Applause enveloped every corner of Robsham Theater and the University’s newest venture was off to a rousing start.
The cheers echoed emphatically for the Shea family and the late Edmund H. Shea Jr., for whom BC’s new Center for Entrepreneurship is named. The center’s dedication and inaugural symposium on Nov. 5 both honored a unique spirit and provided an enticing glimpse of what is to come for this landmark endeavor.
Housed in the Carroll School of Management, the Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship will integrate entrepreneurial thinking into the educational and formational experiences of today’s students, combining rigorous coursework with opportunities for experiential learning, research, and collaboration with innovators across campus and around the world.
The center will channel the vigor and heart of its namesake—a California businessman and venture capitalist who helped build one of the nation’s leading construction and housing firms and funded hundreds of start-ups, including Adobe and Apple.
“When looking at a company, he thought with the Jesuit values. He looked at people’s ethics. He looked at people’s leadership—as individuals, as they ran a company,” says Kate Morrissey ’14, one of Shea’s three granddaughters to attend Boston College. “He was really a man for others, which is what I admire the most. I think that’s why he loved BC so much.”
A Silicon Valley Visionary
Shea grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where his father supervised construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. He attended Loyola High School and became so inspired by the Jesuit mission that he entered the novitiate for a year before attending Jesuit-led Santa Clara University. Shea eventually made his way to Boston and earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1952.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force for two years, he returned to the West Coast to partner with his brother Peter and cousin John on a series of construction businesses that developed underground stations for both the San Francisco Bay Area Transit District and the Washington, D.C., Metro systems. Success led to further ventures, including the founding of Shea Homes in 1968, now the country’s largest private homebuilder.
“My father was a compassionate, brilliant, and humble man,” says his son Edmund H. Shea III. “He had a passion for learning. He was known for his quick wit and never-ending questions.”
This devotion to all things creative led Shea to also pursue the path of a venture capitalist. His 40-year career in the field began with the rise of California’s Silicon Valley—and his successes mirrored those of the region. His early funding of Apple proved pivotal, but other far-reaching companies like Activision and Altera Corporation benefited from his investments. Even Peet’s Coffee & Tea, which started in Berkeley, Calif., received Shea’s support.
He was known to travel the valley solo, meeting with budding entrepreneurs and gently quizzing them on their business ideas. Shea often said he “invested in people before technology,” and that perspective makes Boston College a fitting partner for the new Shea Center.
The center’s inaugural symposium included “Innovation Meets Entrepreneurship,” a panel with (l-r) Phil Schiller ’82, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple Inc.; Niraj Shah, co-chairman, CEO, and cofounder of Wayfair; and Bijan Sabet ’91, general partner at Spark Capital.
Fueling Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs
When Shea passed away in 2010, his wife, Mary, and their six children were looking for a way to honor his legacy, and investing in a Jesuit institution with burgeoning family ties became the plan.
The Shea family’s support builds on the University’s decades-long record of entrepreneurship. A significant number of alumni have joined start-ups and venture capital firms across the country—with BC students and graduates garnering more than $100 million in venture backing over the last 10 years and launching companies such as Jebbit, WePay, and Drizly.
“The Shea Center will expand our entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout all of Boston College with the center’s leadership and our students’ energy,” says Powers Family Dean Andy Boynton ’78, P’13.
The center’s inaugural executive director is seasoned entrepreneur Jere Doyle ’87, P’15, who emphasizes, “We will provide opportunities for students to learn more about entrepreneurship in the classroom, to see great entrepreneurs come to campus, and to get involved in internships through start-ups.”
A new Carroll School co-concentration in entrepreneurship is one key component, interdisciplinary in nature and complementing traditional concentrations such as finance and accounting. The center will also pay special attention to social enterprises, those new businesses tackling urgent societal needs, with a campus-wide symposium on the topic scheduled for the spring.
The center’s three-day dedication featured Phil Schiller ’82, who leads Apple’s worldwide marketing, and Bill Hambrecht, founder and chairman of WR Hambrecht + Co. Other entrepreneurial luminaries included Maia Heymann, senior managing director of Converge Venture Partners; Bijan Sabet ’91, general partner at Spark Capital; and BC parent Greg Strakosch ’84, chairman, CEO, and cofounder of TechTarget. Discussion points included innovation opportunities, funding sources, and sustainable business practices. But most importantly, the spotlight was on today’s BC students, who are the center’s true beneficiaries.
Edmund H. Shea Jr. wouldn’t want it any other way.
“He followed Jesuit values all his life,” says BC parent John Morrissey, managing director of Shea Ventures. “Edmund loved the spirit of service, the innovation of technology, being on the cutting edge, and helping young people. All of those will live on at the new Shea Center.”
Discover more at www.bc.edu/sheacenter.