John and Cassandra McKearn

McKearn fellows meet with John and Cassandra McKearn.

The McKearn Fellows Program carries the name of two distinguished NIU alumni, John and Cassandra McKearn.

John McKearn earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at NIU. He is a general partner and managing director of RiverVest Venture Partners, one of the world’s most successful venture capital firms. He has more than 25 years of experience as a successful “drug hunter and developer” in biopharmaceuticals, including a decade in small-cap and venture-backed companies.

A successful businesswoman, Cassandra McKearn also earned a bachelor's degree in biological sciences at NIU. She has been an invaluable business partner as well as an extraordinary homemaker, devoted mother and dedicated volunteer in her community and school system. She is a respected mentor to the fellows who seek her advice and guidance.

John has helped teach students that “talk is not cheap,” especially when it comes from an executive responsible for more than $70 billion in sales. In 2014, John delivered a lecture on campus as part of the NIU Mortar Board Last Lecture Series. In his talk, “My Story and Why I’m Sticking to It,” John urged students to live a life of continual learning, to be open to coaching, to use judgment without being judgmental and to remember the value of the spoken word.

“Talk is not cheap,” John said. “It’s our honor and our promise."