On the Fast Track
From his early years in Boston’s North End, Simboli had a desire to learn. Classes came easily, so he spent much of his time helping teachers and tutoring classmates. At the age of 16, he left high school to become the youngest in his class at BC.
Like many in his generation, Simboli worked his way through college, including pulling night shifts at a local print shop. But he didn’t let his jobs get in the way of his studies.
“I had index cards taped all over the presses, so I could study while I worked,” he says.
At BC, Simboli cut costs whenever possible, hitchhiking home to save the trolley fare, selling his own “Cliffs Notes” for a challenging psychology course, and borrowing all but a handful of textbooks from Boston’s public library in Copley Square.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in January 1950, he completed a master’s in philosophy—typically a two-year program—in just two semesters, becoming the only known alumnus in BC’s history to earn two separate degrees in the same year.
While in graduate school, he met Gloria when she was playing checkers at a North End community center. Seeing she was losing, Simboli stepped in and won the game for her, and the rest, he says, was history: “I asked her for her name and address, two dates later I told her I was going to marry her, and about a year later, I did.”
The same grit that earned him two degrees by age 20 also caught the attention of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency, which recruited him as a foreign intelligence agent. Having rarely ventured further from home than BC's Chestnut Hill campus, serving as a Cold War spy in Japan and Washington, D.C., was a formative experience.
He rose quickly through the ranks, but after seven years in the CIA he grew eager for new challenges and returned home, where he bought a drugstore in Wakefield, Mass.
By the early 1960s, Simboli had established a growing network of drugstores and convenience food stores—an innovative concept at that time—and began investing in real estate.
With a focus on urban redevelopment, Simboli concentrated his efforts on the Chelsea waterfront, just north of Boston. In 1984, he built the city’s first speculative office building since a fire destroyed the downtown area 10 years earlier. Now known as MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, its success encouraged other developers and helped to revitalize the community.
Since then, his firm, ACS Development Corporation, has built or redeveloped multiple projects in Chelsea and recently negotiated a lease there for the FBI’s New England field office, which is the federal government’s largest build-to-suit project to date in Massachusetts.