Boston College will host its 26th annual Pops on the Heights Barbara and Jim Cleary Scholarship Gala, the University's largest fundraising event for financial aid, on September 28 in Conte Forum. Maestro Keith Lockhart will conduct the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra at the event, which has made a Boston College education a reality for more than 2,500 students.

Pops logo

Annually a marquee event of Parents' Weekend, and once again sold out, the gala brings the BC family together, and makes a transformational impact in helping to shape the futures of deserving students. The concert is co-chaired by BC Board of Trustees member and former Chairman John Fish and his wife, Cyndy P ’13, ’18.

International superstar Lionel Richie, who has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, is the special guest performer. Among other honors, during his long and distinguished career, he has won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and four Grammy Awards. He also was the 2016 MusicCares person of the year and Kennedy Center honoree in 2017. Richie is no stranger to Boston College: in 1986, the University awarded him an honorary degree in music.

“Pops on the Heights is an experience best felt in person—-it's difficult to describe the energy when you walk into Conte Forum and see the thousands of people gathered there to support scholarships for BC students,” said Office of University Advancement Vice President for Development Beth E. McDermott. “They have a lot of fun singing along to the Pops and will no doubt want to dance all night long to Lionel Richie, but at the end of the evening, the event is really all about our students.

“There is no person who exemplifies the support of these young people more than the Chair of this year's Pops, John Fish,” she added. “He has worked tirelessly to ensure that every seat is filled and that we are therefore maximizing the impact of Pops Scholarships on deserving students.”

Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie

“We are thrilled to be surrounded by thousands of members of the Boston College community who are reaffirming their belief in BC and its mission: to educate young men and women who will lead lives in service to others, with the hope of a more just and loving world,” the Fishes write in part in their greeting in the event program.

Celebrated conductor of “America’s Orchestra,” Lockhart has led more than 1,900 Boston Pops concerts. The evening will feature a Leonard Bernstein celebration, with performances by student musical groups including the University Chorale conducted by director John Finney, and the “Screaming Eagles” Marching Band directed by David Healey. Featured student performer Molly Cahill ’19, a longtime Pops fan, considers the opportunity to perform with them at BC “a double dream come true.”

“Becoming an Eagle” —-a multimedia art project—-will be presented during the program’s intermission. Created by students in Studio Art Associate Professor Sheila Gallagher’s Advanced Mixed Media class, it portrays the BC student journey through their college careers.

Founded in 1993 by the late Barbara and James F. Cleary ’50, H’93—a BC trustee and founder of the Fides and President’s Circle annual giving societies—Pops on the Heights has raised $50 million in Pops scholarships.

The Clearys’ children—-Kara '84, MA'91, Kristin '89, JD'93, and Jim Jr.—-continue their philanthropic legacy as Pops benefactors. In addition, the annual James F. Cleary ‘50, H’93, Masters Award, given to a fundraising volunteer who exemplifies creativity, dedication, and leadership, was established in honor of the Clearys.

Carney Family Pops Scholar Kasey L. Smith ’20, was among Pops Scholars—-both young alumni and current students—-highlighted in the event program with comments on how the scholarship has made a difference in their lives.

“I look forward to making a difference in peoples’ lives like you have made in mine,” she said.

Stokes Family Pops Scholar Kenye L. Askew ’18 echoed that sentiment:

“Being a Pops Scholar has taught me the power of giving and paying it forward. Your generosity gave me the freedom to study and not have to worry about taking extra shifts at my job. I hope to give the same freedom to a future BC student one day.”

University Communications