Travel will change your life, whether you’re going to Nebraska or Beijing,” says Kelly. “You’ll see something you haven’t seen before, it’ll open your eyes, and you’ll have a good story to tell.”

In 2012, the family’s travels led them to Boston, where Joe searched for the perfect college. After visiting Northeastern, he fell in love with the university’s experiential learning model and immediately knew Northeastern was where he wanted to be.

For the next five years, Joe made the most out of his undergraduate experience, majoring in journalism and completing co-ops with Amazon Robotics and (RED), and studying abroad in Hong Kong and Spain. Max soon followed his brother to Northeastern and earned his master’s degree in computer science. Today, Joe is a professional photographer in New York City with clients like Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Condé Nast Traveler, while Max works in Salt Lake City creating computer animated displays for museums, libraries, and trade shows.

Not only is the Thomas family passionate about traveling, but they’re also keen to give more Northeastern students the chance to pursue their own global journeys. After Joe and Max graduated, Kelly and Matthew established a fund in each son’s name: The Joe Thomas Explore the World Fund enables more international experiences for students in the College of Arts, Media and Design, while the Max Thomas Explore the World Fund does the same for students in the Khoury College of Computer Science.

The two funds stay true to the family’s love for travel, giving the next generation of students the support they need to pursue an international co-op or attend a Dialogue of Civilizations abroad.

“My boys have never had to worry that they wouldn’t be able to attend a program or event they’re interested in. We want to give other deserving students the same chance,” says Kelly. “Northeastern has been very good to us, from the day Joe told me he was accepted. He had the best experience, and we felt it was our duty to give that experience to other students.”

Thanks to the Thomas family’s generosity, students like computer science and design major Matthew Blanco, Khoury’24, are taking full advantage of the university’s global experiential opportunities.

“I was practically jumping out of my seat when I received this scholarship,” Matthew says. “The Dialogue of Civilizations trip that this award is helping to fund is the beginning of my adventures to see the world, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Awards like this remind me of the kindness in people, and how I should do my part to give back,” he adds.

As the Thomas family continues to give back to Northeastern, they’ll also continue their journey to see the world. They’ve already got their next destination planned—800 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.