Photo: Bruce Springsteen performs during the closing ceremony for the 2017 Invictus Games. (EJ Hersom)
Singer, songwriter, and legendary performer Bruce Springsteen, whose best-selling autobiography Born to Run provides an intimate portrait of the inner struggles and triumphs of one of America’s most beloved musical icons, will address the Class of 2024 at Boston College’s First Year Academic Convocation on September 10 in Conte Forum. (UPDATED September 2020: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Springsteen's appearance was virtual and livestreamed.)
Springsteen published his memoir in 2016 to critical acclaim for his candid exploration of family, faith, personal battles, and his relentless pursuit of musical perfection, providing an unobstructed view of his life’s journey from a poor upbringing in Freehold, N.J., to international acclaim as a 20-time Grammy winner, Academy Award recipient, and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree. He and his wife, Patti Scialfa, are the parents of three children, including their son Evan, a 2012 Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences alumnus.
His address will be preceded by the First Flight Procession in which all first-year students process down Linden Lane in a torch-lit ceremony to receive from members of the BC Jesuit community and campus administrators the challenge first issued by the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, to “go set the world aflame.” The students will then descend the Higgins Stairs and enter into Conte Forum, following the route they will take in four years’ time as graduating seniors.
This summer, all first-year students will receive an e-copy of Springsteen’s book and a reflection guide that will help them to examine the themes raised in Born to Run—family dynamics, personal relationships, addressing adversity, and setting and fulfilling aspirations–and how they might intersect with their own lives.
“At Boston College, we have long understood from the Jesuits about the importance of engaging students in a conversation that encourages their growth intellectually, socially, and spiritually,” said Executive Director of Student Formation Michael Sacco. “The format of the conversation can vary, but the aim remains to encourage students to be attentive to their experiences and reflective of their meaning, with the hope that this will help them discern their role in the world.
“Through his songs, Bruce Springsteen has long been such a conversation partner to his audience, masterfully portraying the American experience through lyrics that inspire reflection about our world, our families, our jobs, our struggles, and our relationships. But in his memoir, Bruce reveals the conversation he had with himself as he approached many of his life's crossroads. In doing so, Bruce shares how attentiveness, contemplation, and authenticity played a key role in his personal growth and honing his immense talents. Each BC student brings a unique set of talents, and reading Bruce’s story will give them an invaluable perspective as they begin their formation at Boston College,” Sacco said.
“Through his songs, Bruce Springsteen has long been such a conversation partner to his audience, masterfully portraying the American experience through lyrics that inspire reflection about our world, our families, our jobs, our struggles, and our relationships . . . Each BC student brings a unique set of talents, and reading Bruce’s story will give them an invaluable perspective as they begin their formation at Boston College”
First launched in 2004 as a formative experience and unifying event for all incoming students, the First Year Academic Convocation has featured award-winning authors ranging from Ann Patchett (Run) and Colum McCann, (Let the Great World Spin) to political leaders Barack Obama (Dreams From My Father) and John McCain (Lives of Moral Leadership). Considered the signature academic event of freshman year, the convocation has become a beloved BC tradition that melds the University’s Jesuit, Catholic mission and heritage with its commitment to the liberal arts and formative education.
Born to Run has been lauded by critics for its frankness and eloquence, written in the authentic voice of a tenacious son of New Jersey who is considered the greatest songwriter of his generation and the poet of the American experience. NPR described the book as a “virtuoso performance,” the New York Times called it “frank and gripping,” and “intensely satisfying,” while Rolling Stone magazine described it as “an utterly unique, endlessly exhilarating, last-chance power drive of a memoir.”
Following its release, Springsteen read from the book and shared personal reminiscences in an eight-week theatrical performance called “Springsteen on Broadway.” His appearance at Boston College will be his first and only college visit.
“For the Class of 2024, Born to Run is a wonderful introduction to the lifelong process of discernment that is so central to the philosophy of student formation at Boston College,” said First Year Experience Director Ali Bane. “Springsteen’s memoir includes countless examples of him paying close attention to his life experiences, reflecting upon their meaning, and living in a way that translates this meaning into action to create a better world.
“Inspired by his own working-class upbringing, many of Springsteen’s songs empathize with those who have been marginalized or oppressed. First-year students will benefit greatly from reading this honest, reflective, and authentic narrative of someone who has so significantly shaped the cultural milieu of our country throughout his decades of music making.”
Jack Dunn | University Communications | May 2020