About Edmund H. Shea Jr.
In 2015, the Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship was named in honor of the late California entrepreneur and venture capitalist and in appreciation of a generous gift from Mr. Shea's wife, Mary, and their six children.
Mr. Shea was an accomplished entrepreneur, a pioneering venture capital investor, and a generous philanthropist whose personal character and business philosophies were informed by his Jesuit education. As the co-founder of a leading heavy construction company and the nation’s largest private homebuilder, and as a key investor in many of Silicon Valley’s most successful and iconic companies, Mr. Shea was a transformative figure in American business for more than half a century. His extraordinary legacy touches virtually every area of technology and engineering, and literally shaped the landscape of 20th century America.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Shea grew up in the San Francisco Bay area where his father supervised construction work on the piers of the Golden Gate Bridge. After a formative experience at Loyola High School, he spent a year in the Jesuit novitiate before attending Santa Clara University. Mr. Shea went on to earn his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1952.
After two years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Shea partnered with his cousin, John, in starting a successful construction business building Southern California reservoirs and tunnels in Oregon and Northern California. The aggregates and cement business he established in Redding, Calif., still exists today. Later, the cousins, along with Mr. Shea’s brother, Peter, began to operate J. F. Shea Co., a successor to the family construction business founded by their grandfather in 1881. In the 1960s and 1970s, the company managed significant construction work including the Berkeley Hills tunnel—and underground stations for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and the Washington, D.C., Metro systems. In 1968, the Shea family of companies grew to include what would become the country’s largest private home builder, Shea Homes.
With a venture capital career spanning 40 years, Mr. Shea was a pioneer venture capitalist in California’s Silicon Valley investing in hundreds of startup companies including Activision, Adobe, Apple, Altera Corporation, and Peet's Coffee & Tea. Mr. Shea was as authentic and unassuming at venture capitalism as he was successful. He was known for exploring Silicon Valley solo, lugging a canvas bag stuffed with papers to meet entrepreneurs one-on-one and quiz them gently about their ideas and business plans. Shea often said he “invested in people before technology.” He never ignored the human element in any decision, and was always willing to take a chance on people with character.
Mr. Shea was a life-long supporter of Catholic education at every level. Steeped in the rich, Jesuit Catholic tradition that Mr. Shea so respected, the Edmund H. Shea, Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship will provide rigorous academic training and experiential learning for students who may one day start their own businesses. Most importantly, the Shea Center will focus on developing students who are the types of ethical business leaders in whom Mr. Shea would feel proud to invest.