The search for D'Amore-McKim's next dean came to a close in early March with the appointment of behavioral scientist, researcher, and bestselling author David De Cremer. But throughout it all, there was no one more invested than Gary (DMSB'78) and Lea Anne Dunton, namesakes of the first endowed deanship at Northeastern University.

“We look forward to welcoming new Dean David De Cremer at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business,” the Duntons shared in an emailed statement. “He will bring a new and purposeful perspective for Northeastern students with his background in behavioral science and his focus on emerging technologies and leading organizational change in both his research and teaching.”

With De Cremer beginning his appointment in July, the Duntons are even more excited about the school's future. But to understand the foundation of their commitment to D'Amore-McKim, you must turn the clock back a few decades.

Before enrolling in Northeastern's business program, Gary attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., thinking he'd be a captain in the Merchant Marines with his father's encouragement.

“My passion in life is boating,” Gary notes, but he wanted something else for his career than to captain ships. “I didn't have a grand master plan,” he says.

Gary returned to Massachusetts, where he put himself through D'Amore-McKim by fixing up and selling cars along with income from his co-op. After graduating, he attended Harvard Business School and met Lea Anne through her older brother, who was studying alongside Gary. Business-minded too, Lea Anne originally studied fashion design and merchandising before becoming a CPA and earning an MBA from Washington University and the University of Connecticut.

“At Harvard, I found that I had a great foundation from Northeastern,” Gary recalls. “Northeastern was just very underrated at the time.”

That's part of the reason for the Duntons' unprecedented giving and why their daughter Julia followed in her father's footsteps, graduating from D'Amore-McKim in 2015. She is now Vice President at BlackRock in Boston.

While at Northeastern, Gary worked for Gillette as part of his four-year co-op, and the leadership lessons from the experience influenced his lifelong career in the finance and insurance industries, working for heavyweights like Aetna, USF&G, and MBIA, Inc.

“A good person can do a lot more than anybody can do if they operate under the auspices of teamwork,” he says. “People first.”

That credo has also underscored the Duntons' involvement with Northeastern and D'Amore-McKim. Lea Anne is a former co-chair of a Parents of Alumni subcommittee and remains active with Mosaic, a multidisciplinary alliance of student entrepreneurs. Gary was a member of the D'Amore-McKim Dean's Executive Council, Northeastern's corporation, and has mentored students.

Since establishing the Dunton Family Deanship in 2016, the Duntons grew close with inaugural Dunton Family Dean Raj Echambadi, who assumed his role in 2017 and departed Northeastern in 2021 to lead the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“He'd keep us abreast of any new developments, which, at Northeastern, are constant,” says Lea Anne.

While the Duntons acknowledge the new incoming dean has big shoes to fill, they're not the least bit worried—but they do have a few bits of advice.

“Raj did a fantastic job—he listened and has a good sense of humor,” says Gary.

“He is and was a good listener,” adds Lea Anne.

“Follow in those footsteps,” says Gary. “People first.”