Northeastern University became a legal entity in 1916 when the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts signed into law a bill authorizing the incorporation of Northeastern College of the Young Men's Christian Association. The first two decades of Northeastern's Corporation were linked to the Greater Boston Y.M.C.A. (see collection M13) because, by law, two-thirds of the Corporation members had to be directors of the Greater Boston Y.M.C.A. The Board of Trustees of the Endowment Funds was established in 1924. Its name was changed in 1927 to the Board of Trustees of the Permanent Funds, and it disbanded in 1932.
On January 22, 1937 the Corporation founded the Northeastern University Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is elected annually by and from the Northeastern Corporation. The Board is allocated all of the powers of the Corporation and has the final word on the University's goals and policies. In its first four years, the Board doubled in size, from 20 to 40 members. By the 1940s, there were no overlapping directors of the Boston Y.M.C.A. on the board. The Corporation also provides the members of the sundry governing committees. The standing committees are: Academic Affairs, Audit, Budget, Building, Development, Executive, Facilities, Funds and Investments, Housing, and Student Affairs. The following decades, 1937-1957, saw the Corporation extend its membership to 122 persons. In 1968 the Board of Trustees introduced the Committee on Academic Affairs and the Committee on Student Affairs. 1968 was also the year that saw the first woman admitted to the Corporation, Mrs. Frances Commins Kennerson. A year later, the Corporation welcomed its first three black members, Edward E. Brooke, Victor C. Bynoe, and Kenneth A. Loftman. In June of 1985, the bylaws of the Corporation were amended to allow for the formation of the Board of Overseers. The additional board was formed to relieve the Board of Trustees of some of the burden of governing the University. Prompted by President Kenneth G. Ryder's call for more involvement by the University Corporation and Board of Trustees, the Board of Overseers was created to provide a talent pool for new committees, offer training for future members of the Board, and be a potential source for gifts.